As part of the Legatum Institute's 'Promise of Freedom' series, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, Sandy Nairne, discussed how the iconography of the Queen has reflected the changing relationship between the Sovereign and her subjects.
From the age of the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic kingdoms onwards, the story of monarchy has been closely interwoven with the history of the British and their national identity.
Plantaganets, Tudors, Stuarts and Hanoverians have sat on the throne of England in succession, an institution whose roots lie in the ninth century and whose survival into the early twenty-first century is one of history's great successes.
British monarchy has been resilient because it has adapted to changing times while remaining true to its core purpose of representing and serving the nation.
In his talk, Sandy Nairne, brought the skills of the art historian to bear on the question of how Elizabeth II has been portrayed in the official studies commissioned from photographers and painters.
Queen Elizabeth has sat for an astonishing 741 portraits in the course of her life, and their projections of her personality reveal a constant evolution in the nature of the relationship between the Sovereign and her subjects.
In the 1950s Cecil Beaton's cascades of enveloping satins and silks offered a romantic view of the young Queen while studies by Snowdon and Litchfield done in the 1960s and '70s emphasised the domestic virtues of the young wife and mother. More recently there has been a return to a studied magnificence.
Lucien Freud's masterly brush revealed a stoic figure adorned by the Crown Imperial and resolved to uphold those vows of service that she has made to both God and the British.
Sandy Nairne's lecture, and the discussion that followed, dissected the differing elements of iconography that have gone into the projection of royal influence in the past six decades - a time when the House of Windsor remained central to Britain's success.
About the Promise of Freedom Series
The Promise of Freedom is a series of lectures and events exploring the vital role liberty has played in British and American cultural and social thought. The Promise of Freedom marks the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Her Majesty the Queen. The series also features events with Grey Gowrie, poet, former Cabinet Minister and company Chairman, Dame Harriet Walter, British actress, and Lieutenant-General Simon Mayall, Senior Advisor Middle East, Ministry of Defence.