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.
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.
The only place a cape of some sort could end would be behind the sash. There is no center line, it could not close in front. The only option is some sort of cape like princess Mary in the second photo. But, on the third photo, the sash has lowered. Fabric continues, no cape? pic.twitter.com/rAWVxpSVKA
— Emma (@Emma4AboutRoyal) May 8, 2023
Here is another thought via journalist and royal commentator Alastair Bruce.
Explanation: In left pic, HRH is wearing Mantle & Collar (chain) of a Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order. In right, Mantle and Collar have been removed to reveal the dress, on which is worn Broad Riband, Badge & Star of same Order @toriaa_h https://t.co/E4odecNmYL
— Alastair Bruce (@AlastairBruce_) May 8, 2023
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.