New Kate Middleton Portrait Gets Dragged by the Internet

At this point, painters should probably know better than to accept commissions regarding the British Royal Family. Little more than a week after the bloody hellstorm raised by artist Jonathan Yeo’s “Disrupted Realism” take on King Charles III, a new royal portrait, this time of Kate Middleton, is drawing confusion and ire.

Billed as “a portrait of strength and dignity,” the rendering of the Princess of Wales was commissioned by Tatler, a publication that makes its living with content that includes picking over the minutia of the Royal Family. Tired of waiting for royals to make their own gaffes, Tatler has apparently decided to generate its own material with the presentation of this portrait, by Zambian-British artist Hannah Uzor, as the cover image of its forthcoming July issue.

“It’s been really interesting for me to get a sense of who she is,” said Uzor in a short video produced by Tatler documenting her process, which apparently included looking at hundreds of pictures and footage of the Princess. “Particularly, looking at her expression is really key.”

As the British would say … erm.

Uzor was an interesting choice of portraitist for this most-beloved Royal, considering that some of her work is directly critical of the British monarchy — for example, her series titled Long Live the Queen! presents postage stamp-style portraits of the victims of allegedly racially motivated homicides and violence that took place in the United Kingdom between 1953 (the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II) and 2017, including Cherry Groce, Joel Urhie, and Kelso Cochrane. And in a 2020 project about the Victorian era in the UK, she used portraiture and video to “highlight the stories of the individuals belonging to the African diaspora and the complex relationships they had with Western society and culture,” reads a section of the artist’s bio on her website.

Now one suspects that Uzor is experiencing one of the most characteristic phenomena of all Western society and culture: getting dragged on the internet

kate middleton portrait 2
A comment left on @dietprada’s Instagram post of the new portrait

To be fair, it’s tough times out there for high-profile portraitists. The only thing the internet loves more than loving people is hating on them. If critics were prepared to launch vitriol over Jamie Coreth’s 2022 take on the royal couple, rendered at a basically photo-realistic level, it’s obvious that this, um, less realistic visage of the People’s Princess stands no chance of being well-received.

Additionally, the public has been particularly focused on Kate Middleton of late, following a conspiracy-triggering withdrawal from public view that turned out to be health-related, so Uzor’s portrait is hardly receiving any scrutiny compared to the frenzy that surrounded a doctored Mother’s Day photograph released on social media.

And every portrait has its defenders, even Yeo’s take on King Charles III, which could also be interpreted as a demonstration of sustainable, eco-friendly practice, since Yeo clearly leveraged it as an opportunity to use up all the leftover red paint in his entire studio.

And, in all fairness, there are worse takes on Kate Middleton out there, so let’s keep things in perspective.

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