‘I hope I’ve done her proud’: official jubilee artist on the work The Queen never got to see

  • The Queen’s artist in residence for her Platinum Jubilee said the saddest part is that she will never see the full collection of work – but he hopes he has done her justice.

    Freddy Paske, a former member of the Light Dragoons who was discovered thanks to the paintings he did from his tank in Afghanistan, was Her Majesty’s artist in the last year of her life, covering so many of the horses that were her passion. His work from this year is on display at Gallery Different, 14 Percy Street, Fitzrovia, London between 22-27 November.

    Freddy told H&H he has always ridden, but also always wanted to go into the military.

    “My father was in the Household Cavalry but I was in the Light Dragoons, which is similar, without the ceremonial role,” he said. “I played polo and hunted with them, which is the much better side of equestrian life in the military! I see how hard they work to produce and turn out those horses; it’s almost seven days a week in Knightsbridge, very different to hunting and playing polo.

    “With the Army, I’ve always had this passion, it’s plagued me. My poor mother had a nightmare trying to get me to wear normal clothes; I remember at Pony Club junior camp, insisting on wearing camouflage, and her trying to get me into jodhpurs and a ratcatcher, but fancy dress was brilliant. We chopped down a bush and dressed the Shetland pony as a tank, with me on top dressed as a soldier.”

    After university, Freddy went on tour, of Helmand province in Afghanistan in 2012, then Bosnia in a different role in 2014.

    “It’s funny; it’s been said before that tours are 90% extreme boredom and 10% sheer terror, a bizarre mix, but I was very lucky,” he said. “Others weren’t but from a selfish point of view, that was probably the launch of my art career. In Afghanistan, a war artist came to visit us and I was chatting to her and showed her some of my sketchbooks. To decompress, normally before evening orders, I would get out of sketchbook and paint the scenery in front of me from my tank. It helped retain a bit of myself, and when the artist put on an exhibition, she said she’d love to exhibit some of my work as well. Amazingly, everything sold, and that was the start.”

    Freddy started painting commissions of horses, then approached the Household Cavalry about being the regiment’s artist in residence for a year, a coveted role. He did the same for Tattersalls and the Jockey Club, neither of which, he believes, had had one before, then the Household Cavalry asked him to come back to the role for The Queen’s jubilee year.

    “That was amazing as I don’t think they’ve had anyone back before and it was such a privilege,” he said. “I started at the Royal Mews and met the lovely Crown Equerry Toby Brown. He said it was a great plan but we needed to run it past the Queen. I wasn’t prepared but my poor printers turned round a portfolio the next day to be taken to The Queen and a week later, he said “You’ll be delighted to know, The Queen has approved the role”, and that’s how it was born. Gosh, what a year.”

    Freddy went to Oman to visit the Royal Cavalry, and to Paris to see the Garde Republicaine; both took part in the Platinum Jubilee celebrations at Royal Windsor Horse Show. He covered the show and the celebrations there and the official jubilee weekend celebrations. He also, unexpectedly, covered Her Majesty’s funeral processions.

    “There was pressure but I can’t convey how much of an honour it was,” he said. “To be approved by The Queen, going to places I’d never have been. The saddest thing is that it was all done in The Queen’s honour and she never got to see the full collection. It was such a privilege and I hope I’ve done it proud.”

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