Speaking after the vote, which was taken at the college’s committee meeting on Monday, the UK government condemned the students for voting to permanently remove the portrait.
In a tweet, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson blasted the vote as “simply absurd,” describing the Queen as “a symbol of what is best about the UK” who “has worked tirelessly to promote British values of tolerance, inclusivity and respect.”
According to the minutes of the meeting, one of those opposed to the removal of the portrait described the action as “effectively cancelling the Queen,” while an individual in favour argued that it was about “making people feel welcome” in a communal area of the college.
The president of Oxford University’s Magdalen College, Dinah Rose, deferred responsibility for the vote and the decision taken, claiming that it was one for the students to make, not college authorities or the university. Rose stated that the students weren’t representative of the college’s views but were entitled to express their “free speech” right.
The decision, which comes ahead of the Queen celebrating 70 years on the throne in 2022, was met with a harsher response from Oxford University Chancellor Chris Patten, former chair of the Conservative Party. In comments to a British tabloid, Patten said “freedom of speech allows even intelligent people to be offensive and obnoxiously ignorant.”
The portrait of the Queen will be “safely stored” following its removal, according to the college’s president, rather than relocating it to another part of the university.