See ‘Life Through a Royal Lens’ at Kensington Palace for a royal history of photography

A new exhibition at Kensington Palace, focusing on royal photography, is now open. We had the pleasure of attending the ‘Life Through a Royal Lens’ preview, prior to its opening to the public, and we couldn’t recommend it enough!

The exhibition sees examples of the most iconic royal photographs juxtaposed with images providing a glimpse of the Royal Family when they are not in the public spotlight.

Life Through A Royal Lens features photographs from decades of royal life. (© Historic Royal Palaces)

The exhibition features a never-before seen image of Diana, Princess of Wales. The exclusive photograph was certainly one of our highlights fo the exhibition.

The black and white photograph sees Diana reserved, stoic and looking away from photographer David Bailey in 1988. Several established royal photographers were suggested to the Princess for the commission, but her choice of David Bailey’s ‘bold minimalism’ reflected her desire to establish a new photographic identity for herself.

The never-before-seen picture of Diana. (David Bailey).

The portrait of the Princess joins a wide-ranging collection of royal photographs from the development of photography during the reign of Queen Victoria, right through to the present day with young members of the Royal Family being featured.

It even displays a memorial ring worn by Queen Victoria after Albert’s death, including a small picture of her late husband.

The ring came at a time when microphotography was first introduced, which allowed images to be reduced to the size of a pinhead. Victoria wore the ring for most of her remaining life as she grieved her beloved Albert.

Queen Victoria’s mourning ring features Prince Albert’s photo (© Kieran Rumsby)

Another one of our favourite photographs in the exhibition was an unseen picture from The Queen and Prince Philip’s 70th wedding anniversary, showing The Queen looking up and smiling at her husband in what appears to be a casual moment in the photoshoot.

Her Majesty gave her permission for this to be used in the exhibition.

An unseen picture of The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh during their 70th wedding anniversary photoshoot. (© Kieran Rumsby)

The exhibition demonstrates the relationship between the Royal Family and the camera, as well their relationship with world-renowned photographers throughout the decades.

It also shows how members of the Royal Family, such as The Duchess of Cambridge, have chosen to use their own photography skills and released more intimate family moments.

Curator of the exhibition, Claudia Acott Williams, revealed that Catherine explained to her the familial influence on her interest in photography. Claudia explained the Duchess told her that her grandfather was a gifted photographer in his own right.

“Her grandfather was a very good photographer,” she said. “When she was a child, he would show her his slides. It was him who taught her how to take photographs.”

Life Through A Royal Lens sees a wide range of photographs all about the royals. (© Historic Royal Palaces)

‘Life Through a Royal Lens’ features a number of Cecil Beaton photographs. Beaton is considered to be one of the greats in capturing the Royals. His photos demonstrate the changing public perception and helped to create a fairytale-like image of the young Queen Elizabeth II as both Sovereign and modern mother.

The exhibition also included a number of albums belonging to the Duke of Windsor. Edward – briefly Edward VIII – was a keen photographer during his teenage years. He organised his photographs into private albums and made notes on individual pictures.

The Duke of Windsor’s private photograph album. (© Kieran Rumsby)

Acott Williams, Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, said: “Ever since Queen Victoria and Prince Albert first embraced the revolutionary new technology of photography, the medium has shaped how the world views the British monarchy. It has allowed the Royal Family to offer fascinating insights into their life and work, transforming the royal image and creating an unprecedented relationship between crown and subjects.

“Through our new exhibition at Kensington Palace, ‘Life Through A Royal Lens’, we look forward to welcoming our visitors into the world of royal photography, to explore the history behind the iconic image of modern monarchy we know today.”

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