Queen Elizabeth II

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Queen Elizabeth II

by Dorothy Wilding
cream-toned bromide print on tissue mount, 15 April 1952
17 5/8 in. x 14 in. (448 mm x 357 mm)
Given by the photographer's sister, Susan Morton, 1976
Primary Collection
NPG P870(6)

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Dorothy Wilding (1893-1976), Photographer. Artist or producer associated with 2179 portraits, Sitter in 30 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Wilding first photographed the Queen as a child in 1937, at the coronation of her father King George VI. She subsequently made portraits of the Queen on numerous significant occasions. To mark her accession and coronation in 1952, the Queen posed for Wilding fifty-nine times, wearing evening gowns by Norman Hartnell. Copies of the best images were sent to every embassy in the world, formed the basis of images on bank notes and appeared on millions of stamps.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG x76286: Queen Elizabeth II (from same negative)

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Gittings, Clare, Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I: An Educational Resource Pack, 2003
  • Pepper, Terence, In Pursuit of Perfection: The Photographs of Dorothy Wilding, 1991 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 5 July 1991 - 29 September 1991), p. 100 Read entry

    Wilding's best-known portraits of the 1950s are undoubtedly those taken for the Coronation and accession of Queen Elizabeth II. The new monarch was shown first in a black taffeta strapless evening dress (P870(5)) and then in the full panoply of majesty with glittering crown, sashes, ribbons and orders (P870(6)). These formal portraits were sent to every embassy in the world and remained the most memorable images of the Queen at least until her Silver Jubilee. Other studies from these sittings formed the basis for the new currency and appeared on millions of stamps, known in stamp-collecting circles as 'Wildings'.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 202

Placesback to top

Events of 1952back to top

Current affairs

King George VI is found dead in his bed in Sandringham; he had been suffering from lung cancer. His daughter Elizabeth, who was in Kenya at the time, became Queen, the only monarch not to know the precise moment of her accession as her father was alone when he died. Elizabeth was crowned the following year.

Art and science

Samuel Beckett's play, Waiting for Godot is performed for the first time in Paris. The play belongs to the Theatre of the Absurd style, which influenced playwrights such as Harold Pinter and Tom Stoppard.
Agatha Christie's play The Mousetrap opens in London. It is still going.


Mau Mau rebels in Kenya rise up against the British colonial administration. The rebellion was sparked by the growing poverty of the native farmers under the rule of white settlers and called for Kenyan independence. The violence of the rebels, who often murdered settlers and loyalists, was met by the indiscriminate suppression by the British Military, who executed hundreds of suspects.

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