The Edwardians in color
The above is the only known color photograph of Britain’s King Edward VII. Found in April 2009 in a cupboard in Exbury, this informal portrait, which shows the monarch dressed in a kilt and full highland costume, was taken a century earlier in September 1909.
The photographer was Lionel de Rothschild, a banker and Conservative MP, who invited the king to his grouse hunt at Tulchan in Strathspey some fifteen miles from the royal estate at Balmoral. The portrait is thought to be one of the last pictures of the king, who died eight months later.
Rothschild was not only an amateur photographer, but also an avid experimenter and inventor who perfected the new process for taking images. The photo above, for instance, is an example of an autochrome, the first colour photographic method to be commercially viable. Among the images attributed to Lionel in the Rothschild Archives are 700 non-royal images from the early 1900s, including one of the earliest known photographs of London Zoo, taken in 1910; that of Lady Helen Vincent, a renowned beauty of the time and the wife of the diplomat Sir Edgar Vincent, posing beside a stone sculpture; and that of three soldiers posing at a Military Encampment at Tidworth, Wiltshire, in 1911 and that of members of the Rothschild family enjoying a day out in the woods in 1912. These photos show the Edwardian world in a new light, in a soft and subtle colour.
Note: autochrome plates could not be printed or copied and had to be seen through a viewer.