The Royal Family's best portraits of all time, from rare peeks inside the palaces to moments of history captured on camera

The Royal Family know how to deliver an iconic portrait, from family pictures to immortalising memorable moments of history

(L) A family portrait of Prince charles, Princess diana and a baby Prince William, (R) A portrait of Queen Elizabeth with Prince Philip and their children
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Every family likes capturing special memories, but when it comes to the Royal Family, they have the advantage of preserving their family albums in the annals of history.

They're not shy when it comes to the camera and are regularly snapped on royal tours, charity events and even rubbing shoulders with A-listers at awards shows. 

We revisit the most momentous family portraits and snapshots taken during important milestones from across the years. Be it candid shots when they're enjoying time off-duty at residences like Balmoral, or the official pictures from some of the best royal weddings of our time, these photos all represent key moments in the history of the royal family.

The Royal Family's best portraits of all time 

History in the making - the Coronation of King George VI

A portrait from the Coronation of Kinge George VI, featuring his family including the then Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret

(Image credit: Getty Images)

One portrait captures a true moment in history - and what would go on to become a new era in British history. 

King George VI was never really meant to be King, which meant his daughter, Elizabeth, wasn't necessarily destined to become the longest-reigning monarch in history

But after George's brother, Edward, abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson, the course of history changed forever - and it's immortalised in this portrait from the Coronation taken on May 24, 1937. 

Gilded Youth: An Intimate History of Growing Up in the Royal Family by Tom Quinn | £10.02 at Amazon

Gilded Youth: An Intimate History of Growing Up in the Royal Family by Tom Quinn | £10.02 at Amazon

Exploring what it's like to grow up in the Royal Family, Tom Quinn brings together historical sources with testimonies from palace staff. There are tales of royal mischievousness, including surprising anecdotes about Queen Elizabeth and Prince William, and it's shocking, funny and insightful all at once.

The start of a 70+ year love story

Prince Philip and a then Princess Elizabeth announcing their engagement in 1947

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A then Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip first met in 1934 at the wedding of Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark to Prince George, Duke of Kent. Their engagement was officially announced on 9 July 1947, with a portrait released to commemorate what would become one of the era's defining love stories. 

Prince Philip stood by the Queen's side for 73 years of marriage, until his death in 2021. 

The wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana

The wedding portrait of Prince Charles and Princess Diana plus their family, 1981

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The wedding of the then Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer was one of the biggest moments in royal history. A congregation of 3,500 guests filled St Paul's Cathedral to watch the ceremony, and a reported 750 million worldwide watched on television. 

Their official portraits from the day united the monarchy - including the late Queen and the Royal Family - plus the Spencer clan.

Sadly, the marriage was not to last. Charles and Diana separated in 1992, and divorced in 1996. Diana would die a year later. 

But their wedding continues to hold a place in royal history, remembered forever thanks to iconic portraits and clips from the day.

The Queen and Prince Philip's wedding portrait

The wedding pictures of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The wedding of the then Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip was a royal wedding like many hadn't seen at the time.

Elizabeth became the 10th member of the British monarchy to be married at Westminster Abbey -  the same location where she'd be crowned just five years later. 

The Queen chose a wedding gown design by British designer Norman Hartnell made of Duchesse satin and silk. 

In the portrait captured on the day - November 20, 1947 - the Queen is joined by her eight bridesmaids including her sister, Princess Margaret, her first cousins, Princess Alexandra of Kent and Margaret Elphinstone, her second cousin, Lady Mary Cambridge, Lady Caroline Montagu-Douglas-Scott, Philip's cousin, Pamela Mountbatten and her niece, Diana Bowes-Lyon.

As for the groom, he had his cousin, David Mountbatten, as best man. Serving as page boys were Prince William of Gloucester and Prince Michael of Kent.

Prince Charles, Princess Diana and Prince William at home

Prince Charles and Princess Diana pose with a baby William

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Prince William was the first born child of the then Prince Charles and Princess Diana. 

In one of their first portraits as a family of three, the beaming Charles holds his son while Diana leans in with a huge smile. 

The adorable photo was taken inside Kensington Palace, the royal residence which Diana would continue to live after splitting from Charles in 1992 up until she died in 1997. 

The Queen and her extended family, the Corgis

Queen Elizabeth II posing with a Corgi in 1952

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The portrait included is special for one very important reason - it captures Queen Elizabeth posing with her first ever Corgi! 

Famous for her life-long love of the breed, the Queen's first Corgi was called Susan, a ginger pup who joined the newly married Queen and Prince Philip on their honeymoon to Balmoral Castle. 

After Susan, the Queen owned more than 30 corgis from her accession in 1952 until she died in 2022, and a reported 14 of these dogs were descended from Susan. 

At Balmoral with the Queen, Prince Philip and their three children, 1960

The Queen and Prince Philip outside Balmoral with Prince Charles, Andrew and Princess Anne

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In the adorable family portrait taken in September 1960, the Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh sit with their children, Prince Andrew (centre), Princess Anne (left) and Charles, Prince of Wales in the grounds of Balmoral. 

The photo was taken to celebrate the family welcoming their third child, Andrew, in February of that year. 

They would complete their family with Prince Edward, born in March 1964.

The Queen getting ready for Christmas with Prince Andrew and Edward, 1971

The Queen reading to Princes Andrew and Edward as part of her 1971 Christmas address

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For the Queen's annual Christmas message in 1971, the public got a rare peek inside the family's celebrations. 

Recorded within Buckingham Palace, the Queen spoke from the heart about Christmas being a time for families. Offering her thoughts and prayers to those who couldn't celebrate with loved ones, the broadcast included adorable shots of the Queen and her two youngest children - Andrew and Edward - looking through photo albums. 

Prince William's Confirmation, 1997

Prince William with his parents, grandparents and godparents for his 1997 Confirmation

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Prince William was confirmed in 1997 at St George's Chapel, Windsor, declaring to uphold the promises to his faith as he is set to, eventually, become Supreme Governor when he becomes King.

As part of the Confirmation, the then 14-year-old Prince posed with his family and godparents, for the first official photograph since 1993 in which Charles, Diana and the Queen were pictured together.

Included in the portrait are Prince Harry, Princess Diana, the now King Charles and the late Queen Elizabeth. On the back row are his godparents, King Constantine of Greece, Lady Susan Hussey, Princess Alexandra, Natalia Grosvenor the Duchess of Westminster and Lord Romsey. 

Royal sisters, 1942

A young Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret pose for photos as they ride bikes

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A young Princess Elizabeth and Margaret pose for a playful portrait in 1942, a few years after their father became King. 

The royals, whose lives changed in a blink, continued to try and enjoy a normal childhood as seen in the pictures, riding bikes around Windsor. 

Despite their lives taking different paths - with Elizabeth becoming Queen - the two shared a strong bond until Margaret's death in 2002. 

The Queen and Prince Philip's back-to-back portrait

Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth standing back to back in a black and white portrait

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Prince Philip and the Queen could be mistaken for a clip from an ABBA music video in this unusual portrait taken in 1958. 

The portrait was taken by artist Donald McKague, who had taken many other shots of Her Majesty, which could be why he was able to convince her to take a more artsy inspired shot than many had come to expect from the royals. 

A cute family moment for young parents, Elizabeth and Philip

A young Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip with Prince Charles and Princess Anne as children

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In a sweet portrait of the young family, a young Princess Anne grabs her father's chin as they enjoy a stroll around Balmoral's grounds. 

Anne would grow up to have a special bond with her dad, and in the BBC's 2021 documentary, Prince Philip: The Royal Family Remembers, the Princess Royal shared some adorable memories.

In one clip, she reminisced about him taking her fishing. "I always said I couldn’t catch anything and he said, ‘nonsense come with me’, and after I’d been casting for about half an hour, he said, ‘I see what you mean,'" Anne laughed as she recalled the sweet memory. 

Celebrating 25 years of marriage

The Queen and Prince Philip with Princes Charles, Andrew and Edward and Princess Anne

(Image credit: Getty Images)

At the end of the day - royal or not - the family is still a family when it comes to it. 

And that's why these adorable portraits taken in celebration of the milestone 25th wedding anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip are so touching, capturing the passing of time as a family grows up in the public eye. 

Per the Royal Collection Trust, the Queen and the late Duke of Edinburgh reportedly received over 15,000 congratulatory letters and 2,500 telegrams in celebration of their Silver Wedding anniversary in 1972.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana confirm their engagement

Prince Charles and Princess Diana announcing their engagement

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On February 24, 1981, the then Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles announced their engagement on the grounds of Buckingham Palace. 

The pair then marked their historic engagement with a special photoshoot which ended up being memorable for the wrong reasons. 

In passages taken from Diana's authorised biography, Diana: Her True Story - In Her Own Words, the late Princess of Wales recalls. "We had this ghastly interview the day we announced our engagement. And this ridiculous [reporter] said, ‘Are you in love?’ I thought, what a thick question. So I said, ‘Yes, of course, we are,’ and Charles turned round and said, ‘Whatever love means.’ And that threw me completely. I thought, what a strange answer. It traumatised me."

Diana: Her True Story - In Her Own Words - £10.11, Amazon

Diana: Her True Story - In Her Own Words - £10.11, Amazon

When Diana: Her True Story was first published in 1992 it changed the way the public viewed the British monarchy. Never before had a senior royal spoken in such a raw, unfiltered way about her marriage, her hopes and fears and her extraordinary life inside the House of Windsor.

Royals posing on the slopes

Prince Charles, Princess Diana, Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew on the Swiss slopes

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The royals are notoriously great at sports, and in 1987 they happily posed for photos while on a family trip to their favourite Swiss ski resort, Klosters. 

Posing together, Princess Diana was arm in arm with Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, bookended by their husbands at the time, Prince Charles and Andrew. 

They'd eventually all pass this love on to their children, with similar photos taken of their children on the slopes, including Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie with cousins William and Harry. 

The Queen and Prince Philip in their natural element

The Queen watches Prince Philip fishing on Balmoral

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Queen Elizabeth had a well-reported preference for time away in Balmoral, the royal's Scottish residence. 

It was where the family could truly relax away from the public scrutiny of being royal. 

So, this portrait taken in celebration of the Queen and Prince Philip's 25th wedding anniversary in 1972 feels like it captures something more candid and pure - the pair of them enjoying casual time out in nature. 

Prince William turns 21, 2003

Prince William's 21st birthday portrait on a beach at St Andrews

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A little less than a month before his 21st birthday in 2003, Prince William enjoyed a relaxed day on the beach, not far from St Andrews University. 

Ahead of the heir's big birthday, William posed for a series of new photos on the beaches outside of St Andrews.

An interesting fact about Prince William: William was originally studying art history at the university, but switched to geography in 2003. His time at the institution would become more famous for being where he met his future wife - and the future Queen - Kate Middleton.

Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips's wedding portrait

Princess Anne and Mark Phillips' wedding portrait, joined by their family and wedding party

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The wedding of Princess Anne and her first husband, Mark Phillips, took place on Wednesday, 14 November 1973 at Westminster Abbey.

A worldwide audience of 500 million watched the ceremony, with a staggering 27.6 million people tuning in just from the UK to watch the Queen's only daughter walk down the aisle. 

The people involved in this portrait capture the importance of the day, with the bride and groom joined by the likes of Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Viscount Linley, Katharine, Duchess of Kent, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, King Constantine II of Greece, King Juan Carlos I of Spain, and King Harald V of Norway and Queen Sonja of Norway. 

A family celebrates their parents' diamond wedding anniversary

The Queen and Prince Philip with Princes Charles, Andrew and Edward and Princess Anne in 2007

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Whether royal or not, any marriage reaching a milestone of 60 years together is worth celebrating. 

Official portraits were released alongside a service of thanksgiving held at Westminster Abbey for the Diamond Wedding Anniversary of the Queen and Prince Philip. 

In one special snap, the family pose together at Clarence House.

King Charles and Camilla celebrate 50 years since his investiture

King Charles and Queen Camilla

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A serene photograph of the then Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla was released in 2019 to mark the 50th anniversary of Charles' investiture as the Prince of Wales. 

Simple, refined and bucolic, the portrait sums up the nature of Charles and Camilla's marriage. 

In the photo, the pair pose outside the front door of their restored farmhouse, on the outskirts of the village of Llandovery in rural Carmarthenshire. 

A royally good holiday portrait

Prince Charles and Princess Diana holiday in Spain with the Spanish king and his family

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In 1990, fans of European Royalty had a real treat when there was a gathering of three of Europe's most glamorous royal families. 

Princess Diana and Prince Charles brought a young William and Harry to holiday off the coast of Mallorca with the then King Juan Carlos I of Spain and Constantine II, the last King of Greece. 

In one memorable portrait, there's multiple monarchs sat during their time on the throne. 

A young William - a future King - sits not far from Felipe, who is now King of Spain. 

King Charles and his sons, weeks before tragedy struck

A young Prince William and Harry with their father, King Charles

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words for the moment of time it captured that would be lost forever. 

In these shots of the then Princes Charles taking his young sons out for a walk around the grounds of Balmoral, the three look relaxed and at ease with one another on the traditional summer holiday which saw the royals abscond to Aberdeenshire. 

This photo, taken at the start of August 1997, would come just weeks before William and Harry's mother, Diana, would tragically die on August 31 in a fatal car crash in Paris. 

King Charles and Queen Camilla's wedding portrait

L-R: Prince Harry, Prince William, King Charles, Queen Camilla, Laura Lopes and Tom Parker-Bowles

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The now King Charles and Queen Camilla didn't have the easiest path to happily-ever-after, on April 9, 2005, 35 years after they first met, the couple tied the knot in an intimate ceremony at Windsor Castle.

A series of portraits of the family were taken in the White Drawing Room of the castle, and in one lovely shot, Charles and Camilla are joined by their children. 

Charles' two sons, Prince Harry and William, and Camilla's two children from a previous marriage to Andrew Parker-Bowles, daughter Laura Lopes and Tom Parker-Bowles stand proudly beside their parents.

Other portraits from the day include shots with the late Queen and Camilla's father, Major Bruce Shand.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle introduce Archie to the world

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry introduce Archie to the world in 2019

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have made it clear they're more than happy to do things their own way, having quit life as working royals in 2020 and set up a new life in California. 

As this official photo of the pair introducing their first child, Prince Archie, proves, they've actually been redefining royal rules for some time. 

It's traditional - ever since Princess Anne was snapped holding her daughter, Zara, outside the Lindo Wing in 1981 - for a new royal mum to introduce their baby to the world on the footsteps of the hospital. 

However, Harry and Meghan decided to wait a couple of days after Archie's birth on May 5, 2019 and invited the press to take the official photos at St George's Hall, Windsor Castle. 

The Queen's Coronation portrait

Queen Elizabeth II with her mother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Prince Philip and Princess Margaret for her Coronation portrait

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The portrait which started one of the most defining chapters in British history. 

Queen Elizabeth's shock ascension to the throne came in 1952, following the death of her father, King George VI, aged just 56. 

While she became Queen immediately after his death, her epic Coronation took place a year later, on June 2, 1953. 

In the portrait, she is seen wearing the St Edward's Crown, as she poses with her sister, Princess Margaret, husband, Prince Philip, and her mother, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who'd come to be known as the Queen Mother. 

It started a historic 70 year reign, which no other British sovereign has ever achieved. 

The Queen and her Maids of Honour

Queen Elizabeth II with her six maids of honour at her Coronation

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The United Kingdom would enjoy a historic spell under a matriarchy after the Queen ascended to the throne in 1952. 

And, perhaps as a nod to what would become an iconic 70-year reign with a woman as head of state, the Queen followed in the footsteps of Queen Victoria by selecting six Maids of Honour instead of pages to bear her velvet train throughout the Coronation ceremony. 

Her Maids of Honour were Lady Moyra Hamilton (now Lady Moyra Campbell), Lady Anne Coke (now The Rt Hon The Lady Glenconner), Lady Rosemary Spencer-Churchill (now Lady Rosemary Muir), Lady Mary Baillie-Hamilton (now Lady Mary Russell), Lady Jane Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby (now The Rt Hon The Baroness Willoughby de Eresby) and Lady Jane Vane-Tempest-Stewart (now The Rt Hon The Lady Rayne).

The late Queen's last ever Christmas message

Queen Elizabeth poses for her Christmas portrait - her last ever - in 2021

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The Queen's annual Christmas broadcast started being televised in 1957. 

Each year, to coincide with the message, the monarch would pose for a new festive portrait, and eagle-eyed royal fans would often look for clues and special touches in these portraits (for example, who was included, and what details are noticeable.)

For what would become her last-ever broadcast before dying in September 2022, the Queen's final festive portrait touchingly included a shot of her late husband and the three-strand pearl necklace given to her by her father. 

A poignant portrait which somehow captured what would become the end of several eras.

Queen Elizabeth's Platinum Jubilee portrait

Queen Elizabeth II posing for a portrait in celebration of the Platinum Jubilee

(Image credit: Getty Images)

On February 2, 2022, new portraits of Queen Elizabeth II were released to mark the 70th anniversary of the exact day she ascended to the throne. 

No other British monarch had ever served as long and the nation would enjoy a summer packed full of Platinum Jubilee celebrations. 

The portrait was taken in the Saloon at Sandringham House by photographer Chris Jackson and shows Her Majesty alongside one of her iconic red despatch boxes, which contain documents from the government for her review. 

She's wearing a quintessential Queen look - a bright lime green tweed shift, designed by long-term dresser Angela Kelly, accessorised with two diamond ivy leaf clips, which were a 21st birthday gift from the Queen Mother. 

A father with his sons

King Charles with Prince William and Prince Harry in 2005

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In 2005, in simpler times for the family, King Charles and his two sons enjoy some special time on the slopes together. 

The portrait catches them in a relaxed environment, and includes a rare bit of affection for the royals, as Charles throws an embracing arm around Prince Harry. 

Harry would, years later, write in his 2023 memoir, Spare, that he was never hugged by his father. 

Spare: by Prince Harry - £14.00, Amazon

Spare: by Prince Harry - £14.00, Amazon

In 2023, for the first time, Prince Harry told his own story in his own words, with the revelatory memoir chronicling his journey with raw, unflinching honesty.

King Charles' first Christmas address

King Charles III during his first Christmas speech

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In December 2022, King Charles would pose for his first festive portrait to coincide with his first Christmas address to the nation. 

It is a historic picture, capturing the true end of the Elizabethan era and the beginning of his Carolean era. 

During the moving address, he said, "I am standing here in this exquisite Chapel of St George at Windsor Castle, so close to where my beloved mother, the late Queen, is laid to rest with my dear father... Christmas is a particularly poignant time for all of us who have lost loved ones."

Prince William and Kate Middleton make it official

Kate Middleton and Prince William announce their engagement in 2010

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The official engagement portrait is kept private, but these photos taken as Prince William and Kate Middleton began their journey to the aisle are just as memorable and effective. 

The couple invited the world's press into St James's Palace as they revealed William had popped the question. 

Kate, wearing her now-famous royal blue Issa dress which would immediately sell out and start what has been dubbed the 'Kate Effect', showed off the sapphire engagement ring which once belonged to Princess Diana. 

She told the world how Prince William popped the question a few weeks before the interview while the two were in Kenya.

"It was a total shock when it came," the now Princess of Wales said. "There's a true romantic in there."

Prince William and Kate Middleton's historic wedding

Prince William and Kate Middleton kiss on Buckingham Palace's balcony on their wedding day

(Image credit: Getty Images)

There were many official portraits taken of the 2011 wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, but was any photo as iconic as their Buckingham Palace smooch?

One of the most anticipated events in modern history, Kate Middleton would solidify her position as the future Queen when she married William in Westminster Palace - and in front of a reported worldwide audience of 162 million. 

The Princess wore a lacy gown designed by Alexander McQueen's Sarah Burton. Buckingham Palace released a statement on the dress after the wedding, stating the dress "pays tribute to the arts and crafts tradition. Ms. Burton’s design draws on this heritage, giving the cut and the intricate embellishment a distinctive contemporary and feminine character."

Their love story has blossomed to welcome three children - Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis - and this picture from the wedding felt like the start of the real-life fairytale for the future King and Queen. 

Jack Slater
Freelance writer

Jack Slater is not the Last Action Hero, but that's what comes up first when you Google him. Preferring a much more sedentary life, Jack gets his thrills by covering news, entertainment, celebrity, film and culture for woman&home, and other digital publications.

Having written for various print and online publications—ranging from national syndicates to niche magazines—Jack has written about nearly everything there is to write about, covering LGBTQ+ news, celebrity features, TV and film scoops, reviewing the latest theatre shows lighting up London’s West End and the most pressing of SEO based stories.