Saturday, 11 June 2016

The Queen at 90: the Liebovitz Album

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in a portrait by Annie Liebovitz

As the weekend of celebrations for her official 90th birthday got under way, the Queen added a very modern touch to proceedings. She has posed for another portrait by Annie Liebovitz and the picture, of the longest reigning monarch in British history with the longest serving consort, is striking, simple and unforgettable.

In many ways the head and shoulders photo of Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh is reminiscent of the photos of the Queen's parents, taken for their engagement and in the early years of their marriage. They were simple shots with the royal stars dominating the field. There was no need for props or backdrops, it was all about them. This portrait of the Queen and Prince Philip is in that tradition - just the two of them, staring at the camera and those looking back at them with a lifetime of experience on their side. 

It is the latest and final edition of Elizabeth II, the Liebovitz Album which has been treating us to images of the Queen since her actual birthday in April. The photos were taken by Annie Liebovitz for Vanity Fair and now form a visual record of the Queen and her family in this historic year. Just a few weeks ago, we saw Elizabeth and Philip in an image taken at Windsor Castle which was revealed for the first time in the June Edition of the magazine which also featured another exclusive of the Queen on the front cover.

The Queen on the cover of Vanity Fair

The latest ones focus on the Queen herself and her husband, the man she has called her strength and stay and highlight the basis their relationship has been for the huge success of her reign.

The Queen with her corgis in a photo by Annie Liebovitz

We had already had one rather epic, verging on the gothic, portrait of the Queen by herself in April but perhaps the most charming and rather overlooked of the images released then was that of her with her only daughter, the Princess Royal. That photo, of mother and child in later life, was filled with happiness and empathy and showed another side of a woman whose face is so famous and familiar that her emotions are often forgotten.

The Queen and the Princess Royal in another of the special Liebovitz photos 

Initial attention on these portraits was on the photo of the Queen with her five great grandchildren and two youngest grandchildren. Elizabeth II, holding Princess Charlotte, and surrounded by these younger members of her descendants is the centre of a dynasty here, watching her family stretch into generations to come. At her side is the boy who will one day wear her Crown, Prince George of Cambridge, and his cousins who came first but who will fade into history because of the way the succession works.

And so into the future - the youngest of her descendants with the Queen as she turns 90

But while that photo made headlines, it is perhaps this quiet and understated image of Elizabeth II and her consort, the Duke of Edinburgh, that will endure. It tells the story of a couple who ended up walking an extraordinary path but who have stayed the course and now lead their Royal Family into the 21st century having been born among those raised by royalty of the Victorian era. Time passes and moments fade but this image of the Queen and Prince Philip provides a link between royal generations past and still to come.

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