The Queen: Art and Image (National Portrait Gallery)

Next up in ‘Monarchy Week’ at Brontë’s Page Turners, a book that explores what it means if yesterday’s ‘long and winding road’ of ancestry makes you (essentially) the most recognizable face in the world.

The Queen: Art and Image tracks the changing representation of the Queen’s image in art over the course of her 63-year reign. It’s an engaging way to reflect on just how much society, and, by extension, society’s demands on the Queen’s image, has changed during this time.

For some reason, the thing that struck me when reading this book is how HRH will never be one of those people who are caught in the background of your holiday snaps. My Nanny Turner was a bus conductress on the 76 route and used to joke about how many tourists must have accidentally papped her as she hung off the back of the genuinely-hazardous old Routemaster bus as it rattled through central London. I feel the same going through Parliament Square on my way to and from work each day, wondering which of the surrounding tourists has captured me gurning as I run for the 5.26. Queen Liz, on the other hand, will always be the centre of any photographer’s attention, unless Jesus walks in and starts rapping ‘Guess Who’s Back?’ as part of the publicity drive for the Second Coming.

Looking over 60 years of an excessively photographed and painted life, I wondered about this strange existence and whether her face even feels her own anymore.  I’m not going to get into the debate about whether or not sympathy is required as the Queenly experience is one none of us will ever understand so it is arguably impossible to judge. But I did think that it must be strange to be an image first and a human being second. Who knows. It’s not like I can call her and ask her. I don’t have her number. She’s Ex-directory. Pressures of fame.

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