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Windsor Castle
The Queen: Portraits of a Monarch

Cecil Beaton

Coronation Portrait of
HM Queen Elizabeth II

2 June 1953
Gelatin silver print
73.0 x 51.0 cm

The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II took place at Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953, over a year after the death of King George VI and The Queen’s accession to the throne. The society photographer Cecil Beaton (1904-80) was chosen to take the official photographs of the Coronation.
These were taken inside Buckingham Palace after The Queen and other members of the Royal Family had returned from the service.

Beaton’s Coronation photographs differed greatly from those taken for the Coronations in 1911 and 1937. He rejected the static line-ups of members of the Royal Family, standing within the familiar architecture of Buckingham Palace, in favour of something more dramatic. Beaton added an air of theatricality and glamour by photographing the young Queen against a painted backdrop of Henry VII’s Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey.

The Queen is shown holding the orb and sceptre, and wearing the Imperial State Crown, Coronation Robes, and the Coronation Gown designed by Norman Hartnell. Beaton photographed The Queen in various poses during the sitting. The use here of the profile pose provides a sense of tradition and continuity, for rulers through the ages have appeared in profile on coins, medals and stamps.

HM Queen Elizabeth II
16 October 1968
Gelatin silver print
29.7 x 25.4 cm

Beaton first photographed The Queen in 1942, ten years before her accession. This was one of the final images that he took of her, and it was released to mark Her Majesty’s 43rd birthday in April 1969. The photograph was taken in the White Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace. The Queen wears a turquoise gown by Hardy Amies and the Vladimir Tiara.

When recalling this particular photographic session, Beaton noted in his diary that ‘Everywhere were sparkling possibilities.’

RCIN 2999826

HM Queen Elizabeth II
16 October 1968
Gelatin silver print
30.4 x 25.3 cm

In 1968 Cecil Beaton produced an innovative portrait of The Queen which showed her wrapped in a simple dark cloak – the boat cloak, worn outdoors by Admirals. Photographed against a plain blue background and without jewels, tiara or ball gown, Beaton produced a stark, simple and bold new vision of a familiar figure. Described by The Sun newspaper as ‘unusually dramatic’, the image demonstrated Beaton’s ingenuity and continued ability to produce the unexpected.

The photograph was created for Beaton’s first major retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Although the image was made with this exhibition in mind, it also served an official purpose as it was syndicated in the press to mark The Queen’s State Visit to South America in November 1968.