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House of Windsor

HM Queen Elizabeth II (b. 1926)

Queen Elizabeth II is the elder daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. In 1947 she married her third cousin, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh; Prince Charles is the eldest of their four children. She was crowned in Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953 and in celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 2002; her 80th birthday in 2006; her Diamond Wedding anniversary in 2007; and her Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

Queen Elizabeth II has transformed the display and care of the collection more than any other ruler before her, continuing the proper scholarship of the collection so important to her grandmother, Queen Mary. She established the Royal Collection as a department of the Royal Household in 1987 and set up the Royal Collection Trust in 1993, to oversee the financing of the Royal Collection Department. Queen Elizabeth II has established conservation studios and has overseen the creation of a computerised inventory, and an expanded website for the presentation of the ‘Collection Online’.

In 1962, Queen Elizabeth II opened The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace and in 2002 The Queen’s Gallery, Holyroodhouse, to display works of art in the Royal Collection. Exhibitions of Royal Collection works also tour the United Kingdom making them more accessible to a wider audience. Across her reign Queen Elizabeth II has granted greatly increased public access to the royal residences, including Buckingham Palace, the royal apartments at Windsor Castle, and Frogmore House.

Acquisition of works of art in the twenty-first century, follows similar rationale to historic royal collecting - patronage, commemoration and diplomacy - if nowadays perhaps on a less exuberant scale. Queen Elizabeth II has acquired paintings by contemporary artists including works by Sutherland, Lowry and Nolan; and a portrait by Andy Warhol from his 1985 ‘Reigning Queens’ portfolio. Some of the most important photographers of the twentieth century, such as Cecil Beaton, have taken portraits of Her Majesty; and one of the greatest painters of recent times in Britain, Lucien Freud, painted her portrait in 2000-1 and gave it as a gift.

Queen Elizabeth II has acquired Stuart portraits by Honthorst, Hoskins and Blanchet, views of Windsor by Hoefnagel, the Sandbys and Turner, and designs for interiors by Morel & Seddon as well as major pieces of historic royal silver. She has revived the tradition of commissioning portrait drawings of members of the Order of Merit; David Hockney made his own self-portrait when he was appointed to the Order in 2012.

As the first Head of the Commonwealth, throughout her reign Queen Elizabeth II has visited every Commonwealth country. Many of the objects in the Royal Collection have been presented by Commonwealth countries, or as diplomatic gifts from other nations, leading to a great richness and diversity of objects in the collection today. The beautiful photographs by leading art photographer Lucien Clergue, the Canadian gift of greenstone sculptures and the intricate beaded Yoruba thrones are just three examples of many.

Reigned from 1952


Objects associated with HM Queen Elizabeth II (b. 1926)