Marcus Adams: Royal Photographer

Release date: 
Saturday, 1 January 2011

The Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse
25 February - 5 June 2011

Over 100 photographs of the Royal Family go on display at The Queen’s Gallery in Edinburgh next year to celebrate the work of Marcus Adams.  Widely acclaimed for his photographic portraits of children, Adams created a unique record of two generations of royal children between 1926 and 1956.  The Royal Photograph Collection holds the most comprehensive group of Adams’ royal portraits in existence, providing an enchanting and intimate glimpse of the Royal Family over 30 years.  The exhibition includes vintage prints from almost all the royal sittings, many from the personal collection of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. 

Marcus Adams (1875-1959) opened his Children’s Studio in London in 1920 and quickly established a reputation for capturing the personality of his young sitters in his photographs.  He filled his studio with gadgets and toys, rather than visible equipment and dazzling lights – even his camera resembled a toy cabinet.  Adams wanted his subjects to feel completely at ease, believing that photography was ‘ninety-five per cent psychology and only five per cent mechanical’. 

Marcus Adams overturned the long tradition of formal portraiture and presented a fresh, natural and vibrant view of royalty. His images were disseminated through newspapers and magazines, postcards, postage stamps, calendars, commemorative china, even appearing on biscuit tins and jigsaw puzzles.  Among the exhibition highlights is a series of photographs of Her Majesty
The Queen when she was just seven months old.  They are from Princess Elizabeth’s first-ever sitting with Marcus Adams on 2 December 1926.  The Princess was taken to four further sittings during the first half of 1927, while her parents, the Duke and Duchess of York (the future
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth), were absent on a six-month tour of Australia and New Zealand.  The exhibition also includes portraits of the Duke and Duchess reunited with their young daughter, just three days after their return to London at the end of June.

A number of charmingly informal portraits of Princess Elizabeth with her parents and young sister, Princess Margaret, were produced by Adams from June 1931. The Princesses sat for the photographer in February 1939, in what was their last sitting before the outbreak of the Second World War.  The resulting portraits include a beautiful image of the two sisters with their arms around each other.  The exhibition also includes a portrait of the Royal Family taken just four days after the Duke of York ascended to the throne on 11 December 1936.  This image of a close-knit, dependable family was transmitted around the world.  At the same sitting Marcus Adams produced a striking head-and-shoulders portrait of Princess Elizabeth, now heir presumptive to the throne.

Marcus Adams’ association with the Royal Family continued after the marriage of Princess Elizabeth to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten in 1947 and the birth of their first son Prince Charles in November 1948.  Between them, Prince Charles and Princess Anne (born in August 1950) were photographed by Adams thirteen times between 1949 and 1956.  The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh were sent a number of Adams’ photographs of their children during the long Commonwealth tour from November 1953 to May 1954 – in one the Prince and Princess stand beside a measuring stick to show how fast they were growing.  Of his long relationship with the Royal Family, Marcus Adams said, ‘I have had more joy from that family than from any. They are full of fun.’

The accompanying book Marcus Adams: Royal Photographer (120 pages, over 160 colour illustrations, price £9.95) is available from the Royal Collection’s online shop, Royal Collection shops, and all good bookshops.

Visitor information: The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, 0131 556 5100 or

For further information and photographs, please contact Rachel Woollen, +44 (0)20 7839 1377, A selection of images is also available from

Admission to the Palace of Holyroodhouse is managed by the Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity in England and Wales (1016972) and in Scotland (SCO39772).