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Show focuses on Queen's life

Vogue fashion photographer captures Elizabeth in different eras
Princess Elizabeth was Colonel of the Grenadier Guards, Buckingham Palace in this October 1942 photo.


What: Queen Elizabeth II by Cecil Beaton: A Diamond Jubilee Celebration

Where: The Royal B.C. Museum

When: June 1 to Sept. 3 Tickets: $21.60 for adults, $15.75 for youth under 18, students and seniors, includes general admission to the museum. Children under 6 get in free.

A new photography exhibition at Royal B.C. Museum may remind visitors of an oft-neglected fact: Her Majesty's a pretty nice woman, but she used to be quite the stunner.

Queen Elizabeth II by Cecil Beaton, running Friday until Sept. 3, features 60 portraits of the monarch as a striking younger woman. The exhibition coincides with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the 60th anniversary of her ascension to the throne.

RBCM curator Lorne Hammond said the exhibition, which is showing for the first time in North America, portrays an image of the octogenarian that might be unfamiliar to younger generations.

"It's important because, for many young Canadians, they were not part of that time period," he said.

"The Queen Elizabeth they know is the older. It's quite surprising to see the younger woman who grew into the office."

Cecil Beaton, a fashion photographer who shot for Vogue, snapped all of the pictures that will be on display. Beaton, who died in 1980, photographed Elizabeth for the first time in 1942, a decade before she became Queen.

The selections range from highly ceremonial to much more intimate in tone. "You see these theatrical and symbolically important photos, but then you also see these very personal photos of moments that almost nobody got access to," Hammond said.

The series, on loan from London's Victoria and Albert Museum, is divided into four sections, each representing a different era in the monarch's life. The first features Elizabeth as a young princess, posing with her sister, Margaret, and her parents, King George VI and the Queen Mother.

The second highlights the pomp and pageantry of her 1953 coronation. The third provides a glimpse into the home life the Queen shared with Prince Philip and their four children. And the last shows the results of a 1968 sitting - the Queen's last with Beaton - for which she donned a dark-coloured naval officer's cloak.

"Here's a case of a photographer who sees the Queen grow up into responsibility," Hammond mused, "into the office of state, into becoming a person who defines an era."

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