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Royal Portraiture

The royal image across the Royal Collection

Detail from showing paintings hanging on the wall of Buckingham House
Remigius van Leemput, Henry VII, Elizabeth of York, Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, 1667, RCIN 405750©

The Royal Collection holds an exceptional collection of royal portraits which range from visual works to decorative arts, with thousands of royal portraits which appear in paintings, prints, ceramics, photography, and sculpture.

These portraits come in many forms. State portraits are carefully constructed images of power, designed to present the monarch as the embodiment of Royal rule. From the sixteenth century onwards state portraits have been used to shape how we see royalty. Many artists enjoyed close relationships with kings and queens as patrons.

The formal portraits in the Royal Collection represent the creative relationship between artist and patron. While formal and state portraits functioned as a way for monarchs to manage their image, popular portraits were created without the knowledge of the sitter. These portraits show us not how the monarch wished to be seen, but how they were seen by the wider public. The Royal Collection also holds a wonderful collection of personal and informal portraits. These portraits often hold a special personal significance and often offer us a different view of monarchs throughout history.

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State portraits

State portraits were meant to present the monarch to their subjects

Painting of Charles I on horse back
Formal portraits

Portraits often highlight elements of the sitter's character

Etching with hand-colouring of George IV and his mistress Lady Conyngham, hoisting an ailing giraffe suspended in a sling. George IV is depicted stripped down to his shirt with rolled sleeves, braces, and breeches, and with his jacket discarded
Popular portraits

Many portraits were produced without the knowledge of the sitter

Private portraits

The Royal Collection holds a unique collection of private portraits

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.