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Royal Portraits to Come to St Andrews

Hear ye, hear ye! Her majesty, the Duchess of Cambridge, the beloved St Andrews alumna herself, has passed another decade of her life, and, to celebrate, has had some beautiful portrait photographs taken.

Captured by fashion photographer, Paolo Roversi, the three photographs feature the duchess in stunning Alexander McQueen gowns (the same designer as her iconic wedding dress) and jewelry pieces belonging to both Diana, Princess of Wales, and loaned by the Queen. The duchess has frequently paid subtle tributes to her husband’s grandmother and late mother in her wardrobe and jewelry choices, and her official portraits are no different. These pictures emulate both Old Hollywood glamour, and are reminiscent of Queen Victoria’s cartes-de-visite from 1860. While her hair seems to have been left naturally wavy and constantly blowing in the wind, her smile is blinding and wide, the sepia tone and white gowns with large skirts and ruffled collars harken back to another age of fashion. While I wouldn’t really mark her as a woman in her forties — honestly, she looks no different from her graduation photos — she certainly looks effortlessly regal and elegant.

The British royal family has always had an interesting attitude toward being photographed. The first photograph ever taken of the royal family was as early as 1842, but portraits available to the public were not taken until Victoria’s in 1860. The Queen’s photographs showed her not just as the sovereign, but as a mother and a person, a dramatically different representation of the British monarchy than their previous portraits. Her portraits were also taken in the cheap and mass-producible carte-de-visite form, meaning they were printed to about the size of the business cards of the day. This rejection of exclusivity appealed to the public, and made the royal family, and thus family values in general, more accessible and desirable. Portrait photographs have continued to be a favored medium of the British royal family for defining their character and values. The duchess’s portraits, captured back in November in Kew Gardens, are to form part of the larger national “Coming Home” project put on by the National Portrait Gallery, of which the duchess is patron. They are to be displayed in three places which hold a special place in the duchess’s heart: Berkshire, Anglesey, and — most excitingly — St Andrews! The duchess herself chose these locations to represent the places that have guided her to the life path she now is on. They will start in Berkshire — the county in which she spent her childhood. They will then come here to St Andrews — where, as we all know, she met her husband and studied history of art. Then they will go to Anglesey — where she and the Duke of Cambridge spent their early years as a married couple. They will finally come to rest in the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection. The duchess’s decision to continue to honour St Andrews as a valuable and important place in her life is understandable, and relatable I think to many students whose lives have been affected (though maybe not royally) by their decision to attend the University.

It is yet to be determined when and where students and tourists alike can go to view these new portraits, but we are all keeping our eyes and ears open for when those details are announced!

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