My husband and I live together in the royal county of Berkshire, near Windsor, but the family estate of the Hamiltons is located in Caithness, in northern Scotland and is neighbouring with the May Castle, where the Queen would often spend her vacation. Each year in August, she would throw a big party for her birthday. This is how I met her. It was at the time of big changes for Poland. When she found out that I was Polish, she said: 'I pray for your country.' She was very tiny and till the end of her life (she died in the age of almost 102!), she would wear high heels. Even at her last party, she welcomed the guests at the hight.
I painted her in 2000, in her London home - the Clarence House. She came at the session very elegant, wearing a hat. She entered the room, looked at me and asked: "Is this allright?" It was important to her to look good at the portrait, and the fact that she was 100 years old, did not matter.
She spoke of Poles with a lot of respect. She remembered the Polish pilots, who fought the Battle of England. We know from documents that together with her husband King George VI, she has visited the base of the 300 and 301 Divisions. It was her desire that her portrait was put at the General Sikorski Museum in London.
The conversation was about horses and horse races. The Queen Mother, despite her age, she was full of vigour and not for a moment did she lose her witt. In one moment only, she has asked whether she can close her eyes for two minutes. Strong light coming through the window has made her tired. When she closed her eyes, as a painter, I was silently hoping the noble lady will be take a longer nap, what would allow me to focus better on the painting, but after two minutes, the Queen Mother has opened her eyes and said: "I'm back." And continued the conversation from before.
Before the first session, I went to the Sikorski Museum and borrowed an archival photo of Her Majesty and King George VI, taken on the 7th of March 1941, when the royal couple paid a visit to the Polish army base in Scotland. The Queen Mother took a look at the photograph and said: "I even remember, where it was taken! It was in Forfare."
The second sitting was forseeded with a little family catastrophy. My husband left the house later than planned. I wanted to be there even beforehand - set up my equipment, relax a bit, feel the atmosphere of the place. It turned out impossible. I couldn't possibly hide my upset mood. I have asked Her Majesty:
- Did your husband George also didn't want to do what you wanted?
- Oh no! Our husbands never do what we want. That's what husbands are like! - she replied with laughter.
Her humor, her witt came up again. She was capable of quick, crispy conversation. I have presented Her Majesty with the newest edition of the memoirs of my husband's aunt - Lady Jane Hamilton. The Queen Mother once knew her well.
- There are lots of anecdotes in her book. - I said showing the photo of the two ladies together.
- Anything indescreet? - She asked. - Nothing? Oh... What a pity!!