'With teeth or without?' 90 years of the Queen and the arts — in quotes
13 of her majesty's best one-liners to celebrate her birthday
April 21 is Queen Elizabeth II's 90th birthday, and during her reign — which happens to be the longest of any British monarch — she has sat for more than 130 of the world's finest painters and photographers. Just like certain pop stars who call themselves Queen, this head of state doesn't do interviews, but some of the funniest bon mots captured on record came out of her conversations with artists. Long live the Queen, and the LOLs: here are 13 of her majesty's best one-liners.
"Now then, with teeth or without?"
Why waste time saying "cheese?" So accustomed to sitting for artists, the Queen reportedly starts most sessions with this straightforward question — or so Australian newspaper The Age reported in May of 1980.
"I can never wear beige because nobody will know who I am."
When it comes to fashion, she has an artist's love of colour. Royal biographer Robert Hardman recorded this quote.
"Have you been playing a long time?"
The Queen makes some widely reported conversation with rock legend Eric Clapton at a 2005 reception at Buckingham Palace. His answer, by the way, was this: "It must be 45 years now."
"I have to be seen to be believed."
That much-quoted line was reportedly HM's response to a question about her love of international travel, but it's an equally suitable answer if you're wondering why so many portraits of her exist.
"I would much rather be here than at Buckingham Palace knighting a certain party."
"I always try to dance when this song comes on because I am the Queen and I like to dance."
The song in question is "Dancing Queen" by Abba. Obviously. We're a little skeptical about this one — the Queen is reportedly a bigger fan of Rogers and Hammerstein than '70s pop from Sweden — but BBC Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans told his listeners he overheard HM saying just that at a 2008 Windsor Castle party.
"I'm only too happy to be sitting absolutely motionless, doing nothing."
If she'd known more about the artist, she might have thought otherwise. TV personality/painter Rolf Harris, who was stripped of his CBE after a 2015 sexual assault conviction, painted the Queen in 2008. During the sitting, she reportedly shared this witty confession — and we can only imagine she feels the same way during most portrait sessions. You try walking with that many jewels on your head.
"Have you seen the photo?"
When you've sat for 130+ portraits, there's bound to be a few fails. When the Queen was presented with Horse in Royal Blue, a painting by Nicole Leidenfrost, this was her reported reaction. In case you're curious, it's meant to depict a childhood photo of the Queen and her father. And no, it doesn't exactly look like the original.
"Do you think you're going to have to rebuild Rideau Hall?"
We're unsure of the answer, but Gov. Gen. David Johnston reportedly joked that he'd work on finding a suitably spacious place for Phil Richards's larger-than-life oil painting. Standing more than three metres high, the Scarborough, Ont. artist presented his portrait to HM during a 2012 visit to Buckingham Palace. That's when she made this crack.
"It always falls butter side down, doesn't it?"
After a lifetime of portraits, the Queen would know. She made this comment to John Edwards when his palette crashed, paints-first, to the floor.
"You must make your own way, dear."
Annie Leibovitz may be a world-famous photographer, but she's not above getting advice from the Queen. When Leibovitz explained that she'd like to model her 2007 portrait after the work of past royal photographer, Cecil Beaton, Her Majesty replied with this terse wisdom.
"Less dressy? What do you think this is?"
"This," by the way, is the Queen's crown. Annie Leibovitz made the mistake of asking HM to remove it for a "less dressy" shot.
"It's all to do with the training: you can do a lot if you're properly trained."
It's a line much-attributed to Queen Elizabeth II, and applicable to just about anything... including the arts.