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Life Through a Royal Lens

An intimate exhibition exploring the Royal Family’s relationship with the camera

An intimate exhibition exploring the Royal Family’s relationship with the camera

Discover Life Through a Royal Lens, Hillsborough Castle’s first  exhibition featuring a unique collection of Royal photography. This must-see exhibition documents the British Royal Family's ever-evolving relationship with the camera over the last 200 years.

Life Through a Royal Lens brings together over 60 of the most iconic images ever taken of the Royal Family, dating back to the reign of Queen Victoria. See images from notable royal photographers such as Rankin, Cecil Beaton and Annie Leibovitz, and learn about the history and stories behind each image.

View some of the Royal Family’s personal and lesser-known family portraits for an intimate window into the people behind the public figureheads.

Don’t miss this critically acclaimed photography exhibition at Hillsborough Castle.

Header image: Queen Elizabeth II holding a Leica camera about to take a photograph while attending the Royal Windsor Horse show in 1982. © Bob Thomas / Popperfoto via Getty Images

When

Open

In line with castle opening hours

Ticket Information

Open: Life Through a Royal Lens is included in a combined castle and gardens ticket from 09 March until 27 October 2024. Please check castle opening hours for the date of your visit.


Included in combined castle tour and gardens tickets (members go free)

Book a group visit Buy Hillsborough Castle and Gardens tickets

Royal Life Behind the Scenes

For centuries, majestic portraits and physical replicas ensured the public could recognise their monarch. This depiction was revolutionised in the 19th century with the invention of photography, revealing the true likeness of the monarchy to the public for the first time.

Life Through a Royal Lens explores how photography has been used to create an image of duty and stability throughout the centuries. Discover how advances in technology and media have allowed the Royal Family to connect at a more personal level with a wider global audience; for example, Annie Leibowvitz’s series of official photographs of Elizabeth II – the first time an American photographer had taken an official state portrait of the monarch.

Image: Queen Victoria with the Princess Royal, the Prince of Wales, Princess Alice, Princess Helena and Prince Alfred 17 January 1852. The children are gathered in a group around Queen Victoria, whose face has been scratched out. Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023

Black and white image of Queen Victoria with her face scratched out, surrounded by her five young children
Two women looking at a gallery wall in a photography exbibition

Discover Life Through a Royal Lens, Hillsborough Castle and Garden’s intimate exhibition exploring the Royal Family through photography.

Photographers and their Royal Sitters

The choice of photographer, photo composition, clothing, and environment throughout the Life Through a Royal Lens photo series also provides insightful cultural commentary on the social climate at the time each photo was taken.

The exhibition explores the impact of photographers in redefining modern royal portraiture, from Cecil Beaton, one of the great shapers of royal image in the 20th century, to the varied choices for formal photographic commissions in the 1980s onwards. These later commissions from photographers such as Rankin recorded Elizabeth II’s likeness for perpetuity and contributed innovative new pieces to the Royal Collection.

A man adjusts an image in a photography exhibition

Exhibition highlights

Prince Charles' 70th Birthday, 2018

Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their three children, and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

The official photograph to mark Prince Charles' 70th birthday was released along with two light-hearted out-takes, one of which is shown here. The images communicate the stability of monarchy and the sense of glimpsing an intimate moment between the individuals behind the public image.

Image: © Chris Jackson / Getty Images for Clarence House

HRH Prince Charles, Prince of Wales poses for an official portrait to mark his 70th Birthday in the gardens of Clarence House, with Their Royal Highnesses Camilla Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Willliam Duke of Cambridge, Catherine Duchess of Cambridge, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis, Prince Harry Duke of Sussex and Meghan Duchess of Sussex, on September 5, 2018. The family grouping looks relaxed and smiling.
In 1929 Princess Elizabeth was photographed by her father, the future King George VI, standing in front of a group of Madonna lilies, lilium candidum. The photograph was taken at St Paul’s Walden Bury, the Hertfordshire home of the Princess's maternal grandparents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore. It was exhibited by the future King in the 1930 Kodak exhibition of work by royal photographers.

Princess Elizabeth with lilies, 1929

In 1929 Princess Elizabeth was photographed by her father, the future King George VI, standing in front of a group of Madonna lillies.

The photograph was taken at St Paul’s Walden Bury, the Hertfordshire home of the Princess's maternal grandparents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore. It was exhibited by the future King in the 1930 Kodak exhibition of work by royal photographers.

Image: Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023

EXPLORE WHAT'S ON

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The Castle

Discover elegant State Rooms still used by the royal family inside Hillsborough Castle.

  • Open weekends
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  • Included in combined castle tour and gardens tickets (members go free)
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May Day Weekend

Celebrate the bank holiday weekend with music, crafts and more.

  • 04 - 06 May 2024
  • In line with gardens opening hours
  • Hillsborough Castle
  • Included in gardens admission (members go free)
Learn more
  • Exhibition
  • Things to see

Life Through a Royal Lens

A must-see exhibition documenting the British Royal Family's ever-evolving relationship with the camera over the last 200 years.

  • Open
  • In line with castle opening hours
  • Hillsborough Castle
  • Included in combined castle tour and gardens tickets (members go free)
Learn more

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