AN East Lancashire artist has become the youngest woman to have painted an official portrait of the Queen.

Award-winning painter Isobel Peachey was commissioned by the shipping company Cunard to create the picture, which will be hung in its new cruise liner Queen Elizabeth.

The portrait, a three-quarter-length painting, shows the sovereign sat in an ornate chair in the yellow drawing room at Buckingham Palace.

The Queen, dressed in blue and wearing Queen Victoria's collet necklace and earrings, sat for Ms Peachey three times for hour-long sessions between October and December, last year.

Ms Peachey, 31, said: “She was very relaxed and friendly and she made me feel very welcome.

"It was a truly wonderful experience and I am feeling happy and confident about the unveiling ceremony.”

The artist was born in Burnley and lived in Sabden until the age of 16, attending St. Augustine's RC High School, Billington, when her family moved to London.

In the capital she studied art at both Chelsea Art School and Wimbledon Art School before completing a number of courses at The Prince's Drawing School, founded by the Prince of Wales.

And last year, the former pupil at St Augustine’s RC High School, Billington, was named the winner of the BP Portrait Award's Travel category after painting a portrait of her friend Ruth Edwards.

She added: “I think winning this award brought me to the attention of Cunard.

“I was very surprised and excited when I received the call from them and at my interview I answered many questions about how I would approach an important commission.

"But it was only at the end of the interview that the subject was revealed as the Queen.

"This was both a shock and a marvellous surprise."

Her former headteacher at St. Augustine's RC High, Anthony McNamara, said: “She was an outstanding student and we realised very soon that she was a girl of extraordinary talent.

“I am absolutely thrilled and delighted for her and she is someone that really does deserve this recognition.

"She was always very modest about her talent but she is one of the most gifted artists to pass through this school.”

The painting is being unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery tonnight.

Peter Shanks, Cunard's president and managing director, said: "Isobel is, in fact, the youngest female artist ever to paint the monarch, and the quality of the finished work is such that our confidence has been greatly rewarded.

"It is a truly wonderful picture of Her Majesty."