New Portrait of King Charles Gives New Meaning to “Bloody Hell”

Buckingham Palace has welcomed the first official portrait of England’s King Charles III since his and Queen Camilla’s coronation in May 2023. However, the Tuesday unveiling ceremony for the contemporary painting, created by British portrait artist Jonathan Yeo, was met with mixed reactions in response to the field of severe red that makes up a majority of the composition. Equal parts perplexed and entertained, commenters online have likened the work to a variety of unsavory things from a demon in the depths of hell to a realized vision of Charles and Camilla’s “Tampongate.”

Yeo shared in his artist statement for the work that he depicted King Charles in his stark red uniform as Colonel of the Welsh guards. Work on the portrait began well before the coronation as it was commissioned by The Drapers’ Company in 2020, and Charles sat for Yeo on four separate occasions between June 2021 and November 2023.

“As a portrait artist, you get this unique opportunity to spend time with and get to know a subject, so I wanted to minimise the visual distractions and allow people to connect with the human being underneath,” Yeo stated regarding the decision to fade Charles’s uniform into the background.

Unfortunately, most people seem to find the overwhelming redness throughout the entire work rather distracting, and they haven’t missed an opportunity to point that out through equally colorful metaphors.

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The real question is how someone was able to select and mask King Charles from the background on Photoshop (screenshot Rhea Nayyar/Hyperallergic via @EmmaTolkin on X)

It doesn’t help that Charles himself flinches in shock after tugging the covering off the work during the unveiling ceremony, perhaps taken by surprise from the visual confrontation of what commenters have taken as a metaphor for the “bloodshed in the colonies during the British empire.”

Others have been pouring in on X, Instagram, and TikTok, asking if the King is “burning in hell” and whether the artist was riffing off of the “Tampongate” scandal during which Charles recounted his desire to be reincarnated as one of Camilla’s tampons in a steamy phone call while he was still married to Princess Diana.

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A little bit tart, but you are what you eat! (screenshot Rhea Nayyar/Hyperallergic via @RiotGrlErin on X)

While those with food on their mind likened the portrait to a Chicago Deep Dish pizza and a rhubarb pie filling, others asked if the climate activism group Just Stop Oil had attacked the painting already.

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Combatting climate crisis ❌ Thwarting climate emergency protesters ✅  (screenshot Rhea Nayyar/Hyperallergic via @the_royal_rogue on X)

Others found that the work resembled some iconic pop culture moments.

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Charles and Carrie have a nice ring to it once you put them side by side. (screenshot Rhea Nayyar/Hyperallergic via @amyfullermorgan on X)
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To watch our world burn and to bask in it … (screenshot Rhea Nayyar/Hyperallergic via @ice_crystal on X)
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Spot the Difference: “The Knob” (1948) and The Blob (1988) (screenshot Rhea Nayyar/Hyperallergic via @NonStopPop on X)

I can’t argue with any of these interpretations, but the painting reads deeply placental to me — to which I underscore my unbridled endorsement of late-term abortions. Laying in bed last night, when I was thinking about this piece, the last thing I wrote to myself before falling asleep was that Charles “is an adhesion or tumor bulging from the tissue of society.”

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This, the meat dress, and the fact that I’ve never seen Lady Gaga and King Charles III in the same room before … (screenshot Rhea Nayyar/Hyperallergic via @WarVeteranUSMC on X)
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The Simpsons really does predict everything! ((screenshot Rhea Nayyar/Hyperallergic via @Rammspanghoul on X)

In its visceral fleshiness, some people drew connections between the painting and the work of Francis Bacon.

One might notice a semblance of the natural world in the painting as well, with the appearance of a butterfly hovering over the King’s shoulder. Yeo noted that he included the insect as a nod to Charles’s support of environmental causes and a symbol of metamorphosis, considering his transition into the British monarch throughout the painting’s completion.

Others interpreted the symbol in a more literal sense …

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What’s more insulting — being called a turd, a dead animal, a puddle of dirt water, or excessively sweaty? (screenshot Rhea Nayyar/Hyperallergic via @_bilaire on X)

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