The head of a University of Oxford college has suggested that the Queen would support removing her portrait, as minutes reveal she could be replaced by an “influential figure”.
Dinah Rose, president of Magdalen, has defended students’ right to exercise "free speech and political debate" after they voted to take down the monarch’s picture from the college’s middle common room (MCR) wall.
In a series of messages on Twitter, Ms Rose spoke out against the abusive messages which have been sent to Magdalen staff following the picture’s removal.
“If you are one of the people currently sending obscene and threatening messages to the college staff, you might consider pausing, and asking yourself whether that is really the best way to show your respect for the Queen,” she said.
"Or whether she’d be more likely to support the traditions of free debate and democratic decision-making that we are keeping alive at Magdalen."
Ms Rose said that while the students who voted are not representative of the college, Magdalen “strongly supports free speech and political debate, and the MCR’S right to autonomy”.
Students said they wanted Magdalen College's middle common room to be 'neutral', so the Queen's portrait was removed
Credit: Heritage Image Partnership Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
Meanwhile, minutes from the MCR meeting reveal that students will investigate possible replacements of the portrait with art “by or of other influential and inspirational people”.
The minutes also show that a total of just 17 students took part in the vote, with 10 voting in favour of the picture’s removal, five abstaining and two opposing it.
One student gave an impassioned speech in opposition to the motion, arguing that the Queen is “the focal point of national identity, unity, and pride, rising above politics to celebrate our country, community, and all those who work in its service”.
They went on to say that as constitutional monarch, the Queen is the “protector of our democracy, our civil liberties, and our freedoms”.
Since 2013, the Queen’s likeness has hung in the MCR of Magdalen College, which has a long association with members of the Royal family.
The colourised print showing her wearing a crown, white gown, and blue sash, is based on a 1952 photograph taken by Dorothy Wilding to mark her accession and coronation.
Earlier this week, the MCR committee made up of graduate students voted for the portrait to be taken down, claiming it represented an unwelcoming symbol of "recent colonial history”.
Magdalen dons are understood to be furious about the decision to take the picture down but feel they cannot intervene in what they see as a student matter.
Magdalen College was founded in 1458 with the help of Henry VI, and has been visited by various reigning monarchs
Credit: Carl Court/Getty
One senior college source said: “Of course I regard the decision itself as abhorrent but this is the MCR’s own room and it’s up to them what they put on the walls”.
Another Oxford don added: “The College is in crisis management mode. I suspect many alumni will be very shocked by this decision and will be thinking that times have changed and students would not have done this in their day”.
Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, intervened on Tuesday condemning the "absurd" move.
On Wednesday, Ms Rose attempted to quell the growing anger among alumni by writing to all “valued members of the Magdalen community” to “set the record straight”.
She used the message to insist that she has “the greatest respect for the Queen, her seven decades of extraordinary service, and the steadfast way in which she has upheld British values against pressure”.
Ms Rose, a QC and deputy High Court judge, went on to say that those values “include the right to freedom of expression and debate, including the expression of views which many people may find offensive or wrong”.
Founded in 1458 with the help of Henry VI, the college has been frequented by reigning monarchs, remained loyal to Charles I in the Civil War, and in the 20th century became the alma mater of Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII.