The Portrait of a Queen - 60 Years In Pictures

Princess Elizabeth by Cecil Beaton, March 1945. (Image: V&A)
Princess Elizabeth by Cecil Beaton, March 1945. (Image: V&A)

London is going to be very festive this summer. Not only will it host the Olympic Games in July, it will also celebrate a lavish Diamond Jubilee in June, marking 60 years of Queen Elizabeth II's reign with a flotilla of 1,000 boats sailing down the Thames.

The Queen was born in April 1926, came to the throne in February 1952 at the tender age of 25, and was crowned on June 2, 1953 in the first televised coronation in history. So far the United Kingdom has seen 12 different Prime Ministers during her reign, and that number is likely to increase. 

As one of the most photographed people in the world, there are more than enough images of Her Majesty to make up two dedicated photo exhibitions chronicling the memorable events of her life - on show at Windsor Castle and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London starting from this month.

'The Queen: 60 Photographs for 60 Years' - Windsor Castle

Image from The Royal Collection

Visitors to the Queen's official residence have a chance to check out this special Diamond Jubilee exhibition - included in the price of admission - featuring images of Queen Elizabeth II "in fleeting moments on official occasions and at relaxed family gatherings." 

The photos document the Queen's busy life: on-duty as Head of State, Head of the Commonwealth, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Head of the British Armed Forces, and Patron of around 600 charities; off-duty as wife, mother and an avid animal lover.

Click here for a sample of the collection. 

'Queen Elizabeth II by Cecil Beaton: A Diamond Jubilee Celebration' - The Victoria & Albert Museum

By Cecil Beaton (Copyright V&A images)

This exhibition at the V&A features nearly 100 portraits of the Queen by the English photographer and designer Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) and includes a number of photographs never before seen.

For three decades starting from 1942, Beaton had photographed the Princess-turned-Queen Elizabeth II and her family, and his royal portraits became some of the most widely published photographs in the 20th century. 

But what sets this exhibition apart will be Beaton's meticulously kept diaries and letters, which lift the lid on the intense working practice of a royal sitting and provide a glimpse into the mind of the photographer under pressure to achieve the perfect portrait.

In an age without digital enhancement tools, I think most of us would agree that Beaton did a rather regal job.

The Queen's coronation, June 1953, buy Cecil Beaton (image courtesy of the V&A)

'The Queen: 60 Photographs for 60 Years' 

Location: Windsor Castle, Windsor SL4 1NJ see map

Dates: February 4 ~ October 28, 2012

Admission: Adult £17.00 / Under 17 £10.20 / Under 5 Free 

'Queen Elizabeth II by Cecil Beaton: A Diamond Jubilee Celebration' 

Location: Victoria & Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL see map

Dates: February 8 ~ April 22, 2012

Admission: Adult£6.00 / Age 12-17 £5.00 / Age 11 and Under Free