Red Collars

I have got into trouble with everyone who has so far seen the film The Private Life of the Royal Academy for not knowing the history of the so-called ‘Red Collars’ who run the security of the institution and for saying that I thought that they were based on the eighteenth or nineteenth-century uniform of the domestic servants at Buckingham Palace.   I seem to have been wrong on most counts.   The RA has employed porters from the beginning, who doubled as models in the Life School.   John Russell did a beautiful pastel of one of them, thought to be John Withers, which was exhibited in the Summer Exhibition in 1792 (and will be exhibited again in our exhibition The Great Spectacle which opens in June).   Meanwhile, Paul Sandby, the watercolour painter, is depicted in Zoffany’s portrait of the Academicians wearing what is called ‘The Windsor Uniform’, which was introduced by George III and consisted of a blue jacket with red facings.   Apparently, the Porters of the RA first wore a version of ‘The Windsor Uniform’ at Reynolds’s funeral, which was held in St. Paul’s Cathedral on Saturday 3 March 1792 (I owe this usefully recondite information to a chance conversation with Mark Pomeroy, our archivist, at the London Original Print Fair). 

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