Unseen photographs of royal family go on display at new Buckingham Palace exhibition

Unseen photographs of royal family go on display at new Buckingham Palace exhibition

Previously unseen photographs of the royal family will go on display as part of a major new exhibition at Buckingham Palace setting out one hundred years’ of notable portraits of the monarchy.

The oldest-surviving colour photographic print of a royal family member and an image marking Princess Kate’s 40th birthday are among those set to be displayed in the new exhibition.

Due to open at Buckingham Palace on Friday, Royal Portraits: A Century of Photography at the King’s Gallery will also contain works by the likes of Dorothy Wilding, Cecil Beaton, Annie Leibovitz, David Bailey, Andy Warhol and Rankin.

In one never-before-seen image, the late Queen, Princess Margaret, Duchess of Kent and Princess Alexandra were all photographed together in 1964 as a gift for their maternity doctor – after the four royals each gave birth within two months of each other.

Also on show is fashion photographer Paolo Roversi’s portrait taken to mark the milestone 40th birthday of the Princess of Wales – herself a keen photographer who sparked a furore with the editing of a Mother’s Day picture, and who has stepped away from the public spotlight while undergoing cancer treatment.

Kate Middleton’s dress and sideways pose are described by the Royal Collection Trust as bearing a “striking visual resemblance” to an 1864 painting of Alexandra, Princess of Wales – who later became Queen Alexandra – by Franz Xaver Winterhalter.

Visitors to the exhibition will be able to compare the two images, with the historic 19th century depiction of Alexandra hanging near the black and white image of Kate.

The exhibition also sheds light on behind-the-scenes processes, from contact sheets and photographers’ handwritten annotations to correspondence with members of the royal family and their staff.

A gallery worker views a photograph of Princess Anne and Prince Charles by Anthony Armstrong-Jones (EPA)

Warhol’s 1985 portrait of Queen Elizabeth II was sprinkled with diamond dust to make it sparkle in the light, while Rankin’s 2001 photograph of the smiling Queen was superimposed against the union flag and Polly Borland’s Golden Jubilee portrait of the Queen was set on a glittering gold backdrop.

They are the among the examples of experimentation and playfulness from the 1980s onwards.

Meanwhile, the earliest surviving photographic print of a member of the royal family produced in colour shows Princess Alice – sister-in-law to King George VI – on her wedding day. It was taken in 1935 by Madame Yevonde, a pioneer of colour photography and champion of women photographers.

The photograph of the four royal mothers and their babies, taken by Margaret’s photographer husband, the late Earl of Snowdon, as a personal token of thanks for royal obstetrician Sir John Peel, is accompanied by a handwritten letter from Margaret to the late Queen.

In the letter, the sister asks her “Darling Lilibet” to sign the print “as a souvenir of an extraordinary two months of delivery” and also suggesting they take a trip to the theatre to see Noel Coward’s “witty” comic play Hay Fever.

She writes: “If you enjoyed ‘Private Lives’ this is just the ticket. Would like to see it? It would be such fun to see if together.”

Gallery workers view photographs of Queen Elizabeth II by Cecil Beaton (EPA)

The exhibition is due to run at the King’s Gallery from 17 May to 6 October. Buckingham Palace has served as the official London residence of the UK’s monarchs since 1837, and today is the administrative headquarters of King Charles, who lives with the Queen at their former residence Clarence House.

Alessandro Nasini, curator of the exhibition, said: “The Royal Collection holds some of the most enduring photographs ever taken of the royal family, captured by the most celebrated portrait photographers of the past hundred years – from Dorothy Wilding and Cecil Beaton to Annie Leibovitz, David Bailey, and Rankin.

“Alongside these beautiful vintage prints, which cannot be on permanent display for conservation reasons, we are excited to share archival correspondence and never-before-seen proofs that will give visitors a behind-the-scenes insight into the process of creating such unforgettable royal portraits.”

Additional reporting by PA

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