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Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor (King Edward VIII)

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Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor (King Edward VIII), by Hugh Cecil (Hugh Cecil Saunders), 1936 - NPG P136 - © reserved; collection National Portrait Gallery, London

© reserved; collection National Portrait Gallery, London

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Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor (King Edward VIII)

by Hugh Cecil (Hugh Cecil Saunders)
sepia bromide print, 1936
14 3/4 in. x 11 3/4 in. (375 mm x 298 mm)
Purchased, 1979
Primary Collection
NPG P136

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 223 Read entry

    Good-looking, charming, an intrepid sportsman, Edward VIII, as Prince of Wales, was the object of almost universal adulation, dubbed 'the world's most eligible bachelor'. He had however a more sensitive side. This found its most positive expression in a concern for social causes and the poor, but at other times could make him appear spoiled or rootless. A series of affairs with married women ended in his grande passion, Mrs Simpson. His decision to marry her, in the face of establishment opposition, led to his abdication, only eleven months after he had succeeded to the throne.

    Hugh Cecil (born Hugh Cecil Saunders) was, according to Cecil Beaton, a 'retiring and elusive personality' who became interested in photography while at Cambridge. He first set up as a professional portrait photographer in Victoria Street, London, in 1912, moving to the more fashionable Grafton Street in 1923, where his studio was decorated in the most opulent style. Though influenced by de Meyer, his use of light was unique: 'I believe in swamping my studio with light to secure the utmost luminosity in all directions and in this respect follow the best traditions of cinema lighting'; however, for his sitter's face he used a softer, entirely reflected, light. In 1936 Cecil was chosen to take this, the official accession photograph of Edward VIII, which was used as the basis for the short-lived issues of postage stamps. He kept his studio going until the outbreak of war, but increasingly turned his attention to his 'inventions', one of which was the 'photomaton', a forerunner of the photo-booth.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 670

Events of 1936back to top

Current affairs

Following the death of his father George V, Edward succeeds to the throne as King Edward VIII, but chooses to abdicate in order to marry the American divorcee, Wallis Simpson. Edward was the only monarch every to voluntarily relinquish the throne.

Art and science

The Spitfire, designed by Reginald Mitchell, has its maiden flight. The RAF and other allied forces used the plane extensively and to great effect during the Second World War.
Television broadcasting begins. Although the BBC had been transmitting television since 1930, regular service did not begin until 1936, when the 'BBC Television Service' (now BBC One) was broadcast from Alexandra Palace.

International

The Spanish Civil War begins. Nationalists, led by General Francisco Franco, and supported by Italian and German fascist governments, rebelled against the Second Spanish Republic. The conflict lasted until 1939, and anticipated many of the features of the Second World War: fighting between Communists and Fascists, the rise of nationalism and the use of terror tactics against civilians.

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