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A Real Companion and Friend:
The diary of William Lyon Mackenzie King

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Behind the Diary

A King's Who's Who Biographies

Francis "Frank" Owen Salisbury (1874-1962)

Francis 'Frank' Owen Salisbury, 1947

Source

Francis "Frank" Owen Salisbury, 1947

Frank Salisbury was one of the greatest English portrait painters of the twentieth century. He did two portraits of Mackenzie King: a grey and white chalk portrait in 1937; and an oil painting in 1945. Salisbury and his wife Maude became close friends of King.

Francis Salisbury was one of the greatest English portrait painters of the twentieth century. He studied in England, Italy, Germany and France. His subjects included Mussolini, Churchill, F.D. Roosevelt, and many members of the British Royal family. He painted the official Coronation portraits of King George VI.

When Mackenzie King was in England for the Coronation and the Imperial Conference of 1937, Salisbury did a grey-and-white chalk portrait of him. The diary contains a detailed description of King's visit to Salisbury's house: "I entered a hall filled with exquisite paintings and endless treasures." (Diary, June 12, 1937) King was very pleased with the portrait and said of Salisbury: "He is truly a man after my own heart. As delightful a person as I have seen." (Diary, June 12, 1937) Salisbury and his wife Maude became good friends of King and stayed with him, at Laurier House and at Kingsmere, when they were visiting Ottawa.

While King was in England in late 1945, Salisbury did an oil painting of him. Salisbury describes this sitting in his book Sarum Chase. In the portrait, King is holding some papers, which, according to Salisbury, related to the Gouzenko Affair and were highly secret. "All I was allowed to see was the signatures of Mr. Attlee and Mr. Truman," Salisbury wrote.

This painting was hung in the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. President Truman, who was in Ottawa at the time, attended the unveiling, as did Salisbury and his wife. King's diary gives a detailed account of this ceremony. (Diary, June 10, 1947)

The diary contains many affectionate references to the Salisburys. King greatly valued their friendship.

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