This letter - written on black-edged mourning paper on 22 May 1910 by George V, following the death of his father, Edward VII - has been reproduced here surrounded by elaborate decorations designed by Lawrence Alma-Tadema. The decorations take the form of a classical portico, with the words ‘JUSTICE’ and ‘COMMERCE’ at either side and the names of the nations of the British Empire in between. Just to the left of the reproduced letter is a scene of solemn mourning for the recently deceased king. To the right is a jubilant scene of cheering, as the new king, George V, is hailed. The central figure at the bottom of the image represents the British Empire, surrounded by other emblematical figures.
As Prince of Wales, Edward VII was part of the circle of Alma-Tadema. The artist also presented his painting ‘God Speed’, showing a young woman dangling roses from a balcony, to the Prince Albert (later George V) and Princess Mary of Teck as a wedding present.
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema was born in The Netherlands. He was diagnosed with consumption at 15 and permitted to spend his final days painting. However, at 16 he enrolled at the Academy of Art, Antwerp, and later entered the studio of an archaeology professor. In 1859 he joined the studio of artist Henri Leys. He won a gold medal at the Paris Salon (1864). Alma-Tadema’s works are mainly Roman genre or historical scenes and he received two commissions for large numbers of such works from dealer E. Gambart. He was elected a Royal Academician in 1869 and moved to London in 1870. He was later knighted (1899) and received the Order of Merit (1905). In 1912 he travelled to Germany to be treated for ulceration of the stomach, where he died aged 76.
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