This month, our Commercial Manager, Anita Lee has chosen Terence Cuneo’s painting of King Olav V unveiling the memorial to his Father in 1959, which hangs in the museum’s Normanby Room.
‘On 3 June 1959, His Late Majesty King Olav V, then Colonel-in-Chief, unveiled the memorial to his Father King Haakon VII, who had been Colonel-in-Chief from 1942 to 1957, in the Regimental Chapel at Richmond’s St Mary’s Parish Church. In the picture, King Olav is flanked by the Colonel of the Regiment, Major General A E Robinson DSO, and the Archbishop of York, Dr Michael Ramsay.
“When Archbishop Ramsay had finished posing I asked him if I might retain for a few days his mitre, staff and cope, as I still had much detailed work to do on them,” recalled Cuneo at the time. “This was agreed, but now came the problem of finding a suitable person to wear them. After deliberation it was decided that the only man in the regiment who had a figure anything like the Archbishop’s was the Regimental Sergeant Major. Never will I forget seeing that stalwart pillar of military discipline robed, covered in ecclesiastical dignity, standing four square to the memorial like an avenging angel, his neck a dangerous magenta hue, the staff in his hand looking as if it, at any moment might turn itself into a short Lee-Enfield rifle.”
It was one of Cuneo’s favourite paintings as it always made him laugh when he remembered RSM Norman Winter MM glancing at the door of the Church, afraid that some ‘raggy lad’ would enter and see him ‘in all this fancy dress’. It’s a story which makes our guided tour groups laugh the most.
Children also love the painting as we ask them to spot the two mice in it. The picture hangs in a room full of Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thompson furniture featuring his trademark mouse carving, and there’s also the church rood-screen depicted in the painting – also made by Thompson and therefore featuring the mouse, which Cuneo included. The artist also enjoyed placing a mouse somewhere in his scenes, and in this picture, Cuneo’s mouse sits respectfully on a regimental hassock.
It just goes to show that there’s always something interesting, and a little bit out of the ordinary, for visitors to spot during their visit to the museum!’