When Buckingham Palace made the formal announcement that Britain’s longest-serving monarch had died at the age of 96, Cunningham was putting one of her three children to bed. The image, which she uploaded to her Instagram account, began to travel far and wide. It was resonating with tens of thousands of people, who soon began asking where they could buy a copy.
“I love that you are putting your kids to bed with no idea what is happening on your Instagram,” read a text message sent to Cunningham that evening.
The image — which had almost 400,000 likes on Instagram and was shared widely on Facebook and Twitter — was inspired by a photo she once saw of the queen, Philip and three of their children taking a holiday at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, Cunningham told The Washington Post.
The year was 1960, and together they lounged on a plaid blanket. A corgi, one of the queen’s many beloved dogs, was with them.
Cunningham said she kept thinking of that photo as she sketched, adding that her goal was to put the royal couple — who were married for more than 70 years — “back together on their little blanket.”
Cunningham said she was surprised but also “really touched” at the reaction to her artwork, which she drew while wearing her “mom jeans” at her kitchen table.
The 34-year-old said the queen’s death made a lot of people around the world think about losing their own grandparents. Many people told her they were moved by the idea of the royal couple reuniting.
As a child, the queen found it difficult to pronounce her name, often fumbling it — much to the amusement of family members, who began calling her “Lilibet,” according to British media. The moniker stayed with her throughout her life and became one of her husband’s nicknames for her.
“Lilibet is the only ‘thing’ in the world which is absolutely real to me,” Philip wrote to her mother in a note shortly after he married Elizabeth in 1947.
Prince Harry, one of the queen’s eight grandchildren, and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, named their daughter Lilibet Diana, after her great-grandmother and Harry’s mother, Princess Diana.
Cunningham is selling prints, and all proceeds, she says, will go to a leading children’s charity.
The artist said she has long used Instagram as a platform to share her work, though she usually sketches about parenthood. Her posts are often about overflowing laundry baskets and the joys — and trials — of being a mother.
She is a bit worried now that her tens of thousands of new followers may consider her account a royal one. “They might get a bit of a surprise,” she chuckled, admitting there were just as many poems as there were inspirational sketches.
What about the original drawing? “That’s going in the cupboard,” Cunningham said, “away from the children’s spaghetti-stained hands.”