The summer opening at Buckingham Palace this year will celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee with a special exhibition that revisits the monarch’s portrait sittings with photographer Dorothy Wilding. Platinum Jubilee: The Queen’s Accession, will not only showcase 24 of these historic images but will also see the jewelry that she wore in the portraits going on display alongside them.
The first sitting took place just 20 days after her accession to the throne and saw her wearing many jewels that held sentimental value. Many of the pieces were gifts, including a sapphire and diamond Cartier bracelet which was given to her by her father as an 18th birthday present, as well as a diamond necklace presented to her by the government of South Africa on her 21st birthday. One also gives us an insight into Her Majesty’s own tastes: the Nizam of Hyderabad necklace, a platinum necklace set with 300 diamonds, which she chose herself from Cartier as a wedding gift from the Indian ruler. She topped off this suite of jewels with the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara, a wedding gift from her jewelry-collecting grandmother, Queen Mary.
Another photographic sitting was organized just months after this first, in order to show the Queen wearing a coronet, which was thought to be more suitable for official use on stamps and currency. The Diamond Diadem, originally commissioned for King George IV’s coronation, was chosen. It was until recent years still worn by Her Majesty for the State Opening of Parliament but is now deemed too heavy.
Images from the Queen’s final sitting with Wilding in 1956 are particularly special, as they were commissioned by the Bank of England but never used. They show her wearing the Vladimir Tiara, sometimes dubbed her favorite diadem, and another she inherited via her grandmother. It was originally made for Grand Duchess Vladimir of Russia in 1874 but was sold by her daughter to Queen Mary after the Russian Revolution and the execution of Tsar Nicholas II and his family.
Wilding had previously photographed Royal Family members including a young Prince George (later the Duke of Kent); and Elizabeth’s own parents, becoming the first woman to be awarded a Royal Warrant to be the official photographer to a king and queen at their coronation. Although English herself, Wilding also photographed a number of film stars and celebrities on both sides of the Atlantic, including Noël Coward, Cecil Beaton, Vivien Leigh, Anna May Wong, Tallulah Bankhead, Nancy Astor, Gertrude Lawrence and Sir Norman Hartnell.
Originally published in Tatler.com