The exhibition for The Queen's Diamond Jubilee held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, illustrates a long period in the history of England through the portraits of young Elizabeth realized by Cecil Beaton from the '30s to the '60s.
Everything had started years earlier, when Elizabeth, Queen Consort of King George VI, appointed Cecil Beaton to take portraits of the family and the very young princesses, as Cecil Beaton recalled in his diaries. Besides the pictures, letters, notes and invitations illustrate the long-lasting friendships, which bonded the queen to her favorite photographer. Also, her Coronation Day was entirely depicted by Cecil Beaton.
Elizabeth, the youngest queen since the era of Queen Victoria, is fascinating and truly beautiful. The portraits and the various phases of the ceremony are stunning and make us live again those moments, when three million people gathered between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. The portraits are glamorous, featuring the queen holding the scepter and wearing the crown and the ermine cloak -- unique shots that, viewed all together, represent the country's history of costume, besides that of a nation.
Prince Charles was born in 1948, followed by his other brothers and sisters. Queen Elizabeth is portrayed like any other mother, contrasting with the regality and pomp of Coronation Day pictures. Also on show is the official portrait for the National Portrait Gallery, where the queen is wearing the austere admiral's boat cloak with gold buttons -- simple and still modern today, as if time had not passed.
Over the years, Cecil Beaton took more than 500 photographs for the National Portrait Gallery, with family life moments and official events alternating through the years. From the point of view of fashion, the queen wears many ensembles with a regal style and simplicity. Pictured as a young princess she is wearing an embroidered dress with an ample floral skirt and a double-strand pearl necklace. After her engagement, she is donning a simpler dress, and her pearls again, which will remain a regular feature in her life; and as the queen, wearing the cloak of the Sovereign of the Order of the Garter.
It's a must-see exhibition for its historical significance, for the powerfulness of the queen's figure, her attitude, her poses, her smiles and her inimitable gaze, as well as for the importance of Cecil Beaton as a photographer. Like a story illustrated by pictures that unveil a long history of queens and princesses, castles in the countryside, joys and wars, dream-like gowns and more ordinary kilts and headscarves -- the history of a woman, the history of the queen.
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