This is the first in what we hope will be a series of fascinating and candid interviews with some very interesting (and in some cases, lesser known) people who are involved in working with the Royal Family.
Andrew Stewart Jamieson is Her Majesty The Queen’s Official Scribe and Illuminator and he very kindly spared us some of his time to answer a few questions about just what it is he does. You can visit Andrew’s website at http://jamiesongallery.com/ and you can also see some more of his work, on Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/asjamieson/.
What does being ‘The Queen’s Scribe & Illuminator’ mean?
“It means I follow a tradition that is as old as monarchy itself. I write and illuminate official documents called Letters Patent issued by the Crown Office under the Monarchs name, for example, when Her Majesty grants a title to a member of the Royal Family, creates Judges of the Supreme Court or grants privileges to Cities and Towns.”
Do you enjoy your job? Is it one you find rewarding?
“When I was a small boy growing up in East London I loved to paint and draw, colour was important to me in those drab environments and that thrill of making a mark has never left me. So yes I very much enjoy my work albeit as heraldic artist, calligrapher and illuminator or when I am painting my English landscapes. The really fascinating thing for me is, I get to meet so many interesting people from all walks of life. I have painted coats of arms and produced calligraphy for Princes, Maharaja’s and taxi drivers. Even the Dalai Lama has a Jamieson! My work has been published in many books on heraldry and I always get a thrill seeing that. The Cherry on the cake though was to be invited to work for the Crown Office and produce Letters Patent. All my work takes a great deal of focus and concentration but when working the royal documents I am aware of the full force of the history of our monarchy expressed through the royal emblems. That they are symbolic of Her Majesty the Queen is equally important and so I must always be ‘on my game’ so to speak especially if she is signing one! Her Majesty is known for her eye for detail. I cannot say it is hard work, there are people who really have to work hard for a living but it is the culmination of a childhood ambition and I must draw on all my professional training and over 30 years experience in this field whenever I sit down at my desk. I still get that child like thrill seeing those freshly written letters glistening on the page and the gold leaf glinting in the sunlight and I do all this with a view of the beautiful West Country outside my studio window. It does not get better than that.”
We understand you create Letters Patent [which grant people titles]. How is this done, what’s the artistic process?
“First I am issued with a text to write. Then I prepare a calf skin vellum with Gum Sandarac , Pumice and cuttlefish. Next comes the text written with a carefully prepared goose quill pen dipped in hand ground ink. I then lay the vellum aside and design the work for the illuminated Capital letter, ‘E’ which should show elements of the Royal Arms, but I often show the whole arms which are only a few inches high. I then trace this design down and gild and paint it. My ‘signature’ is the border which is composed of the quarters of the royal shield of arms. The paints I use are gouache, watercolour and 23c gold leaf hand blended into a paint, which is burnished with a Haematite burnisher. The really cool thing is that some of what I do would be familiar to a medieval artist, the processes are really that old! When the work is finished it is carefully packaged and sent to London where the Great Seal is attached and then it is placed in it’s red presentation box bearing the Royal Cypher.”
Do you get to work with members of the Royal Family very often?
“I have met members of the Royal Family through my work as an artist although I only work in an official capacity for the Queen but I am told some of my other work has found it’s way into the Royal Collection.”
Do you have a favourite piece of artwork you’ve done?
“I tend to like all the work I produce from the smallest medieval style miniature to the very grandest of coats of arms but yes I do have my favourites. I did a document for a member of the Royal Family in 2010 which ranks among them, also the Presentation scroll commissioned by the Templeton Prize and awarded to the Dalai Lama and more recently the equestrian figure of King Richard III commissioned by the Richard III Society which was poignant in light of the recent revelations in Leicester and last but not least the small medieval style illuminated manuscript book I did for the late Sir Paul Getty K.B.E.”