P.S.-Pooh Says...

"What day is it? - 'It's today' - squeaked Piglet. 'My favourite day' - said Pooh."- A.A. Milne

02 June 2012

Diamond Girl-Sir Cecil Beaton's Queen

Queen Elizabeth II, 1968 by Cecil Beaton via V&A
On the morning of June 2, 1953 over 3 million people crowded the streets between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey to try to catch even the smallest glimpse of the gold carriage that carried a young Princess Elizabeth to her destiny-Queen of England. Suffice it to say that no other woman in history has held her job longer, and perhaps no other woman in history has been photographed more.

A Sixteen year old Elizabeth sits for Cecil Beaton October, 1942 via The V&A
   Cecil Beaton was asked by the Queen's Mother at the beginning of the war to photograph her family, the images throughout the war years showed Beaton's view of a stable monarchy during turbulent times and also displayed the transition of a young girl toward her future as Queen. 

Contact Sheet of Cecil Beaton's photographs of the Royal Family October 1942 via The V&A

  'The telephone rang. 'This is the lady-in-waiting speaking. The Queen wants to know if you will photograph her tomorrow afternoon' ... In choosing me to take her photographs, the Queen made a daring innovation. It is inconceivable that her predecessor would have summoned me - my work was still considered revolutionary and unconventional.'
Cecil Beaton's diary, July 1939

Princess Elizabeth by Cecil Beaton, March 1945 via The V&A
 Of the hundreds of photographers who would photograph Princess Elizabeth and then Queen Elizabeth II and her family it was Sir Cecil Beaton, who would chronicle the transition from Princess to Monarch most memorably. As the Palace's selected photographer for over 3 decades Cecil Beaton would portray the Queen through the most significant moments of her life including her Coronation Day.

Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation Portrait by Cecil Beaton June 2, 1953 via The V&A
 For a Nation still very much severely scarred  by the war, Elizabeth's coronation was a new beginning-a new Elizabethan era. As Winston Churchill would say she was 'The gleaming figure whom Providence has brought to us in times when the present is hard and the future veiled.'  I am struck by how very young she appears, at the age of 25 she was the youngest to take the throne since Queen Victoria upon her Father's death on February 6 1952 and she would be  27 on her Coronation day of June 2 1953.

A Traditional Royal Profile Pose by Cecil Beaton June 2, 1953 via The V&A
 The Queen would call on Cecil Beaton to photograph her and her family.  These are portraits that are often unexpected glimpses at a real woman as with the images commemorating the birth of each of her children.  These photographs were very different from the formal and royal sittings filled with pomp and tradition- more intimate and accessible portraying a family and a Mother who just so happened to be The Queen.

Queen Elizabeth with her son Andrew,March 1960 by Cecil Beaton via The V&A

 One of the most memorable portraits Cecil Beaton did of The Queen was in one of his last sessions with her in 1968.  Shot for his exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, this sitting was one that caused the photographer much concern ‘The difficulties are great. Our points of view, our tastes are so different. The result is a compromise between two people and the fates play a large part.’   It is perhaps the simplest and the most striking image of The Queen, wearing the Admiral's Boat Cloak-no jewels or ornamentation-just a thoughtful and powerful woman.

Queen Elizabeth by Cecil Beaton 1968 via The V&A

 Happy Diamond Jubilee Your Majesty!
Norman Hartnell's sketch for the Queen's Coronation Gown via We Heart Vintage
Norman Hartnell  provided nine design proposals for the Coronation Gown. The selected design took over eight months to complete and would remain a favorite of the Queen's as she wore it on several occasions after her Coronation. The Coronation Gown would have short sleeves, a heart-shaped neckline,a full skirt with a slight train.  The gown was embroidered with seed pearls and crystals in silver and gold threads displaying  motifs representing every region in the Monarchy: the Tudor Rose for England, thistle for Scotland, the leek for Wales, the shamrock for Northern Ireland, wattle for Australia, the maple leaf for Canada, the fern for New Zealand, protea for South Africa, lotus flowers for both India and Ceylon, and Pakistan’s wheat, cotton, and jute.
"Without the Queen’s knowledge a single four leaf clover was added on the left of the dress, just where her hand would brush throughout the day." (We Heart Vintage)
We Heart Vintage