Cecil Beaton The Royal Portraits

Cecil Beaton, Claudia Acott Williams, Hugo Vickers

A contemporary look at Cecil Beaton’s portraits of the British royal family and how they helped create the public face of the House of Windsor.

Cecil Beaton: The Royal Portraits looks back in time to tell a very modern tale: the creation of a public image. Offering a fresh appraisal of Beaton’s portraits of the British royal family, the book explores not only the finished images but also the sittings in which they were created, revealing Beaton’s central role in shaping the public face of the House of Windsor and the ways in which he collaborated with his subjects.

Organized chronologically, from the 1930s to the 1970s, each of the book’s four chapters comprises an introductory essay, plates with extended captions, and one or two in-depth analyses of a particular sitting. Throughout, a variety of contextual material—contact sheets, test shots, outtakes, sketches, letters, journals, tear sheets—helps build a detailed picture of Beaton’s methods, the relationships he developed with his sitters, and how the portraits were received.

Drawing on the Victoria and Albert Museum’s unparalleled collection of Beaton’s photographs, this volume will appeal not only to those interested in the photographer and his work, but also to anyone for whom the distinction between the private world and the public face of the royal family remains a source of fascination.


This new book of photos celebrates the work that Beaton, a famed photographer and diarist as well as an Oscar-winning set and costume designer, did with the royal family, but it's more than just pretty pictures. The tome also speaks to how the Windsors saw themselves and wanted the public to see them, and the way that they used photography to help in the serious business of myth-making.

— Town & Country


Cecil Beaton


Claudia Acott Williams


Claudia Acott Williams is a collections curator at Historic Royal Palaces, specializing in royal, court, and dress history from the eighteenth century to the present day. Currently curator of Kensington Palace, Williams is responsible for the presentation of the palace interiors and the displayed and stored collections. Exhibitions she has curated or cocurated include “Victoria: A Royal Childhood,” “Victoria Revealed,” “Diana: Her Fashion Story,” and “Fashion Rules: Restyled.” She is also the author of The Crown in Focus.

Hugo Vickers

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