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Painting Lost in Castle Fire Angered King George III With AM-Britain-Windsor

November 24, 1992 GMT

LONDON (AP) _ The only painting destroyed in the Windsor Castle fire survived a royal order for it to be burned nearly 200 years ago, according to the artist’s biographer.

The huge canvas, 13 feet, 8 inches tall and 16 feet, 6 inches wide, was completed by Sir William Beechey in 1798 and called ″George III and the Prince of Wales Reviewing Troops.″

It shows the king and his sons, the prince of Wales and duke of York, on horseback with other generals.

The painting had been in the state dining room at Windsor Castle for the past 55 years, but the work perished in Friday’s fire, which engulfed the room and other parts of the northeast wing.

The 900-year-old castle is the favorite residence of Queen Elizabeth II, who helped save other art treasures during the fire.

Writer William Roberts, in his 1907 life of Beechey, said the picture was painted at a time when the king did not get along with the prince, later King George IV.

When the king saw that Beechey had put the prince in the picture with the connivance of Queen Charlotte, he ordered the painting to be ″stripped off the frame and burnt,″ Roberts said, attributing the story to Beechey’s descendants.

He said the courtier assigned to the task disobeyed the king and kept the painting. When the king and the prince were reconciled he produced it, and the work had remained in the royal collection ever since.

Not all scholars, however, believe the tale of the painting’s salvatioon from royal wrath.

Oliver Millar, surveyor emeritus of the queen’s pictures, doubts the burning order because Beechey remained a court painter and was knighted and elected royal academician in 1798 after completing the work.

The story ″cannot be reconciled with Beechey’s progress,″ Millar says in his history of the queen’s Georgian pictures.

-DS-11-24-92 1550EST