My favourite painting: Tim Gosling

'I instantly fell in love with this portrait.'

Edward Prince of Wales, Later King Edward VIII and the Duke of Windsor, 1894–1972, by John Archibald Alexander [A. A.] Berrie (1887–1962), 30in by 25in, Collection: Tim Gosling

Tim Gosling says:
I instantly fell in love with this portrait. There’s nothing like it in the National Portrait Gallery, although there is a very famous one of Wallis Simpson. When I die, I’ll bequeath it to the gallery in the hope it will hang alongside her. I purchased a postcard of it from eBay, so I presume it was a well-known commission. I bought the painting from a dealer on the Selling Antiques website. It had been stored in a Devon barn and was covered in bird droppings, so I had to send it off for restoration. My parents were bemused as to why I had pursued it. I think it’s only younger generations that accept the abdication and divorce without judgement and see them as a rather fascinating episode in history, rather than a scandal.

Tim Gosling is a furniture and interior designer.

John McEwen comments on Edward Prince of Wales, Later King Edward VIII and the Duke of Windsor:
John A. A. Berrie studied at Liverpool’s Bootle Art School in Paris and at the portraitist Hubert von Herkomer’s school in Bushey, Hertfordshire. He was best known as a sporting artist and portraitist, his subjects including Churchill, George V and, in the National Portrait Gallery, the champion jockey Steve Donoghue. He worked in London, Liverpool—where he is well represented in the Walker Art Gallery’s collection—and Harrogate before emigrating to South Africa.

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This undated portrait seems to have been painted when the ill-fated Prince was about 30, seven years before he met his nemesis, the American divorcée Mrs Wallis Simpson. History has so derided Edward VIII for putting his love of a woman above his sacred duty as king, it’s worth remembering that the dismay this caused was deepened by his tremendous popularity—with his staff as much as the public worldwide. ‘He won me completely,’ wrote Alan Lascelles on becoming his assistant private secretary in 1920. ‘He is the most attractive man I’ve ever met.’

The Prince’s boyish looks matched his character. He was the darling of the crowds for his appearance and charm, yet, as the Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin said, he remained half a child, volatile, petulant, selfish and subject to self-doubt as well as black depressions. ‘If only the British public really knew what a weak, powerless misery their press-made national hero was,’ the Prince wrote to Mrs William (Freda) Dudley Ward, his mistress for 16 years before Mrs Simpson arrived and forced him to choose between the two.


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