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Polly Borland on Queen Elizabeth II

In their own words

Recorded 2017

Polly Borland on Queen Elizabeth II
Audio: 2 minutes

All of a sudden I see this woman who's, like, a lot more petite than I'd imagined, a lot more beautiful than I’d imagined, a lot richer than I'd imagined, very glamorous. I couldn't talk, I couldn't remember anything, you know I went into this kind of other zone, and completely overwhelmed that all of a sudden the Queen is there who is differentiated by blood. You know, more than just fame, but this woman has a bloodline that is different. And even though I'm not a royalist I was like ‘Oh my god’. Finally when I found my voice I just started babbling on but she was in a hurry. She was late. She had to go and host a lunch and I'd been told she doesn't really like being photographed. So she just wanted to get it over and done with. And she’s in front of the camera and I’m still talking. And then all of a sudden, the minder calls, ‘two minutes’. And I hadn't taken one roll of film. So he completely stitched me up. And then I just went into total panic. Took one roll. And at one point, I needed her to step to the left and I couldn't think of left. So I was down on my knee, hands and knees, trying to grab her ankles. Luckily, my husband stepped in and said, ‘No, ma'am, Polly means step to the left’, grabbed me and got me back behind the camera. I mean, the whole thing was just a total kind of joke. And then she sees the floral background and she goes, ‘Oh, I like that’. And also the ring flash was super bright. So by the time she left, she said, ‘Oh, I think you've blinded me’. And it's a miracle that I got two good photos, a miracle. And that really was the end of my portrait career. Interestingly, even though it was sort of like, probably the pinnacle – I was commissioned by the palace, she's probably one of the most famous women in the world – it kind of was almost like, well, I've done that. And I don't really need to keep doing it.

Acknowledgements

This recording was made during interviews for the National Portrait Gallery's Portrait Stories series.

Related people

Queen Elizabeth II

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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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