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Dorothy Wilding (1893-1976)

HM Queen Elizabeth II (b. 1926) 26 Feb 1952

RCIN 2509005

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‘I am … delighted that she commanded me to make the Official Portraits on the occasion of her Accession to the Throne’

The first official photographic sitting of the new sovereign was granted to the society photographer Dorothy Wilding. It took place on 26 February 1952, just twenty days after the accession. Wilding had experience as a royal photographer for she had taken the official portraits at the Coronation of King George VI in 1937, as well as photographing the King for use on currency and stamps. As a result, in 1943 Wilding became the first female photographer to receive a Royal Warrant.

The purpose of the sitting in 1952 was to produce portraits to use as the basis for The Queen’s image on new coins, banknotes and stamps. One of Wilding’s photographs, showing a bust of The Queen in three-quarter pose, formed the basis of the 2½ pence stamp which was released to celebrate the Coronation in 1953. Stamps using this image remained in circulation until 1971 and became known as ‘Wildings’. A similar image was selected as the official portrait which was sent across the world, to be hung in every British Embassy.

Wilding’s photographs of the new Queen are striking in their simplicity. The use of a plain black or white backdrop ensures that all attention focuses on the sitter. A total of fifty-nine photographs were taken by Wilding. These show The Queen wearing a variety of gowns designed by Norman Hartnell, and jewellery including the Diamond Diadem and the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara.