Skip to Content

The UK’s royal family as you’ve never seen them before

By Lianne Kolirin, CNN

(CNN) — As Queen for 70 years, Elizabeth II was probably one of the most photographed women in history.

Yet almost two years after her death, new pictures of Britain’s longest-reigning monarch have emerged for an exhibition opening at Buckingham Palace this week.

Among the most striking is a touching image from 1964 of four royal mothers and their babies – including the Queen and her youngest son, Prince Edward.

Alongside them are the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, plus Princess Alexandra and the Duchess of Kent, all holding their newborn babies.

The never-before-seen image was taken by Princess Margaret’s then-husband, photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones – or Lord Snowdon as he was known as then – as a personal thanks for the royal obstetrician who delivered the four babies within two months of that year.

Shown alongside it is a handwritten letter from Princess Margaret to her sister in which she asks “Darling Lilibet” to sign a print “as a souvenir of an extraordinary two months of delivery.”

“Royal Portraits: A Century of Photography,” which opened in The King’s Gallery of the palace on Friday, has more than 150 items from the Royal Collection and Royal Archives, which chart the evolution of royal portrait photography since the 1920s.

Also on show for the first time are several wartime images taken by Cecil Beaton, who captured the royal family on camera over six decades.

Among them is one of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth inspecting bomb damage at the palace in 1940, while another shows them with their two daughters – Elizabeth and Margaret – around the King’s desk at the Royal Lodge in Windsor.

Beaton was the official photographer for Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953.

The exhibition features a contact sheet of proofs of the coronation sitting, alongside a note from Martin Charteris, the Queen’s assistant private secretary, recommending to Prince Philip which images should be sent to the royal family and maids of honor.

The picture that was subsequently chosen and sent to the Queen Mother can also be seen, signed by both the Queen, her husband and Beaton.

In a week where many headlines were made about the new official painting of the King, the exhibition offers an altogether different view of Charles.

It features a black and white shot of Charles, then a young prince, alongside his sister, Princess Anne, in 1956.

There are numerous official photographs taken to mark royal birthdays, including a portrait by Beaton of Princess Margaret for her 25th birthday – together with her dog Pippin.

Separately, she and her sister, the Queen, can be seen laughing and talking in a contact sheet of images shot by Norman Parkinson on the occasion of their mother’s 80th birthday.

Another highlight is the earliest surviving color print of a member of the royal family. Taken in 1935 by pioneering female photographer Madame Yevonde, it shows Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester – sister-in-law to King George VI and Edward VIII – on her wedding day.

The exhibition, which runs until October, charts the innovations in portraiture, featuring Andy Warhol’s 1985 image of the Queen sprinkled with diamond dust and Rankin’s 2001 photograph of the smiling monarch, superimposed against the union flag.

Meanwhile, Paolo Roversi’s memorable 40th birthday portrait of the Princess of Wales, shows Catherine bearing a striking resemblance to Alexandra, Princess of Wales, by Franz Xaver Winterhalter in 1864.

Curator Alessandro Nasini said in a press release: “The Royal Collection holds some of the most enduring photographs ever taken of the Royal Family, captured by the most celebrated portrait photographers of the past hundred years – from Dorothy Wilding and Cecil Beaton to Annie Leibovitz, David Bailey, and Rankin.

“Alongside these beautiful vintage prints, which cannot be on permanent display for conservation reasons, we are excited to share archival correspondence and never-before-seen proofs that will give visitors a behind-the-scenes insight into the process of creating such unforgettable royal portraits.”

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Style

Jump to comments ↓

CNN Newsource


KTVZ NewsChannel 21 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content