EXCLUSIVE: ‘Those were the days!’ Portraitist Nicky Phillips reflects on Princes William and Harry being ‘so close’ before royal rift in Keeping Up with the Aristocrats
Artist Nicky Philipps warmly recalls a time when Princes William and Harry were ‘so close’ in an upcoming episode of Keeping Up with the Aristocrats, saying fondly of the time: ‘Those were the days.’
The contemporary portraitist, 57, unveiled the first double portrait of the royal brothers in 2010, a decade before the Duke of Sussex, 37, and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, 40, announced their decision to ‘step back as ‘senior’ members’ of the royal family.
And, while painting three generations of females from the posh Sitwell family in scenes set to air on Monday, Nicky spoke of a time she had the royals at her own home, saying: ‘I painted them for the National Portrait Gallery. They were so sweet. They were so close, those were the days.
Looking back: Artist Nicky Philipps, 57, warmly recalls a time when Princes William and Harry were ‘so close’ in an upcoming episode of Keeping Up with the Aristocrats
‘I said, ‘Could I possibly have them at home?’, and they did, which was amazing. They were in full uniform and they just walked around, into the house and not one single one of my neighbours noticed anything, and this happened five times.
‘That was in 2008 when I got savaged for giving William too much hair. I think the poor chap lost quite a lot of it in 2009. I don’t know what happened then but it all fell out.’
Keeping Up with the Aristocrats follows the lives of four of Britain’s most prominent aristocratic dynasties.
Work of art: The contemporary portraitist unveiled the first double portrait of royal brothers in 2010
Asset-rich but often cash strapped, the cameras follow the family members in a bid to reveal what really goes on behind their closed doors, over one summer’s social season.
When the first oil portrait of Princes William and Harry by Nicky was unveiled in 2010 all parties declared themselves delighted at the result.
Nicky said she felt ‘particularly pleased’ with Harry’s profile – including what she described as his broken nose.
Reflection: Nicky spoke of a time she had the royals at her own home, saying: ‘I painted them for the National Portrait Gallery. They were so sweet. They were so close, those were the days’
And the balding Wills didn’t complain that he was given rather more hair than he actually possessed at the time.
The brothers had never been persuaded to pose formally for an artist before and Nicky was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery in London to undertake the £11,000 painting, which measures 54in by 58in.
The siblings are shown wearing the formal dress uniform of the Household Cavalry Blues and Royals. At the time both were lieutenants in the regiment.
Screen stars: Nicky made her comments while painting three generations of females from the posh Sitwell family in scenes set to air on Keeping Up with the Aristocrats on Monday
The pair are depicted ‘in casual conversation’ during an imagined moment just before they leave the late Queen Mother’s former residence, Clarence House, to take part in the 2008 Trooping the Colour.
In fact, the princes sat several times for the artist at her studio in South Kensington, while she later visited Clarence House to fill in the background.
William, training to be an RAF search-and-rescue pilot at the time, is wearing his dress uniform with the blue sash and star of the Order of the Garter and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee medal in the work.
Telling the tale: Keeping Up with the Aristocrats follows the lives of four of Britain’s most prominent aristocratic dynasties
Insight: Asset-rich but often cash strapped, the cameras follow the family members in a bid to reveal what really goes on behind their closed doors
Harry also wears the Golden Jubilee medal alongside his award for service in Afghanistan.
‘Prince Harry has the most wonderful profile,’ Nicky said at the time. ‘When he was a little boy he had a bit of a ski jump nose but apparently he broke it at school and it has since straightened itself out. I also think the little quiff and his slumped shoulders are very him.’
Rumours of a rift between the brothers emerged in 2019 when they divided their households following a series of disagreements about Harry’s role.
Revealed: Nicky unveiled the work for the National Portrait Gallery in 2010, saying William was delighted to see he had more hair in the art than he had on his head at the time
Regal: Prince William and Prince Harry watch a flyover from the balcony of Buckingham Palace in 2008 in the same uniforms as in the portrait
It also emerged that Harry was upset when William advised him not to rush into marriage with ‘this girl’, which the younger brother took as a slight against Meghan.
The Duke of Cambridge’s rift with his brother is said to have soured even further in early 2020 when the Sussexes ‘blindsided’ Her Majesty by announcing they would be stepping down from their roles as senior royals and moving to the US.
After the infamous ‘Sandringham summit’ – when the Megxit deal was hammered out – William and Harry went for a walk to clear the air. However they did not part shores as friends, it was reported.
Fall out: Rumours of a rift between the brothers emerged in 2019 when they divided their households following disagreements about Harry’s role (pictured with Meghan in 2021)
William was said to have been particularly aggrieved by the couple’s surprise launch of their ‘Sussex Royal’ website before the summit last January.
Later, when the Queen decreed they could no longer use ‘royal’ in their future ventures, Meghan and Harry hit back with a bold statement saying they did not intend to use ‘Sussex Royal’ or ‘Royal’ even though there was ‘not any jurisdiction’ over its use overseas.
The issue was said to still be on William’s mind at the Commonwealth Day service last year – the Sussexes’ final engagement as working royals – when tensions between the brothers were palpable.
Then came the bombshell interview with Oprah in which Prince Harry admitted that he and his brother are on ‘different paths’ and have good and bad days in their relationship.
Harry added that he felt sorry for his brother and his father Prince Charles because they are trapped in their royal roles.
Keeping Up with the Aristocrats continues on Monday on ITV1 at 9pm.
Differences: William was said to have been particularly aggrieved by the couple’s surprise launch of their ‘Sussex Royal’ website before the summit last January (pictured with Kate)
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