Creating and installing a new work of art into a heritage building usually causes a hiccup or two. The Diamond Jubilee stained glass window officially unveiled today in Ottawa was no exception.
In the colourful window, installed just above the main Senate staircase in Parliament, Queen Victoria—the only other monarch beside Elizabeth to reach year No. 60 on the throne—is depicted looking to the right and catching the gaze of her great-great granddaughter, who looks leftward. Yet that is a view not usually seen of the Queen. Her official portrait always faces to the right on all currency.
The creators needed to ask her permission to flip her image. (She said yes.) They also got Elizabeth’s OK to show both queens wearing the diamond collet necklace and earrings worn by Victoria for her official 60th portrait in 1897, and by the Queen to her coronation in 1953. Their headpieces, however, are different: while Elizabeth II is depicted wearing the imaginary Canadian snowflake-and-maple leaf diadem, Victoria wears the diamond fringe tiara she donned so often during her reign.
Alas, once the window was installed in the fall, a serious issue cropped up. Anyone looking at the window from the Senate foyer would have his or her view obstructed by a massive lantern hanging over the stairs. The only solution was to carefully drop the light by 75 cm. And, as a final touch Phil White, the Dominion sculptor, was tasked with creating a gilded wooden piece to fit at the bottom of the window.
Now, the finished product—a gift from the Senate to the Queen—is perfect. Each sovereign’s side has renditions of Parliaments from the appropriate era, each with her own coat of arms. Just don’t ask what the Senate will do if another sovereign cracks the 60-year record.