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House of Windsor

Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom (1926-2022)

Queen Elizabeth II was the elder daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. In 1947 she married Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, who was created Duke of Edinburgh at the time of their marriage; King Charles III is the eldest of their four children. She was crowned in Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953 and celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 2002; her 90th birthday in 2016; her Platinum Wedding anniversary in 2017; and her Diamond and Platinum Jubilees in 2012 and 2022 respectively.

Queen Elizabeth II transformed the display and care of the collection more than any other sovereign 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 established conservation studios and oversaw 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, London and in 2002 The Queen’s Gallery, Edinburgh to display works of art held in the Royal Collection. Exhibitions of Royal Collection works also toured the United Kingdom making them more accessible to a wider audience, and the programme of works of art being sent on loan to short and long-term locations has continued. Across her reign Queen Elizabeth II 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 during the Queen’s reign followed a similar rationale to historic royal collecting - patronage, commemoration and diplomacy - if nowadays perhaps on a less exuberant scale. Queen Elizabeth II acquired paintings by contemporary artists including works by Graham Sutherland, L. S. Lowry and Sidney 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, were granted sittings with the Queen; and one of the greatest painters of the modern era in Britain, Lucien Freud, painted her portrait in 2000-1 which he presented as a gift.

Queen Elizabeth II 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 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 visited almost every Commonwealth country, with the exception of two more recent members, Cameroon and Rwanda. 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 1952 - 2022

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The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.