Lydia de Burgh Oil Painting 1955
Happy 90th birthday, dear Queen! I could spend days and days writing about Her Majesty, but instead I’ll just hit some highlights.
HRH Princess Elizabeth of York was being raised to be a royal princess, the niece of King Edward VIII. It wasn’t until she was 10 years old that her future changed. The King abdicated for the love of a woman (certainly worthy of a post of its own in the future.) She would now become the daughter of the King and heir to the throne.
At just thirteen she met the man she would marry and never had eyes for anyone else. He was the extremely handsome and downright dreamy navy man, Philip, Prince of Greece and Denmark. Not a bad catch. This wasn’t an arranged marriage and was discouraged by her father, the King. Again, look out for a future post about their lives together.
At 18 years old, after much persuasion, her father allowed her to join the war effort. She joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service with the rank of subaltern. She was trained as a mechanic and ambulance driver during WWII. To this day, she still loves to drive. She is the only female member of the royal family to join the military in history.
In 1947 she wed her prince, who gave up his titles, his religion, and his navy career to become a naturalized British citizen and the Duke of Edinburgh. She used her war rations to purchase her wedding dress. The ingredients for her cake were donated by the Australian Girl Guides. She would send a layer of her cake to Australia in appreciation.
Just a few years later at the young age of 25 she would ascend the throne after the death of her father. Officially, her title was by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas, Queen, Defender of the Faith. She was Queen not only of Great Britain, but also Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and numerous islands and smaller countries. Throughout her reign she has been the Queen of many countries and territories, including Pakistan, Kenya, Jamaica, Malta, and many others. Her reign is now the longest in British history.
Lydia de Burgh was the first resident Irish artist commissioned to paint Her Majesty the Queen in 1955. She was a student of the masters, and I believe that shows in this portrait, which I love. The coloring of her skin is lovely, and the detail in the fabrics and the wall are subtle but intricate.
The queen is young and pensive, but somehow strong and determined. I think her face has a hint of sadness at the loss of her father while he was so young, and also the loss of the freedom she would have enjoyed as the niece of a king as opposed to a queen at 25.
You can send Her Majesty a birthday greeting here: https://www.royal.uk/messagetothequeen