Carlton Club celebrates with Thatcher as star
by Richard Evans
The Carlton Club, that bastion of male Toryism close to St James’s Park, London, celebrated its 150th anniversary last night with its only lady member as the star.
Mrs Margaret Thatcher, who qualified as a member only after succeeding Mr Edward Heath as leader of the Conservative Party, unveiled a new portrait of herself, hung in the spot normally reserved for a painting of the Marquess of Salisbury, the club’s founder.
The portrait in oils, by Mr Leonard Boden, is the second of the Prime Minister to find its way onto the famous club’s walls. The first, completed when Mrs. Thatcher was leader of the Opposition before 1979, is sited in the club’s impressive drawing room but is not one of her favourites.
“It is not a great treat”, said Lord Boyd-Carpenter, the Carlton chairman. “She does not think much of it herself - and nor do I.”
Mr Boden, aged 70, who is a personal supporter of Mrs. Thatcher, said she had proved an “excellent sitter” during the painting of her portrait.
“We started in Downing Street with a couple of sittings and then she kindly said to me ‘If I came to your studio in Kensington, I presume the light would be better’. I agreed but told her that I imagined she would not get the time. But she said she would make the time. She came about five times to the studio, usually on a Sunday afternoon. My daughter played the harp to her.”
The portrait was commissioned by a member of the Carlton and will go on public view in May at the annual exhibition staged by the Royal Society of Portrait Painters.
It is uncertain where Mrs. Thatcher’s portrait will be hung when it returns to the Carlton. There is a move afoot to return the picture of the Marquess of Salisbury, currently in a bar, to its former place of honour, half way up the grand staircase. Leonard Boden