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Canada still hasn’t released its official portrait of King Charles | CBC News

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The federal government still has not released an official Canadian portrait of the King, 550 days after Queen Elizabeth’s death and his accession to the throne — a delay that has left some monarchists anxious, given Charles’s battle with cancer.

It’s customary for the federal Department of Canadian Heritage to produce a uniquely Canadian portrait of the King — a photo of the head of state that can be hung in official venues and in the homes and businesses of royal admirers.

The government website where people can access these portraits still offers one of Elizabeth and another of the late sovereign with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, who died three years ago.

Pallbearers walk past a portrait of the late Sovereign during commemorative ceremonies for Queen Elizabeth at Christ Church Cathedral, in Ottawa
Pallbearers walk past a portrait of the late sovereign during commemorative ceremonies for Queen Elizabeth at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa on Monday, Sept.19, 2022. (Blair Gable/Canadian Press)

Canadian Heritage, the department that’s responsible for all things royal in this country, has partnered with the Monarchist League of Canada in the past to distribute prints of the portrait to all interested Canadians. The posters are free but shipping fees apply.

Robert Finch, chairman of the Monarchist League, said in an interview with CBC News he hasn’t heard anything from the government about when Charles’s image will be rolling off the presses.

“It’s been a year and a half since the accession, almost a year since the Coronation. A lot of time has passed and there’s still no portrait,” Finch said.

“Maybe I’m too simplistic or I’m missing something, but have a picture taken, get it done. I don’t know why we need to complicate things. I can go over there with my phone if it’s necessary.”

Finch said his organization distributed “thousands” of portraits of the Queen in 2022, the year of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations and her death.

He said there’s “tremendous pent-up demand” for the King’s portrait and his organization receives daily inquiries from both its members and outside bodies like schools and faith groups.

He estimates that at least a third of the dozens of calls and emails the League fields every day are about getting a portrait of Charles.

A portrait of the Queen hangs on the Sovereign's Wall at the entrance to the Department of Foreign Affairs building in Ottawa
A portrait of the Queen hangs on the Sovereign’s Wall at the entrance to the Department of Foreign Affairs building in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 26, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

With Charles now undergoing treatment for an unspecified form of cancer, Finch said it’s even more important for some sort of portrait to be made available.

“God forbid the King’s health is worse than what we think it is — you would definitely want to have some official portrait to mark the reign of King Charles,” he said. “I think, in a way, the King’s health increases the sense of urgency. It’s something we need to have.”

In a statement sent to CBC News, a spokesperson for Canadian Heritage said the portrait “will be made available in due course.”

“We do not have any updates to share,” said Caroline Czajkowski.

King Charles speaks to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau via videolink during a virtual audience, at Buckingham Palace, in London
King Charles speaks to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau via videolink during a virtual audience at Buckingham Palace in London on Wednesday, March 6, 2024. (Victoria Jones/Pool via AP Photo)

Royal portraits in Canada are usually different from those distributed in the U.K. and other Commonwealth countries — they’ve been “Canadianized” to make them more relevant to a local audience.

Elizabeth’s most recent portrait, for example, features her wearing Canadian insignia, including the Order of Canada and the Order of Military Merit.

It also identifies her as the “Queen of Canada,” the sovereign’s title in this country as head of state. 

While the Canadian portrait is delayed, the federal government and the Crown corporations it owns have pressed ahead with some other changes to acknowledge the King and the start of his reign.

Canada Post has released a stamp of Charles, the Royal Canadian Mint has started stamping coins with Charles’s image and the Bank of Canada has said it eventually will place Charles on the $20 banknote.

Loonies with the the effigy of King Charles on them are struck at an event celebrating the first coin struck at the Royal Canadian Mint in Winnipeg on Tuesday, November 14, 2023.
Loonies bearing the image of King Charles at the Royal Canadian Mint in Winnipeg on Tuesday, November 14, 2023. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

A spokesperson for the Bank of Canada told CBC News the central bank has “started the design process for the new $20 note” as it reworks the current lineup of banknotes, now over a decade old.

“The new $20 should be issued a few years from now. At this stage, it is too early to be more precise about when the design of the note will be unveiled and when the note will begin to circulate,” said Amélie Ferron-Craig.

The U.K.’s version of the Charles portrait was released by the palace in January.

The British government is making the photo — which features Charles in full regalia at Windsor Castle — available to every public body in the country, including local councils, courts, schools, police forces and fire and rescue services.

The $14-million budget for that effort has raised some eyebrows in Britain but the U.K. government has defended the portrait campaign as a reminder “to us all [of] the example set by our ultimate public servant.”

“The accession of His Majesty the King marked a new chapter in our national story,” said Oliver Dowden, the U.K. deputy prime minister. “I hope as many eligible organizations as possible will wish to continue this proud British tradition and honour our King’s reign.”

WATCH: Bill proposes scrapping oath of allegiance to King Charles 

Bill proposes scrapping oath of allegiance to King Charles

A private members bill introduced by New Brunswick Liberal MP René Arseneault proposes making the traditional oath of allegiance to the reigning monarch optional for MPs and senators.

It’s the potential price tag of distributing the Canadian portrait that has the Citizens for a Canadian Republic concerned.

“If Canada spends even a fraction of the mind-boggling $14 million that the U.K. is paying, it would be an insult to the millions of Canadians struggling with the high cost of living, or who would rather their hard-earned tax dollars go towards health care and housing,” the anti-monarchy group’s director, Tom Freda, told CBC News.

“The monarchy costs far, far more than monarchists let on. They’ve been saying for years that it’s less than the cost of a cup of coffee per Canadian per year, but they never include all the other enormous costs, such as the grants given out to groups to mark the Coronation, the millions for hosting royal visits or, in this case, the obscenely high cost of an official portrait.”

Charles’s 2022 tour of Canada cost Canadian taxpayers about $1.4 million, according to government data.

During the late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, the government committed about $2 million to celebrations and community projects.

Finch said it’s important to have royal portraits prominently displayed in government buildings and public places to remind Canadians about the head of state and his role in our constitutional system of government, a system he says has served the country well.

“The longer this goes on — people will start to lose that connection,” he said.

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