Leeds City Museum celebrates the Queen's Jubilee with Sir Cecil Beaton photographs

PUBLISHED: 01:21 04 June 2012 | UPDATED: 21:27 20 February 2013

Her Majesty’s visit last year to Doncaster for the St Leger.
Waving to the crowd prior to entering the Mansion House with the Mayor of Doncaster, Alderman E Hubbard.

Her Majesty’s visit last year to Doncaster for the St Leger. Waving to the crowd prior to entering the Mansion House with the Mayor of Doncaster, Alderman E Hubbard.

Princess Elizabeth first sat for acclaimed photographer Sir Cecil Beaton when she was a teenager, still ten years away from her accession to the throne.

Princess Elizabeth first sat for acclaimed photographer Sir Cecil Beaton when she was a teenager, still ten years away from her accession to the throne.


Over the next three decades the photographer, diarist, painter, interior designer and Oscar-winning costumier was invited to photograph the Queen on many significant occasions, including her coronation in 1953.

In that time, his work became synonymous with the splendour of historic portraiture combined with the previously unseen intimacy of life in the royal household.

Beaton bequeathed his archive of royal portraits to his devoted secretary Eileen Hose when he died in 1980, at the age of 76. She, in turn, bequeathed the entire collection in 1987 to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, which transformed the individual pieces into a fascinating exhibition that tells the story of a game-changing collaboration between crown and camera.


Now, the V&A has brought some of its acclaimed Sir Cecil Beaton photographs to Leeds City Museum as part of a special diamond jubilee exhibition, which runs until June 24th, celebrating Her Majesty in her roles as princess, monarch and mother.


Beaton began his professional career in 1927 at Vogue, where he built a formidable reputation as a fashion and society photographer.


He later became a favourite among the royal family, shooting not only the Queen but also the famous wedding pictures of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. His favourite sitter was actually the Queen Mother, from whom it is said he took a scented handkerchief as a keepsake.

He worked for the Ministry of Information during the Second World War, capturing enduring images of British suffering, particularly during the Blitz. And, at the same time, continued his portraiture career, building a portfolio that influenced the work of other leading photographers, including Angus McBean and David Bailey.

But Beaton was a man with many strings to his tuneful bow. He designed sets and costumes for theatre and film productions, winning Oscars for his work on Gigi and My Fair Lady, and published six volumes of diaries, spanning the years 1922-1974.

He was made a Knight Bachelor in the 1972 New Year Honours and, although financial worries led him to auction most of his work, Beaton would not be parted from his royal collection of photographs until the day he died.



The print version of this article appeared in the June 2012 issue of Yorkshire Life

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