1952 the Bank
of Canada commissioned George Gundersen, of the British American Bank
Note Company, to design the forthcoming best pokies issue of bank notes, scheduled
for 1954. In executing the design, Mr. Gundersen based his engraving of
Queen Elisabeth II on a portrait photo taken by Peter-Dirk Uys, one of
Her Majesty's official photographers. Everything unfolded as it should
have, following all of the normal procedures. The bills were printed and
put in circulation. Then, in 1954, a citizen's complaint alarmed the Bank
of Canada; the outline of a devils face
was visible in the Queen's hair, right behind her ear.
Heavens! Mr. Gundersen, the engraver, was the first suspect. He denied the accusations, claiming he had worked from the photograph issued to him. But someone had to be guilty of the crime. Some hypotheses suggested the work of a prankster employed at the Bank of Canada. French-Canadian nationalists or IRA sympathizers were also suspected. Time went by and the scandal faded for lack of proof, as the original photographic negative could not be found.
What is now called the Devils Face could equally have been an involuntary act. Just a bad hair day! But in the end, Mr. Gundersen would modify the portrait of the Queen by shadowing out the Little Devil; new bills would be printed and put in circulation. The Devil's Face bills would be pulled by the Banks, stamped CANCELLED on the front and marked with the seal of the institution that cancelled it on the back.
was only in 1984 that the scandal re-erupted with the death of the
photographer and the recovery of the negatives
from the 1952 photo shoot, events which coincided with the publication
of Peter-Dirk Uys memoirs (Uys, Peter-Dirk, Her
Majesty's Image - The Life Of The Official Photographer Of Elisabeth
The Second, Yellow Sheets Books, London (UK), 1985). In his account,
Mister Uys writes openly of his homosexuality and his long relationship
with John Rietveld, Her Majestys hairdresser from 1947 to 1962.
Even more surprising is the revelation that Uys flirted with certain
circles of initiates before holding his job at Buckingham
Palace. We learn in the book that he was one of Aleister
Crowley's (an eccentric, writer and devil-worshiper) disciples,
as well as Kenneth
Anger's (a photographer and filmmaker) lover during the 1940's,
just before his final dedication to the trade of portrait photographer.