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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

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HM Queen Elizabeth II

2001
Polly Borland

type C photograph on paper, edition 1/12 (sheet: 69.5 cm x 54.5 cm, image: 61.0 cm x 49.3 cm)

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (1926–2022) was the eldest of the two daughters of the Duke and Duchess of York, who later became King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Born in London, she grew up there and at Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park, and was ten years old when the abdication of her uncle, Edward VIII, and the consequent accession of her father to the throne made her heir presumptive. At 21 she married Philip Mountbatten, who on their marriage was created HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. In 1952, they set out on a tour of the Commonwealth which was to have included Australia and New Zealand; but on the way, in Kenya, Elizabeth received news of her father’s death. She returned to England and was 27 on her coronation on 2 June 1953. The Head of State of the United Kingdom and fifteen other Commonwealth countries during her reign, she was the first reigning British monarch to visit Australia, making fifteen visits here since her first in 1954, when she and Prince Philip took in 57 cities and towns between Hobart and Cairns in 58 days. In 2015, she surpassed the record set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria to become Britain’s longest reigning monarch; and on 6 February 2022, the seventieth anniversary of her accession, she became the first ever British monarch to mark a Platinum Jubilee.

Photographer Polly Borland (b. 1959) was one of few photographers commissioned by the Palace to take a portrait for Her Majesty’s Golden Jubilee in 2002. This unconventional royal portrait is one of two resulting from a very brief sitting with Her Majesty at Buckingham Palace. Borland brought two backdrops with her: a piece of floral Marimekko fabric, and a length of sparkly gold lamé-style material she’d purchased from saucy lingerie shop, Ann Summers. ‘The remit was we only got five minutes,’ Borland recollects. ‘We set up two cameras, two backdrops, one in front of the other. The minder came in and I was given this protocol. I could curtsy when she walked in, but I didn’t have to. I could bow when she walked in, but I didn’t have to. And I should call her ma’am.’ Borland was told that her five minutes would start as soon as Her Majesty was in front of the camera. The Queen arrived and ‘all of a sudden, I see this woman, who’s a lot more petite than I’d imagined, a lot more beautiful than I’d imagined, a lot richer than I’d imagined, looking very glamorous … I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t remember anything’, Borland says. With three minutes of her allotted time left – and despite ‘total panic’ – Borland shot two rolls of film using both backdrops, noting that Her Majesty was rather pleased with the glitzy, jubilee-themed gold one. The portrait is now iconic for its witty, contemporary and somewhat irreverent aesthetic, although the artist still thinks ‘it’s a miracle that I got two good photos’.

Purchased 2002
© Polly Borland. Reproduced courtesy of Polly Borland and Anna Schwartz Gallery.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Polly Borland (age 42 in 2001)

Queen Elizabeth II (age 75 in 2001)

Subject professions

Government and leadership

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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