Iconic Photos

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Posts Tagged ‘royalty

Antony Armstrong-Jones

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Anthony Armstrong-Jones, society photographer and royal paramour, is dead, aged 86. 


As royal portraits went, it didn’t get more intimate than this. In 1962, Anthony Armstrong-Jones sat on a toilet and took a photo of his wife Princess Margaret soaking in the bathtub in full makeup and tiara. His feet and hand were reflected in the mirror in the photo.

The couple was then just two years into their marriage. Theirs was the first royal wedding ceremony to be broadcast on television, and Armstrong-Jones became the first commoner in four centuries to marry a British princess. But he could never shake the perceptions that he had been Margaret’s second choice — her earlier romance with a divorcee was stopped by the establishment — and the couple separated in 1976.

This sensational divorce was also record-breaking: it was the first royal divorce in England since Henry VIII. It would set the tone for later royal break-ups of Princes Charles and Andrew. Yet Armstrong-Jones maintained close personal relationships with the British royal family post-divorce, and remained a favorite photographer of the Queen long after his marriage to her sister had ended.


Already a society photographer before his marriage, the royal connections opened doors. He took photos of Ian McKellen, Serge Gainsbourg, Salvador Dali, Vita Sackville-West, Laurence Olivier, David Bowie, Barbara Cartland, and Marlene Dietrich among others; his portraits of J.R.R.Tolkien, previously featured at Iconic Photos here, and Agatha Christie were iconic. For Vanity Fair in November 1995, Snowdon put together a photoessay on British Theatre, photographing Helen Mirren, Vanessa Redgrave, Alec Guinness, Anthony Hopkins, Patrick Stewart, Julie Christie, and others, in a 56-page spread—the biggest photoessay Vanity Fair had ever ran. (In a spread from that essay above, Richard Harris and Peter O’Toole share tea and private moment at the Dorchester).

An excellent obituary from The Globe and Mail here. A scanned version of the theatre portfolio is here.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

January 15, 2017 at 5:05 am

Pomp, Pageantry — and Monarchy

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The Royal Wedding in London two months ago makes me chuckle a little bit, not least because Britain used to be quite horrible at royal pageantry. In 1817, at the funeral of Princess Charlotte, the undertakers were drunk. At Queen Victoria’s unrehearsed coronation in 1838,  two train-bearers talked all through the ceremony, the clergy lost their place in the Order of Service and the ring was too small for Victoria’s finger. After the funeral of Prince Albert at Windsor in 1861, the special train back to London was so crowded that Disraeli had to sit on his wife’s lap.

The same year, watching the Queen open Parliament, Lord Robert Cecil bemoaned, that while many nations had a gift for this sort of thing, England did not: “We can afford to be more splendid than most nations; but some malignant spell broods over all our most solemn ceremonials and inserts into them some feature which makes them all ridiculous … Something always breaks down, somebody contrives to escape doing his part, or some bye-motive is suffered to interfere and ruin it all.” However, other monarchies that ‘had a gift’ — France, Germany, Russia and Austria (whose capital cities were better adapted to processions than London) — simply dropped out of monarchic race, leaving the Britons alone in the field.

On the other end of this pomp and circumstance are bicycling monarchies — more informal and modest personal styles of the royal families in Scandinavia and the Low Countries. One of the most famous exemplars of a bicycling monarchy was that of Olav V of Normay, known as “People’s King.” An accomplished skier who won an Olympic gold medal, Olav skied with no entourage but his dog. He also drove himself, and would drive in the regular highway lanes though he was allowed to drive in the public transportation lane. During the energy crisis in the 1970s, when Norway banned driving on certain weekends, the king would take a tram to go skiing — a practice he continued even after the crisis ended. In above photo, Olav tried to pay for his tickets, as the conductor told him that his adjutant further back had already paid for him.

— via Gisle from Norway

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

July 4, 2011 at 5:50 am

Annenberg Curtsy

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In March 2009 died Leonore Annenberg, the society doyenne who was President Ronald Reagan’s first chief of protocol and who, with her late husband, the ambassador and publisher Walter H. Annenberg, gave away billions to philanthropic causes. She was 91.

Not long after his inauguration in 1981, Reagan nominated Leonore “Lee” Annenberg as his chief of protocol; it was a position on the rank with ambassador, requiring confirmation by the Senate, which sailed through on a 96-to-0 vote and rolled up her Bill Blass sleeves. ”It’s the first paying job I’ve ever had,” she joked, but invited diplomats to dinners at her own expense.

Unorthodox, superbly rich and headstrong, she was never a popular figure inside the White House, and a picture of her curtsying to the visiting Prince Charles at Andrews Air Force Base was later splashed across the front pages of hundreds of newspapers, with some commentators said it was unseemly in the republic which gained its independence by overthrowing the same dynasty Lee was curtsying to.

What made matters worse was a repeated curtsy, this time by Diana Vreeland, the former editor of Vogue and a longtime friend of the Reagans, at the private dinner for Prince Charles at the White House. Nancy Reagan was photographed next to Vreeland unfazed and smiling. The press went wild.

The British Consulate’s insistence that this was the correct form while meeting royalty didn’t help either. A few weeks later, on July 17th, when she met Prince Charles again at the Royal Ballet’s 50th Anniversary gala in the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, Lee Anneberg decided not to curtsy again.

For the Annebergs, the last straw was a presidential trip to Egypt for the funeral of the assassinated president, Anwar El-Sadat. Normally, the protocol chief would have handled the arrangements, but they were taken over by the White House. Mrs. Annenberg resigned after 11 months in office, saying she wanted to spend more time with her husband.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

October 29, 2009 at 11:26 am

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