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Queen Elizabeth II; King George VI; Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother; Princess Margaret

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© estate of Marcus Adams / Camera Press

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Queen Elizabeth II; King George VI; Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother; Princess Margaret

by Marcus Adams
bromide print, 1938
14 in. x 10 1/4 in. (357 mm x 260 mm)
Purchased, 1980
Primary Collection
NPG P140(13)

Sittersback to top

Artistback to top

  • Marcus Adams (1875-1959), Photographer. Artist associated with 154 portraits, Sitter in 33 portraits.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Gittings, Clare, Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I: An Educational Resource Pack, 2003
  • Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 237 Read entry

    The sitters are (left to right): Her Majesty The Queen born 1926, when Princess Elizabeth; George VI; Queen Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother born 1900; Princess Margaret, later Countess of Snowdon born 1930.

    The shy and sensitive younger brother of Edward VIII, George VI had been prepared from birth for a life of public service, but not for the throne. Undoubtedly the abdication of his brother was both a shock and a blow to him, and he came to the throne a man who had 'never seen a State Paper'. The whole of his reign was overshadowed by the Second World War, and the after-effects of it, and he brought to the monarchy at a crucial time innate good sense, great courage, and an unswerving sense of duty. In this he was supported by his wife and children, and the Royal Family became in the war years a powerful symbol of national unity and stability.

    Marcus Adams first trained as an artist, but soon turned to photography, serving his apprenticeship with his father Walton Adams. In 1919 he was invited by Bertram Park to join his studio in Dover Street, London. There he specialized in child photography, which Park found uncongenial, creating the Nursery Studio. All his work, whether of children or adults, proclaims his perfectionism, and is characterized by a feeling of harmonious informality. This royal group, taken at Buckingham Palace shortly before the outbreak of war, posed considerable technical problems for Adams. It had to be photographed with a very wide aperture, which put the background out of focus. He therefore took a second photograph of the background alone, bleached out the background in the first negative, bound the two negatives together, and printed from his double negative. The recalcitrant corgi Dookie was lured into the composition with a biscuit placed on the king's shoe. According to Adams, 'It took a day to do the job. Reproductions of this picture ran into millions'.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 733

Events of 1938back to top

Current affairs

Britain pursues its policy of appeasement. At the Munich Agreement, Britain, France and Italy agreed to allow Hitler to seize the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia. The agreement was seen at the time as a triumph for peace, with Neville Chamberlain returning home brandishing the paper agreement and saying 'peace for our time.' Within six months Germany had occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia.

Art and science

Graham Greene publishes Brighton Rock. The novel follows the descent of Pinky, a teenage gang leader in Brighton's criminal underworld. The book examines the criminal mind and explores the themes of morality and sin - recurrent concerns for the Roman Catholic Author.
Glasgow hosts the Empire Exhibition; an £11 million celebration of the British Empire visited by 13 million people.


In its pursuit of 'Lebensraum' (living space), Germany annexes Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia with little opposition from the League of Nations. At home, the Nazis continued their escalating persecution of the Jews with 'Kristallnach' (the Night of Broken Glass), attacking Jewish homes, shops, businesses and synagogues, and taking Jewish men to concentration camps.

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