Queen Elizabeth II; Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

© Cecil Beaton / Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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Queen Elizabeth II; Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

by Cecil Beaton
chromogenic print, 2 June 1953
19 in. x 15 5/8 in. (484 mm x 397 mm)
Given by Mr Ford Hill and the American Friends of the National Portrait Gallery (London) Foundation, Inc., 2015
Primary Collection
NPG P1458

Sittersback to top

Artistback to top

  • Cecil Beaton (1904-1980), Photographer, designer and writer. Artist or producer associated with 1114 portraits, Sitter associated with 360 portraits.

This portraitback to top

The Coronation sitting took place in the Green Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace. Beaton's friend Patrick Matthews, managing director of Vogue Studios had helped manage technical and practical preparations. Two painted backdrops were used for the sitting. The backdrop shown here depicts a view of Westminster Abbey from the river, and is based upon the engraving View of the Debarkation on Lord Mayor's Day (1844) by Edward Goodall. The backdrop and red canopy also reference George Hayter's compositions for his Coronation portrait of Queen Victoria (1840). Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh is shown wearing the uniform of Admiral of the Fleet.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Cannadine, Sir David (Introduction); Cooper, Tarnya; Stewart, Louise; MacGibbon, Rab; Cox, Paul; Peltz, Lucy; Moorhouse, Paul; Broadley, Rosie; Jascot-Gill, Sabina, Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits, 2018 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA, 7 October 2018 -3 February 2019. Bendigo Art Gallery, Australia, 16 March - 14 July 2019.), p. 217 Read entry

    The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was the first to be televised and it was watched by an estimated 27 million people worldwide. Cecil Beaton, who had photographed Princess Elizabeth on numerous occasions since childhood, was appointed official photographer and the sittings took place in the Picture Gallery at Buckingham Palace after the ceremony. Several portraits in the set show the Queen alone, wearing the Imperial State Crown and carrying the orb and sceptre; the seated pose and richness of her regalia echo historic coronation portraits, notably George Hayter's portrait of her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria (NPG 1250). Unlike Victoria, though, Elizabeth was already a wife and mother, and this image includes her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, his position behind the throne alluding to the consort's supportive role. Elizabeth's dress, designed by Norman Hartnell, was embroidered with flowers symbolising Great Britain and the Commonwealth. Beaton's portraits incorporate painted backdrops depicting the interior and exterior of Westminster Abbey; in this image the view is based on a nineteenth-century engraving by Edward Goodall. Whilst the use of photography to document the occasion was new, the artificiality of the setting is strangely archaic and expressive of the fascinating anachronism of an ancient monarchy within a modern democracy.

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Events of 1953back to top

Current affairs

A combination of low pressure in the North Sea, hurricane force winds, and high tides result in the Great Flood of 1953. With no warning system many were trapped in their homes as 20-foot waves crashed on the coast; hundreds were killed at sea and on the east coast.
John Hunt's British Expedition conquers Everest. News of the achievement reached Britain on the day of Elizabeth's coronation.

Art and science

Frances Crick and James Watson discover the double helix structure of DNA. Uncovering DNA's chemical make-up revolutionised our understanding of the building blocks of life.
Ian Fleming publishes his first James Bond novel, Casino Royal.
Chad Varah founds 'The Samaritans' helpline.


Joseph Stalin dies four days after suffering a stroke. It has been suggested that Stalin was assassinated, as he was denied medical assistance for over a day after he was found; many suspect that he was poisoned. On his death Georgy Malenkov became leader of the Soviet Union.

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