In addition to being a great and iconoclastic photographer, Cecil Beaton was an inveterate diarist. He was also, for forty years, the premier royal photographer, having cemented his friendship with Elizabeth, The Queen Mother at his very first sitting, which was supposed to last 20 minutes but lasted 3 hours.
He remembers his first call from the royal household in July 1939:
The telephone rang, “This is the lady-in-waiting speaking. The Queen [The Queen Mother] wants to know if you will photograph her tomorrow afternoon.” At first, I thought it might be a practical joke — the sort of thing Oliver [Messel, his friend and rival] might do. but it was no joke. My pleasure and excitement were overwhelming. In choosing me to take her photographs, the Queen made a daring innovation. It is inconceivable that her predecessor would have summoned me – my work was still considered revolutionary and unconventional.
On his first…
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