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The Coronation Formal Photo Portraits

The Coronation Formal Photo Portraits

Four official portraits from the Coronation were released today. 

The first image shows King Charles III in full regalia in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace. His Majesty is wearing the Robe of Estate, the Imperial State Crown, and he is holding the Sovereign’s Orb and Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross. If wondering how it compares to the famous Cecil Beaton portrait of his mother’s coronation, here you have a look.

The images were shot by Hugo Burnand, who is no stranger to photographing the royal family. Below is his photo of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall used on their 2017 Christmas card. He also took the formal photographs at the couple’s wedding in 2005.

Some readers will recall Mr. Burnand was the official wedding photographer for the Prince and Princess of Wales’s wedding.

More on Mr. Burnand’s thoughts as he approached this weekend’s commission via a New York Times story

In an interview before the coronation, Burnand said he knew that the portraits were aimed at a global audience, but that he wanted them to feel intimate, as if viewers were “having maybe a one-to-one conversation” with the king. With the portraits, he said, he wanted to create a “little piece of theater.”

He said he had taken other steps to ensure he achieved the best results for this event, including spending weeks studying images of past coronations, and taking mock-ups with stand-ins.

But even with such preparation, Burnand said great photographs ultimately depend on luck — especially when the photographer has a king’s schedule to work around.

Back to the newly-released photos, the next shows Queen Camilla in the Green Drawing Room. She wears her Bruce Oldfield silk Peau de Soie gown, Queen Mary’s Crown, and the Robe of Estate.

There is also a joint photograph of the King and Queen in the Throne Room.

Before we get to the photo featuring working royal family members, there was also a message from the King released with the photographs.

Now to the group photo. 

From left to right: Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, Birgitte, Duchess of Gloucester, Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, Anne, Princess Royal, King Charles III, Queen Camilla, the Prince of Wales, Catherine, Princess of Wales, Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, Princess Alexandra, The Honourable Lady Ogilvy and Prince Edward, Duke of Edinburgh. 

For those unfamiliar with Princess Alexandra, a cousin to the late Queen, here is more via The Daily Mirror

Princess Alexandra, 86, has served as a bridesmaid at a number of notable royal and aristocratic weddings, but most notably at the late Queen’s wedding in 1947.

As one of the most active members of the Royal Family, Princess Alexandra completed around 120 engagements each year for decades.

She is seen on the balcony Saturday with the Duke of Kent (c) and the Duchess of Gloucester (r).

Of course, the most striking elements in this photo for many are the dress worn by the Princess of Wales and the George VI Festoon Necklace. We’ll cover the necklace first. It was a topic of discussion over the weekend because there were reports the Princess wore it to the service, but it wasn’t visible, making the topic something of a mystery. But in the photo released today, you clearly see the necklace. It was one of the Queen’s favorite pieces; below, she is seen wearing it (along with the Imperial Crown) to the State Opening of Parliament in November 2002.

More about the piece from Her Majesty’s Jewel Vault

In 1950, King George VI had a diamond necklace created for his daughter Princess Elizabeth using 105 loose collets that were among the Crown heirlooms he inherited. (These, according to Hugh Roberts, had been used by Queen Mary to change the lengths of her multiple diamond collet necklaces, hence their loose status in the collection.) The end result is this take on a triple strand necklace: three strands of graduated collets suspended between two diamond triangles, with a single collet strand at the back.

In this next image, you see the Queen wearing the necklace at a 2007 State Dinner at the White House.

We learn more about the necklace from Lauren at The Court Jeweller in this post. (Lauren references author Hugh Roberts, who wrote The Queen’s Diamonds, in her post.) 

Roberts describes the resulting creation as follows: a necklace “composed of 83 brilliants in cut-down collets, the three largest cushion-shaped, set as three graduated chains suspended from triangular clasps at either side, pave-set with a further 22 stones, and joined by a single back-chain with clasp; the individual collects with old spiral links, fixed.” The original necklace was actually slightly larger, but in 1953, the Queen had Garrard shorten the piece by removing ten of the diamonds.

Wearing the necklace was a lovely reference to the Princess’s late grandmother-in-law. In today’s photo, you also see the Princess wearing her Royal Family Order (on the yellow ribbon) and Royal Victorian Order (below center and right), all shown when worn to the November 2022 Africa state dinner.  

Now to the dress in the photo released today, with a neckline clearly different from what was seen at Westminster Abbey and the Buckingham Palace balcony.

I don’t believe the necklace was worn for the service or the balcony appearance. It is a sizable piece, and I think we would have seen evidence of it beneath the dress and robe. The biggest question tonight seems to be: did the Princess wear two dresses, one for the service and balcony appearance and a second gown for the official photos? Following are a couple of thoughts:

  • I don’t have a hi-res version of the photo released today, a factor in all of these observations. 
  • The fabric used for the two dresses doesn’t look identical. The weight and drape seem different. Lighting could influence this, but it looked like different materials to me.
  • The embroidery style and placement look the same on the sleeves of the gown worn Saturday and in today’s photo. 
  • I’m on the fence about the embroidery design and placement on both skirts being the same. 

  • Several have suggested the Princess wore some sort of cape, capelet, or bib across the front of the dress to protect the embroidery from the fastening of the mantle collar (the chain atop the robe). This makes *a lot* of sense to me. It might even have been an insert.  
  • Looking at the closeup above right, if that is a protective piece of fabric meant to protect the embroidery beneath it, the material is as elaborately embroidered as the sleeves and skirt. 

There are some interesting threads about the topic on social media. 

Here is another thought via journalist and royal commentator Alastair Bruce.   

At this point, I’m not convinced one way or the other but lean toward the two-dresses theory. I will update the post if I can acquire higher-resolution photos or learn more through other means. We can say that the dress in the new photo is similar to the Alexander McQueen design worn at the 2019 diplomatic reception.

We may see the Prince and Princess of Wales at tomorrow’s garden party.  



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Sunday 2nd of July 2023

Whatever the mystery about the dress, to me the neckline was wrong for the festoon necklace. A scoop or round neck or even a shallow V would have been better.


Wednesday 17th of May 2023

lovely leaf adornments on Kate and Charlottes heads. Kate is perfectly turned out as always

Caroline A.

Sunday 14th of May 2023

I think The Princess of Wales wore a different gown for the official photos. She removed her earrings so as not to snag them on the embroidery, and put them back on the other way round. If a cape had been worn it would have been easy to remove without snagging the embroidery on the earrings. I don’t have a problem with the two gowns and I think they will be worn in the future for important events such as the State Opening of Parliament.


Sunday 2nd of July 2023

@Caroline A., well spotted - I hadn’t noticed before that she wore the earrings the other way around for the portrait. I now have another theory - I suspect the photographs were taken before the event, on a different day - a kind of dress rehearsal.


Saturday 13th of May 2023

Who doesn't love a fashion mystery? This is just as debated as whether Kate wore white/pale yellow to Meghan and Harry's wedding (something that I still side eye to this day and always will).

There is NO way Kate would have had two dresses made for this day. First of all, with everything going on, there was a schedule to adhere to. Kate and William didn't do a great job of following that given they arrived after Charles and Camilla at the abbey and entered after the king and queen, something I'm sure Charles was not thrilled about as the monarch is always supposed to be the last one to enter.

Given that everything was timed to the minute, I doubt there was time for a costume change after the coronation for the official photos. When would have Kate had time to change into another dress? She wasn't the only one being photographed and when you have that many people, the pictures are taken quickly and efficiently. The photographer had to corral everyone else for that group photo and definitely had a small window to do so. The women all had to take their fancy robes off, they probably just had time to take off the robes and Kate to take off her cape/insert/bib. There would have been no time for Kate to change into another elaborate dress.

I'm sure someday there will be a coronation documentary and we'll get to know the answer!

Caroline A.

Saturday 20th of May 2023

@Amelie, Further to my previous comment, the individual photos of The King and The Queen and their joint photo could have been taken before the group photo, which would have allowed The Princess of Wales even more time to change into the second gown. I’m pretty certain that Catherine would not have worn the George VI Festoon Necklace under the other gown either as there would have been visible bumps which would have not been a good look at the Coronation. If I had to put money on it - and I do not bet :-) - I would say there are two gowns. Why there are two is the big question. It’s possible Catherine originally intended to wear the second gown with a tiara and the George VI Festoon Necklace to the Coronation, but then The King said he would like her to wear the mantle of the Royal Victorian Order and she decided that a round neck would be a better look with that. I wish we knew the answer!

Caroline A.

Caroline A.

Friday 19th of May 2023

@Amelie, I think there would have been time for The Princess of Wales to change her gown before the official photographs. I base this opinion on the fact that there had to have been time for the sash and insignia of the Royal Victorian Order to be put on over the gown, so it would have only taken a few more minutes to also change out of the first gown and into the different gown for the photos. My understanding is that the badge suspended from the sash in the official photographs is the same badge that HRH wore suspended from the Order’s collar at the Coronation, so there also needed to be time to remove it from the collar and suspend it from the sash. The photos were taken after the balcony appearance, so we don’t know how long it took to get everyone ready for the photos. In the balcony photo The Duchess of Gloucester is already wearing her sash under her mantle, and Princess Alexandra is no longer wearing the long braided fastening on her mantle, so it seems to me that preparations for the photos appear to have started prior to the balcony appearance.

Caroline A.


Saturday 13th of May 2023

A bit late on the comments. but after all She is The Princess of Wales and I believe she had two dresses. The shot from Bruce Alistar shows the embroideriy pretty well. In it the botom of it where the v neck on the formal indoor photos takes place is not the same as in the one with the outside cape. It is a different design. Too bad we could not see formal images more up close of the Princess and Prince of Wales seperatly and the gowns in more detail. Or photos inside the luncheon! A beautiful ceremony and she stole the show for sure!!!!! What a beautiful woman! The crown or Tiara she wore was a thriller, but a formal jewelry tiara would have not been much different. The children all were so precious. History in the making. I wonder when Prince William will be crowned. Lets see if they can keep the monarchy relevant for furture generations I hope so. Thank you for the post!

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