The picture of majesty: A photographer with the hangover and a newly-crowned Queen of the Realm

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The picture of majesty: A photographer with the hangover from hell, a sulky prince, a cheeky princess… and a newly-crowned Queen of the Realm

  • Official Coronation pictures were taken by fashion photographer Cecil Beaton, also an interior designer
  • The long royal association begun in 1939 after photographing the Queen Mother, and it never ended
  • With a hangover, Beaton made it to the service with sandwiches in his top hat and a supply of barley sugars

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It was the Queen Mother who made sure fashion photographer Cecil Beaton took the official Coronation pictures, including these rarely seen behind-the-scenes images. He had photographed her in 1939, and it was the start of a long Royal association.

Despite having had too much wine at a dinner party the night before, Beaton made it to the service with sandwiches inside his top hat and a supply of barley sugars. Afterwards he hurried home for an hour’s sleep and ‘a fistful of aspirins’ before hot-footing it to the Palace to take the official pictures, placing a 1,000-watt lamp behind the Queen to make her face shine.

According to Beaton, the ‘dimpled and chuckling’ Queen Mother was encouraging throughout, but the Duke of Edinburgh was harder to win over – Beaton was convinced he’d wanted a friend of his to get the job.

Meanwhile Prince Charles and Princess Anne, aged four and two, were ‘buzzing about in the wildest excitement and would not keep still for a moment’.

The pictures Beaton liked most were of the children with the Queen Mother. ‘She anchored them in her arms, put her head down to kiss Prince Charles’s hair, and made a terrific picture,’ he recalled.

He had a tense night as the negatives went off to be processed, but the next day when he went to the studio he was ‘surprised to find that so many of the pictures were excellent’.

Queen Elizabeth II in her coronation dress and Robe of Estate holding the spectre and orb and wearing the Imperial State Crown, taken by Cecil Beaton

Queen Elizabeth II in her coronation dress and Robe of Estate holding the spectre and orb and wearing the Imperial State Crown, taken by Cecil Beaton

Cecil Beaton, was a British fashion, portrait and war photographer, diarist, painter, and interior designer, as well as an Oscar–winning stage and costume designer for films and the theatre

Cecil felt his pictures of the Queen Mum and her grandchildren were ‘terrific

Cecil (left) felt his pictures of the Queen Mum and her grandchildren (right with Prince Charles) were ‘terrific

The Queen Mother, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, having their pictures taken at the Queen's Coronation

The Queen Mother, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, having their pictures taken at the Queen’s Coronation

The Queen Mother gives Cecil a hand by encouraging Princess Anne to take her place

The Queen Mother gives Cecil a hand by encouraging Princess Anne to take her place

The Queen prepares to be photographed with her ‘girls’, her six Maids of Honour

The Queen prepares to be photographed with her ‘girls’, her six Maids of Honour 

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