The photographs of the British royal family by Sir Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) were central to shaping the monarchy's public image in the mid-20th century. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was still a young princess when she first sat for Beaton in 1942. Over the next three decades he would be invited to photograph the Queen on many significant occasions, including her Coronation Day in 1953.
The most memorable of Beaton's images combine the splendour of historic royal portrait painting with an intimacy that only photography and film can convey. His detailed diary accounts reveal the complexities of each sitting, from the intense planning and excitement beforehand to the pressures of achieving the perfect shot.
Beaton bequeathed his archive of royal portraits to his devoted secretary Eileen Hose. In 1987 she, in turn, bequeathed the archive to the V&A. Photographs, diaries, personal letters and press cuttings combine to tell the fascinating story of a magnificent collaboration between crown and camera.
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