Second World War Wardroom Royal Presentation Portraits, 1943 & 1942
Second World War Wardroom Royal Presentation Portraits, 1943 & 1942
Second World War Wardroom Royal Presentation Portraits, 1943 & 1942
Second World War Wardroom Royal Presentation Portraits, 1943 & 1942
  • Load image into Gallery viewer, Second World War Wardroom Royal Presentation Portraits, 1943 & 1942
  • Load image into Gallery viewer, Second World War Wardroom Royal Presentation Portraits, 1943 & 1942
  • Load image into Gallery viewer, Second World War Wardroom Royal Presentation Portraits, 1943 & 1942
  • Load image into Gallery viewer, Second World War Wardroom Royal Presentation Portraits, 1943 & 1942

Second World War Wardroom Royal Presentation Portraits, 1943 & 1942

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Each overall: 28.5cm (11.2in) x 23cm (9in)

Provenance: From the Wardroom of the Q-Class Destroyer HMS Quail (1940-1943)

Commander R.F Jenks, DSC, RN

A wartime pair of quarter length autographed signed portraits of George VI and Queen Elizabeth. The King depicted the uniform of an Admiral of the Fleet; the Queen in state dress and wearing Queen Mary’s Fringe Tiara, the Royal Family Order of George VI, and the insignia of the Imperial Order of the Crown of India. The King's portrait signed to the lower mount - George R.[ex] I.[mperator] by the sitter and bearing the trade label of royal photographer Dorothy Wilding verso.  The Queen’s portrait signed and dated by the sitter ‘Elizabeth R[egina] 1942’. Each presented in modern blue morocco easel backed glazed frames. 

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A typescript letter dated 1964 on Buckingham Palace notepaper from the desk of Elizabeth II’s private secretary Martin Charteris accompanying the present pair of Royal portraits, alludes to their dramatic backstory.  The letter relates that the Queen was interested to learn how the portraits of her parents came to hang at Shiplake College where the then owner Commander Jenks was bursar from 1964 to1968. During the war Jenks was the commanding officer of the destroyer HMS Quail (G45) when she was commissioned on 7 January 1943. It appears that the present portraits were given, in keeping with established practice, to the new destroyer’s wardroom, and that they were hanging in pride of place on 15 November that same year when the ship struck a mine in the Adriatic while patrolling off the entrance to Bari harbour. The explosion under the stern blew the aft 4.7in gun overboard and heavily damaged the ship from amidships to the stern. The wardroom along with all the others abaft of the gear room was flooded. To prevent the ship from sinking, Jenks beached her and thence recovered the Royal portraits from the wardroom bulkhead. The following month the destroyer was salvaged and towed into a dry dock for temporary repairs, but in June 1944 she foundered while in tow when bound for Malta.

Commander Robert Fergus Jenks, DSC, RN, (1909-1982), was the son of the Lord Mayor of London Sir Maurice Jenks, 1st Baronet. He entered the Navy in 1927 and served on the China Station in the 1930s. During the Second World War he commanded the submarine H32 in 1939-40 before being appointed to the Hunt-class destroyer HMS Atherstone, which escorted the St Nazaire Raid of March 1942 to its target. En route Jenks engaged U-593 for several hours in order to prevent it from interfering with the audacious combined operations raid.  After escort duty on the east coast, Jenks was given command of the newly launched HMS Quail and ordered to the Mediterranean to support the allied landings in Sicily (Operation Husky) in July 1943, and Italy (Operation Avalanche) in September 1943. Quail duly deployed from Malta as part of a destroyer screen for the battleships Nelson, Rodney, Warspite and Valiant, and the aircraft carriers Indomitable and Formidable. She also carried out bombardments of the Italian mainland and provided gunfire support off the beachhead as well as carrying out anti-submarine and E-boat patrols. In October Quail was transferred to the Adriatic and based at Bari to further support military operations and to escort convoys.

Dorothy Wilding (1893-1976) established her studio in 1929 in Bond Street, London, where she photographed members of the Royal Family, society figures and film and theatrical stars. She was responsible for the double portrait of George VI and Queen Elizabeth that was subsequently adapted for the 1937 Coronation issue postage stamp. The same portrait also led to the award of her Royal Warrant. Wilding’s relationship with the Royal family, as their favoured photographer, continued until her retirement in 1958. Her autobiography In Pursuit of Perfection was published that year. Her surviving archives were presented to the National Portrait Gallery in 1976 and formed the basis of a major N.P.G. retrospective exhibition and catalogue in 1991 also entitled ‘The Pursuit of Perfection’.