Queen Marks Anniversary in Scottish Style

macnab1Beside a bubbling brook in a remote part of the highlands isn’t usually where you would expect to come across a modern-day monarch. But a new portrait of Queen Elizabeth II has done just that – picturing her against the sprawling backdrop of Balmoral Estate and kitted out in a velvet green mantle and a plethora of jewels. The photograph is one of 100 published in a new book Keepers, which was released this week to mark the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation.

Inspired by Sir Henry Raeburn’s series of portraits of clan chiefs, photographer Julian Calder said he wanted the portrait to highlight some of the Queen’s traditional if less prominent roles. “We wanted to photograph the Queen as the Queen of Scots and I wanted to do it as a Raeburn painting. He did paintings of Scottish clan chiefs and I thought they were very romantic… We wanted to have her looking at the massed clans on the distant hills.”

The Queen is dressed in the mantle of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, the Scottish counterpart to England’s Order of the Garter. From her shoulders, held by white satin ties, hangs the Collar of the Order made of golden thistles and rue sprigs, from which hangs a tiny St Andrew and his saltire cross. The photographer had initially hoped that the Queen would wear Scotland’s Crown Jewels, known as the Honours Three. However tradition dictates that they can only be removed from Edinburgh by the Duke of Hamilton, who was unavailable. Instead the Crown Jewel cabinet in London was raided, with the Queen opting to wear the emerald-covered Vladimir Tiara. It was once owned by the Grand Duchess Vladimir, aunt of the last Russian Tsar Nicholas II, and was smuggled out of Russia during the Revolution

The MacNab - one of a series of portraits of clan leaders that inspired Julian Calder's picture of the Queen

The MacNab – one of a series of portraits of clan leaders that inspired Julian Calder’s picture of the Queen

The portrait also enforces the Scottish connections to the monarchy – Elizabeth II is a direct descendant of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, not of England’s Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I, who reluctantly signed Mary’s death warrant. The Queen’s great‑great‑grandmother, Queen Victoria, who bought and loved the Balmoral Estate, said she could never forgive Elizabeth I’s treatment of “my ancestor, poor Mary”. A favoured summer holiday spot for the royals since Victoria, the Queen is popularly supposed to be happier at Balmoral than anywhere else.

Calder and the book’s author Alastair Bruce spent the day beforehand scouting for locations finally opting for a remote stream called Gelder Burn, which runs into the River Dee. “It’s remote, you can seen the heather was out and everything was right about it. Creatively, the curve of the stream could mirror the curve of the cape. The dark green of the trees and the heather all worked as a composition. It had all the ingredients” Calder said.

On the day of the photo shoot, Bruce said rain threatened to disrupt plans which had been weeks in the making. “As the allotted hour approached, the skies cleared and the Queen not only agreed to go outside but also to be photographed at a spot I had picked 25 minutes away. So we drove up to Gelder Burn and passed a family out for a walk who were just astonished to see the Queen passing by in all this regalia. There was no time to set up the shot but it was this magical moment – hardly a breath of wind and no midges.”

Say cheese - On set with the Queen

Say cheese – On set with the Queen

Keepers celebrates the bewildering range of official titles and appointments that have evolved over more than a thousand years. Those photographed range from the Monarch and the Master of the Rolls to a vicar’s son who is the hereditary Lord High Admiral of the Wash and the Royal Falconer. The portrait is the latest in a series of recent representations of the Queen. The Welsh Rugby Union unveiled a matronly expressionist portrait by Dan Llywelyn Hall earlier this year, and HRH received rave reviews for her role alongside Daniel Craig in the London Olympics Opening Ceremony in 2012.


About Nadine Lee

Originally from New Zealand, Nadine is a documentary researcher now based in the north east of Scotland.

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One thought on “Queen Marks Anniversary in Scottish Style

  1. James Anderson

    The Queen looks wonderful in her Thistle regalia. And as the creators hoped the setting looks wonderfully windswept and “romantic”.

    Just a quick reminder: in the last line of the article it states “…and HRH received rave reviews…”; Her Royal Highness does not apply to the Queen (monarch); she must always be referred to as, and only is, Her Majesty (HM). Calling her HRH is a demotion of her rank. HRH is for most other royals like the children and grandchildren, brothers and sisters of the monarch. The only time Elizabeth was an HRH was when she was still Princess Elizabeth before she ascended to the throne.


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