World·Royal Fascinator

How do you craft an image of a monarch?

What kind of smile is on King Charles's face? How do his eyebrows look? Is he relaxed? Montreal portrait artist Steven Rosati pondered such thoughts as he created the image of Charles that will appear on one side of all Canadian coins.

Artists who portray King Charles and Queen Elizabeth focus on the smallest details

A hand holds a pencil just above a portrait of a person's head.
Montreal artist Steven Rosati works on the portrait of King Charles that forms the basis for the new design on one side of Canadian coins. (Submitted by Steven Rosati)

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What kind of smile is on King Charles's face? How do his eyebrows look? Is he relaxed? Not looking too young or too old?

Montreal portrait artist Steven Rosati pondered such thoughts as he created the image of Charles that the Royal Canadian Mint is using to replace his mother, the late Queen Elizabeth, on one side of all Canadian coins. 

"There's a lot of ... experience that went into creating this effigy. It's not just copying King Charles's profile," Rosati said in an interview. 

"It's tweaking parts of his smile or his eyes, you know, or his eyebrows, whatever it takes ... to get that facial expression across that I was looking for."

Rosati, who has designed other coins for the mint, sees a "relaxed, pleasant expression" on his effigy that was unveiled recently.

He was one of about 350 artists in the mint's databank who were asked to submit portfolios as it sought to update Canadian coins after the death of Queen Elizabeth last year. From there, he was placed on a short list of about 15 artists who had to follow guidelines and submit an example of their proposed effigy.

Three people remove a cover from a large replica coin.
Royal Canadian Mint president and CEO Marie Lemay, left, and Rosati, right, unveil a replica of the first Canadian coins featuring the face of King Charles at the mint's Winnipeg location on Nov. 14. (Anne-Louise Michel/Radio-Canada)

Among those guidelines, Charles was to be looking to his right — following the  tradition that any monarch looks the opposite way from their predecessor. There were to be no medals visible. No uniform or crown.

"We live in modern, contemporary times," Rosati said, "and ... I would think maybe having a crown on him would be a little bit ... old-fashioned maybe ... and not really relatable in these times." 

Rosati spent about a week in his home studio coming up with the design.

Pictures of Charles provided a base from which he worked — some were provided by the mint, and others Rosati found searching "the wealth of the internet photos" that exist of Charles.

"I had to narrow it down to profiles, of course. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a profile that met everything I was looking for." 

Numerous newly-minted coins are shown displaying the effigy of King Charles.
Loonies with 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 Nov. 14. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

That was a relaxed look on Charles's face that would be reflected in his eyes and his mouth.

"I had to kind of piece together a few photos. I found a photo where I liked the way his mouth looked.... And then I found another photo of his nose that looked right," he said. "Once I assembled all those pieces together, I just created kind of my own information for the engraver to follow."

When it came to considering the era of Charles's life that would be portrayed, Rosati said he assumed it "needed to be like a more recent look."

"I didn't want to make him look too young. I didn't want to make him look too old. So I kind of pieced together a hybrid look of his face. So it's kind of like an ageless face I have put together."

Another Canadian artist also saw her depiction of a monarch introduced to the public recently.

Ruth Abernethy's bronze sculpture of Queen Elizabeth was unveiled at Queen's Park in Toronto, revealing a portrayal of the monarch seated on the throne of the Senate in Ottawa, and recreating — down to the dress and shoes she wore — the figure she struck when she opened Parliament in 1977.

A close up view of a bronze statue honouring Queen Elizabeth is pictured here at Queen's Park in Toronto, on Nov. 7, 2023.
A bronze statue by Ruth Abernethy honouring Queen Elizabeth was unveiled outside the Ontario Legislature in Toronto on Nov. 7. (Alex Lupul/CBC)

"I could have picked, I suppose, any moment in her address, but what I [wanted] is an element of serenity and commitment and an element of gravitas without being desperately sober," the sculptor, based in Wellesley, Ont., said in an interview.

"I think the Queen had a wit and really admired that in others."

Abernethy based the Queen's face on the image Canadians see on their coins.

"What makes a portrait ring true is that people will look at it and go, 'Oh, I know exactly who that is,'" she said. "Best to work with the profile that's on our coins, because that is the face with which everyone is so familiar."

While the sculpture reflects a particular moment in great detail, there is one addition that was not present on that day in October 1977.

Statue of Queen Elizabeth sits in front of brick building.
The Queen Elizabeth statue joins a statue of Queen Victoria elsewhere on the grounds of the legislature, which is known as Queen's Park. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Abernethy gave the Queen a cape. In doing so, the sculptor was trying to bring a sense of comfort both for the monarch and for those who gaze upon the statue, particularly during the winter months.

"This is Canada, and it's cold here ... so I wanted a cape with a sense of motion and animation," she said. "This is not just Grandma in a chair, this really is a sense of her comfort forever. And I know that's silly, but ... if you saw a bronze of a girl in a bikini in February in Winnipeg, you would not be comfortable."

Abernethy met Elizabeth in 2010, when the monarch unveiled the bronze sculpture the artist had created of jazz great Oscar Peterson, which was placed outside the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. 

"She turned to me and said, 'How do you make such beautiful metal work?'" Abernethy said. 

"And I was stopped in my tracks because I don't actually do the metal work. I make the original and then I take it to a terribly experienced foundry and they recreate it." 

Several people look at a bronze sculpture of a person seated at a piano.
Queen Elizabeth, left, sculptor Ruth Abernethy and Prince Philip look at a sculpture by Abernethy of Canadian jazz pianist Oscar Peterson at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on June 30, 2010. (Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images)

Both Rosati and Abernethy talk of the honour it was for them to be asked to create their artistic renditions of a monarch. 

Rosati says it hasn't really sunk in yet that his effigy is part of the tradition and history of the monarch being on our coins.

"I'm sure once the coins are in circulation, it'll start to sink in a little more."

The first coins with Rosati's effigy are expected to enter circulation this month.

Where's Canada in the rank of royal diplomacy?

Two people sitting down lean toward one another to talk.
King Charles, left, and United Arab Emirates President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan attend the opening ceremony of the COP28 climate summit on Friday in Dubai. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

At home and abroad, King Charles has been sending diplomatic signals lately that seem to reinforce apparent priorities for himself, the House of Windsor and the British government.

Charles, who has had a long-standing interest in environmental issues and has warned of the threats posed by climate change, gave a keynote speech at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, U.A.E., on Friday. 

"In 2050, our grandchildren won't be asking what we said, they will be living with the consequences of what we did or didn't do," he said.

It's a marked change from last year's United Nations climate summit, when Charles didn't attend, staying home apparently at the behest of then-prime minister Liz Truss.

This year, though, he's there, with the apparent blessing of current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Two people speak with one another, with several people in the background.
King Charles, left, speaks with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during the COP28 climate summit in Dubai on Friday. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

"Sunak and the British government want the U.K. still to have its place as being a key country combating climate change, even though it's made some decisions domestically over the past few months," Craig Prescott, a constitutional expert and lecturer in law at Royal Holloway, University of London, said in an interview.

"Having the King there, having the King make the keynote speech, is a way of facilitating that and maintaining the U.K.'s presence overseas on this issue."

At home, Charles hosted South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol for a state visit that had all the formal and ceremonial trappings of such events, along with a dose of K-pop, via the girl band Blackpink.

"That didn't feel very strange to me, because first thing that comes to my mind is Charles has met the Spice Girls," Justin Vovk, a royal commentator and a PhD candidate at McMaster University in Hamilton who specializes in the history of the monarchy, said in an interview.

During the state visit, which included a state dinner and talk of enhanced trade relations between the two countries, Charles presented members of Blackpink with honorary medals, recognizing their role in raising awareness of climate change.

A person stands with arms extended while talking with four other people. Two people stand in the background.
King Charles, left, presents the members of the K-pop band Blackpink, left to right, Roseanne Park, Jisoo Kim, Jennie Kim and Lalisa Manoban, with honorary medals during a special investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace on Nov. 22. (Victoria Jones/Getty Images)

Vovk said Charles's meeting with Blackpink was "very strategic and a way of sending a message that Charles is hip and he's in tune with — no pun intended — young people."

The South Korean state visit follows trips Charles made to Germany and France earlier this year, along with his first trip as monarch to a Commonwealth country when he went to Kenya a few weeks ago.

Noticeably absent from those comings and goings is any trip to any other Commonwealth destination, including Canada.

"I think more generally, we haven't quite seen what the King's approach is to the Commonwealth yet," Prescott said.

"When you were thinking what a new King would do, you might have imagined that there would have been a visit to one of the Commonwealth realms, but that hasn't been the case."

Two people click drinking glasses as they stand at a dining table behind a large arrangement of flowers.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, left, and King Charles make a toast at the state banquet at Buckingham Palace in London, England, on Nov. 21. (Aaron Chown/Reuters)

Vovk isn't quite sure where this leaves Canada in the eyes of the monarchy and the British government, which plays a major role in where the King goes. (Any trip to Canada would also be at the invitation of the Canadian government.)

"I can't quite figure out what the British government's endgame is with the current round of diplomatic courting, for want of a better phrase," Vovk said.

"Critics can look at that and say that it means Canada is not important to London and to the British monarchy. But we can also look at it ... in a more optimistic way that Canada's relationship with Britain is not something that they necessarily feel is in need of an urgent royal visit."

Opinion about the monarchy in Canada, Vovk said, "has settled down to its usual level of indifference."

"So I think they're probably content with that for the moment. Don't poke the beaver."

Charles did, however, meet with someone from Canada recently. Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national organization for Inuit in Canada, had a private audience with the King at Buckingham Palace last week.

Two people shake hands in an ornate room, in front of a wall with oval mirrors and a painting.
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed, left, shakes hands with King Charles during a private audience at Buckingham Palace on Nov. 23. (Yui Mok/AFP/Getty Images)

Dutch translation of royal book pulled from stores

From our CBC colleague Nick Logan, with files from CBC's Thomas Daigle and Thomson Reuters:

Rumblings about racism have plagued the Royal Family for several years, but a translated version of a new tell-all book purportedly reveals which senior royals allegedly made comments about the skin colour of the first-born child of Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.

The Dutch version of royal watcher Omid Scobie's newly released Endgame: Inside the Royal Family and the Monarchy's Fight for Survival has been pulled from bookstores in the Netherlands after it identified two royals involved in the controversy.

The original English version did not. 

WATCH | Dutch version of royal book sparks mystery:

Dutch version of royal book Endgame sparks mystery

3 months ago
Duration 2:01
A translated version of the book Endgame by Omid Scobie purportedly reveals which senior royals allegedly made comments about the skin colour of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's first-born child. The publisher has since withdrawn the book, saying it was an error.

Dutch royal reporter Rick Evers was one of the first to report on the contents of the book when his article was published just after midnight Tuesday. 

He told CBC News he had no idea Eindstrijd — the book's title in Dutch — contained any information different from any other versions, until he got a phone call from the publishing house, Xander Uitgevers, asking him to take his article offline "due to some legal problems." He didn't.

"It's written in black and white, two names," Evers said in an interview with CBC's Thomas Daigle. "It's not my story. It's published in the source."

The Dutch edition purports it was Harry's father, King Charles, and sister-in-law Catherine, Princess of Wales, who made the alleged comments before his and Meghan's son, Archie, was born in 2019.

Scobie denies they were ever identified in any version of his book, and the Royal Family says it's considering all of its options.

Meghan, whose mother is Black and father is white, first brought up the allegation in a 2021 television interview with Oprah Winfrey, saying there were "concerns and conversations about how dark [Archie's] skin might be when he's born." Neither she nor Harry named names.

WATCH | Royal racism claims in Oprah interview send shock waves:

Meghan’s claims about racism within Royal Family sends shockwaves

3 years ago
Duration 2:43
Meghan Markle’s claims that she not only experienced racism from the U.K. tabloids, but also that a member of the Royal Family asked about the colour of Archie’s skin has sent shockwaves around the world, but the palace remains silent.

In Endgame, Scobie wrote that the names of two individuals involved were identified in private letters between Charles and Meghan following the Winfrey interview, but said he was prevented from naming them by U.K. laws.

Publisher Xander Uitgevers said on Tuesday it had temporarily removed the book from sale because of "an error" in the country's edition. Scobie later told Dutch broadcaster RTL Boulevard there has "never been a version that I produced that has names in it."

Evers says it's "difficult to believe" Scobie's claim he never wrote the identities in any version of his manuscript. "I think it's a way to distance himself."

He explained there are "several versions" of a book before it goes to print and that publishers in various countries need to be notified when significant changes are made — especially when it's for legal reasons.

It's possible the book's original editors forgot to tell the Dutch publishing house to take out the contentious identifications, he said, or maybe someone "missed the memo."

Despite the publisher saying it would pull the books from the shelves, Evers said he was still able to purchase a copy at a bookstore on Wednesday.

WATCH | Meghan's struggles with mental health, racism resonate with women of colour:

Meghan’s struggle resonating with other women of colour

3 years ago
Duration 2:02
Meghan Markle’s story about her struggles with mental health and racism has resonated with other women of colour following her interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Evers said he doesn't think any fault lies with the publisher or translators of the Dutch version of Scobie's book. A Dutch translator who worked on the shelved edition told Britain's Daily Mail she only translates what is presented to her.

"The names of the royals were there in black and white. I did not add them. I just did what I was paid to do and that was translate the book from English into Dutch," Saskia Peeters said. 

Evers pondered whether the Netherlands might have been an ideal place to make such a contentious revelation, because it's not that big of a country.

"He actually wanted to reveal what really happened, but he was advised not to do it and something went really very wrong in the process," Evers said. "I just hope for Omid Scobie it was not on purpose."

The United Kingdom has strict libel and privacy laws, and many British media outlets have written about the controversy without identifying who is purportedly named in Eindstrijd.

A book sits on a table behind green garland and ornaments.
A copy of author Omid Scobie's book, Endgame, is seen on display inside a bookstore in London on Friday. (Henry Nicholls/AFP/Getty Images)

But broadcaster Piers Morgan bucked that trend on his nightly show, Piers Morgan Uncensored.

"Frankly, if Dutch people wandering into a bookshop can pick it up and see these names, then you, British people here, who actually pay for the British Royal Family, you're entitled to know, too," he declared Wednesday night

Morgan is a vocal critic of Harry and Meghan and has accused them of "lying" about the racism allegations. He also suggested Scobie, whom he called the couple's "lickspittle," may have been doing their bidding by getting the names out in the open. 

Morgan suggested that by putting the names out in the open, it will hopefully lead to clarity about what was said — and by whom — and "whether there was any racial intent at all."

Neither Buckingham Palace nor any of the Royal Family's offices have commented on the book, but the Daily Mail said officials were considering all options, including legal action.

"However, the key thing for them is His Majesty responding in the most eloquent way possible, by getting on with business and not letting it distract from vastly more important issues regarding the future of the planet and bilaterals with other world leaders," the paper quoted an unnamed source as saying.

A spokesperson for Harry and Meghan also declined to comment.

A new version of Eindstrijd is due to be released on Dec. 8, according to Xander Uitgevers.

Royally quotable

"You bring into the open the voices of victims, you break taboos, you shine a light on these heinous crimes and you guide the public on what they can do to help."

— Queen Camilla, thanking journalists for raising awareness of domestic and sexual abuse against women in every part of the globe, an issue that she has campaigned on extensively. Camilla made the comments during an event in London to mark the 135th anniversary of the Foreign Press Association.

A person standing at a podium delivers a speech.
Queen Camilla speaks at the Foreign Press Association Awards in London on Nov. 20. (Jonathan Brady/Getty Images)

Royal reads 

  1. King Charles's estate has announced it is transferring more than 100 million pounds, including funds collected from dead people under the archaic system of bona vacantia, into ethical investment funds after an investigation by the Guardian. [The Guardian]

  2. During a visit to Vancouver by Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, he performed the ceremonial puck drop at a Vancouver Canucks game, as part of the lead-up to the 2025 Invictus Games. Meghan also returned to visit a Vancouver charity that helps teenage girls living in poverty. [CBC] 

  3. A blouse worn by Diana, Princess of Wales, for her engagement portrait in 1981 is among the items in an auction of famous clothing. [ITV]

  4. Major alterations are being made to the Royal Family's Christmas celebrations at Sandringham this year, in the first significant change of arrangements since the death of Queen Elizabeth. [ITV]

A person drops a ceremonial puck between two hockey players at centre ice in an arena.
Prince Harry, centre, drops the puck during a ceremonial faceoff between San Jose Sharks' Tomas Hertl, left, and Vancouver Canucks' Quinn Hughes before an NHL game in Vancouver on Nov. 20. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Janet Davison is a CBC senior writer and editor based in Toronto.

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