Why Kensington Palace’s new photography exhibition shows the royals as you’ve never seen them before – Tatler

The ability to control their image via imagery is no doubt just one reason why there have been so many enthusiastic photographers in the family. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were patrons of the Royal Photographic Society, while Princess Alexandra had her own work published. In the 1960s, society snapper Antony Armstrong-Jones even married into the family, while today the Duchess of Cambridge has taken on his mantle as chief chronicler. For Kate in particular, it is also a way of protecting her children, with her behind the lens rather than a stranger. 

The Duchess of Cambridge’s 40th birthday portrait

Paolo Roversi / PA Media

Ultimately, for the royals, embracing photography is not just about innovation – but also tradition. There was much talk when the Duchess of Cambridge released her 40th birthday portraits of royal callbacks, to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, as well as Her Majesty the Queen and even Queen Victoria, and this would of course have been intentional. ‘It evokes the history of monarchy, something that is reassuring, stable,’ Acott Williams explains. 

With the invention of the smart phone and social media, plus the continuing growth of video, where does Acott Williams think royal portraiture will go next? Will we be seeing selfies with King Charles III and TikToks with Princess Charlotte? ‘It will probably become more informal and slightly less stoic and a little bit more emotional, but the actual content of images will change not dramatically,’ she admits. 

Life Through a Royal Lens opens at Kensington Palace on 4 March 2022 and is included in palace admission.