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The exhibition

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was born in London on 21 April 1926, the elder of two daughters of The Duke and Duchess of York. Her father was the second of six children of King George V and Queen Mary. Her mother, born Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, was the ninth of ten children of the Earl and Countess of Strathmore.

The exhibition begins by charting the life of the future Queen through her happy and relatively carefree childhood. In 1936 King George V’s death and King Edward VIII’s abdication led to the accession of Princess Elizabeth’s father as King George VI, and to the Princess’s new position as heir to the throne – to which she acceded in 1952. The selection of photographs shows her as granddaughter, daughter, wife, mother and grandmother; also as Head of State and Head of the Commonwealth.

The exhibits have been chosen from the Royal Photograph Collection, based in the Round Tower of Windsor Castle. Some of the photographs resulted from royal commissions, while others have been supplied to The Queen as records of her official duties.

Through these photographs, spanning eighty years of The Queen’s life, the varied and changing nature of the photographer’s art may be seen. The early portraits – including work by photographers such as Bassano, Cecil Beaton and Dorothy Wilding – were usually produced on cumbersome cameras in a studio environment. Photographs taken by members of The Queen’s family – her father, son (HRH Prince Andrew) and cousin (Patrick Lichfield) – record less formal moments, taken on film with a hand-held camera. More recently both press and studio photographs of The Queen have been taken – and transmitted – using digital technology. But the most recent official portraits of The Queen have been taken on film. These are the specially commissioned photographs, shown here, taken in February and March 2006 to mark The Queen’s eightieth birthday.