Queen's Zulu painting is given 'colonial' warning

Queen’s Zulu painting is given ‘colonial’ warning: Image depicting the Battle of Rorke’s Drift has description updated to acknowledge its links to imperialism

  • It is among 62 works in the Royal Collection to be amended after BLM campaign 
  • The painting depicts the Battle of Rorke’s Drift that saw 141 British soldiers die
  • Eleven Victoria crosses won in battle where soldiers defended a field hospital
  • Oil painting was by Elizabeth Thompson under commission from Queen Victoria 

A royal painting of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift has had its description updated to acknowledge its links to imperialism.

It is among 62 works in the Royal Collection to be amended in the wake of the Black Lives Matter campaign.

Part of the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879, Rorke’s Drift saw 141 British soldiers defend a field hospital against an attack from 4,000 warriors. 

Eleven Victoria Crosses were won in the battle which was depicted in Zulu, a 1964 film starring Michael Caine.

The online description of the oil painting, by Elizabeth Thompson under commission from Queen Victoria, now notes: ‘This work is connected to colonialism and imperialism. 

The royal painting of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift (pictured) has had its description updated to acknowledge its links to imperialism, and is among 62 works in the Royal Collection to be amended in the wake of the Black Lives Matter campaign

‘Like all Royal Collection records, this work is subject to ongoing research as the Royal Collection Trust seeks to present fully the narratives represented in the collection.’

A bust of the philosopher John Locke in Kensington Palace has had its description updated to acknowledge his links to slavery.

He was an investor in the Royal African Company, which controlled the British slave trade.

The royal trust’s online description of the marble bust of Locke now notes he was ‘connected with the transatlantic slave trade and supported it politically’.

The description of a Windsor Castle bust of the Duke of Marlborough is another to have been updated. 

It now says: ‘The Duke of Marlborough was connected with the transatlantic slave trade and benefited from it financially.’

The duke won a crucial military victory over France in 1704. 

Part of the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879, Rorke’s Drift saw 141 British soldiers defend a field hospital against an attack from 4,000 warriors. Eleven Victoria Crosses were won in the battle which was depicted in Zulu, a 1964 film starring Michael Caine (pictured)

The royal trust began reviewing hundreds of thousands of artworks in the Queen’s collection for colonial and slave links this summer. None have been removed. Pictured: Queen Elizabeth II on December 8, 2020 thanks volunteers and key workers at Windsor Castle

The royal trust began reviewing hundreds of thousands of artworks in the Queen’s collection for colonial and slave links this summer. None have been removed.

A painting of Sir Thomas Picton, known as the Hero of Waterloo, was the first to have been updated in July, adding reference to his links to slavery.

As well as for links to slavery and colonialism, the Trust has also been reviewing items which feature BAME sitters.


A bust of the philosopher John Locke in Kensington Palace (left) has had its description updated to acknowledge his links to slavery, and the description of a Windsor Castle bust of the Duke of Marlborough (right) is another to have been updated

Some of these have had their description updated with the words: ‘Royal Collection Trust welcomes further information relating to the identity of those depicted and the creation or provenance of this object.’

Yesterday a Royal Collection Trust spokesman said: ‘We have an ongoing programme of activities to research, display, loan and publish detailed records of objects in the Royal Collection, in order for a wide range of audiences to learn about the collection and its history. 

‘Displays and publicly available object records are continually under review.’

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