Celebrate the Queen’s 90th Birthday With Favorite Shots From Her Royal Photographer
Happy birthday to Her Majesty!
Happy birthday Queen Elizabeth II! The longest-reigning monarch in British history turns 90 years old on April 21.
The world is marking the occasion in all sorts of ways, from specially-decorated Boodles Mulberry Gin petit fours inspired by the iconic British sloe gin, to an edition of 10 new British stamps, including one each for the Queen, her son Prince Charles, her grandson Prince William, and her great-grandson Prince George, based on a photo taken by Ranald Mackechnie this past June.
On the artistic side, the Fifield House Farm in Windsor erected giant Chia pet-esque terracotta busts of her and her husband, Price Philip, and artist David Parfitt teamed up with Kwik Fit to pay tribute to the Queen’s service during World War II as a mechanic in the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service, a branch of the British Army, by crafting her portrait from 800 British-made car parts.
There’s even a new patriotic shoe by designer Aruna Seth created in her honor; peep toe wedges decorated like the Union Jack and studded with almost 3,000 Swarovski crystals.
The Queen’s own personal celebrations will include lighting the first of over 900 celebratory beacons at her birthday party, and entertaining President Barack Obama at Windsor Castle on Friday, April 22.
In honor of the occasion, we spoke with royal photographer Mark Stewart, who has spent over 25 years photographing the Queen and her family in over 60 countries around the world. He shared some of his favorite shots of Her Majesty taken over the years, including one snapped just yesterday, April 20.
What is it like photographing the Queen?
The Queen is one of the easiest people to photograph, although she does have a range of smiles. You only see her truly beam at events like Ascot if her horses are running.
She is certainly happiest at events that involve one of her great loves: Horses, dogs, or the military. Without doubt, she’s a consummate professional and appears to have an amazing ability not to notice us photographers—yet she is always careful to make sure we get a picture.
It was rather a surprise though, when at a Diamond Jubilee Reception at Buckingham Palace, HM asked me and a colleague, “Do you gentlemen feel naked without your cameras?” She’s incredibly sharp and very quick-witted!
How many royal photographers are there, and how often is the Queen photographed at events?
There are a band of around 15 photographers regularly accredited to cover HM’s engagements, although in recent years around big events these numbers increase.
The Queen carried out 340 engagements last year. I would guess that she was photographed at about 200 of them. The remainder would be private audiences and meetings.
How has the Queen remained such a style icon over the years?
In reality HM’s style has not changed much in the 30 years I have been photographing her. She now has an in-house design team led by Angela Kelly LVO, personal assistant and senior dresser.
HM knows what works for her and sticks to tried and tested formulas, always wearing bright colors so she can be seen in a crowd and relying on trusty mid-height heels and favorite handbags. Hats tend not to be overly large, so that her face can be seen on engagements and in photographs.
What was the most exotic location you have ever photographed the Queen?
Photographing her in the Kremlin on her State Visit in 1992 was very historic. It was the first time a British Monarch had visited since her ancestors the Romanovs were killed in 1918.
What was the most memorable event with the Queen you were on hand to photograph?
A definite highlight was being one of only two photographers to capture HM’s audience with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 2000. Standing in the ailing Pope’s office with two of the world’s most respected and recognizable people was quite humbling and emotional, and if I’m honest, caused a butterfly or two!
What are some of the difficulties you have faced as a royal photographer?
The challenges of Royal tours have changed over the years. In the early days we used to shoot on film and would have to develop films in our hotel bathrooms, then wire pics back to England. It was very complicated, particularly going through antiquated switchboards.
Nowadays the post-production captioning and editing can be a real headache with the huge number of images we shoot in digital format. One day of engagements can now produce thousands of images for me from which a selection has to be quickly made and sent to clients around the world.
This can be quite a challenge when you’re running on minimal sleep and traveling from place to place!
See more of Stewart’s photos of the Queen below:
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