Beaton images helped unravel Queen Elizabeth enigma

Mon Feb 6, 2012 10:26am EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Among the standout images at an exhibition of portraits of Queen Elizabeth taken by society photographer Cecil Beaton is a picture of the monarch carrying her eldest son Charles on her shoulders.

The moment of light-hearted intimacy taken in the 1950s was the kind of picture the royal family wanted the public to see, and Beaton was instrumental in shaping the monarchy's image for nearly three decades.

"Queen Elizabeth II by Cecil Beaton: A Diamond Jubilee Celebration" runs from February 8-April 22 at the Victoria and Albert and features about 100 pictures from Beaton's huge archive of 18,000 photographs owned by the museum.

During World War Two, pictures of the royal family inspecting bomb damage to Buckingham Palace signaled that they, like everyone else in Britain, were feeling the effects of the conflict directly.

At Elizabeth's coronation in 1953, the focus was on color, pomp and pageantry to underline Elizabeth's credentials as new head of the royal family.

The show, which opened to the press on Monday as the monarch celebrated 60 years on the throne, opens with portraits of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and her princess daughters Elizabeth and Margaret taken in 1939.

At the time, Beaton, an avid diarist, wrote: "In choosing me to take her photographs, the Queen made a daring innovation ... my work was still considered revolutionary and unconventional."

The resulting photographs, which drew inspiration from artists including Thomas Gainsborough, were partly designed to project the monarchy as unshakeable at the outbreak of the war.   Continued...