The royal photographer behind the Queen’s birthday portrait has revealed how Her Majesty was ‘relaxed and friendly’ during their shoot – and that he never has to ask her to smile.
Henry Dallal, who has photographed the monarch for both her Golden and Diamond Jubilee celebrations, shot the latest portrait of the Queen with her two of her beloved fell ponies to mark her 96th birthday. Taken in the grounds of Windsor Castle last month, the photograph shows Her Majesty standing with two of her ponies, Bybeck Nightingale and Bybeck Katie, in front of a huge magnolia tree in full bloom of early spring.
The renowned photographer told OK! magazine the monarch was approachable and friendly during their photoshoot and that she remained on the grounds following the portrait session to spent time with her ponies. ‘It’s always pleasant’, he said. ‘It’s very relaxed. We take the picture rather swiftly, and afterwards, she stays a little longer to see everyone and be with her horses.’
He went on: ‘The biggest challenge is to make sure the four-legged friends are also smiling at the same time and looking at you. But you never have to tell the Queen to smile.’ The picture released after Her Majesty had travelled to Wood Farm on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, where Prince Philip spent his retirement before his death aged 99 last year. Dallal revealed that Her Majesty appeared to enjoy the occasion, happy to be among nature and to spend time with her beloved horses.
Her Majesty’s fondness of horses began when she was just four after her grandfather, King George V, gave her a little Shetland pony. By the age of six she had fallen in love with riding, becoming an accomplished equestrian in her teenage years and has continued to ride for pleasure throughout her life. The image was initially released by the Royal Windsor Horse Show, which the Queen has attended every year since 1943.
The event is among the highlights of the Queen’s calendar because it celebrates her love of the animal and is made even more special because it is held in the ‘back garden’ of Windsor Castle, where she now lives. While it’s unclear how many engagements the Queen will be able to carry out in person this year as she continues to struggle with mobility issues, organisers are still hopeful Her Majesty will attend.
Simon Brooks-Ward, event director of the Royal Windsor Horse Show since 1996, explained it remains a highlight of Her Majesty’s year and an event that she prioritises. ‘The Royal Family has continuously supported the event ever since it started – the Queen in particular,’ said Simon Brooks-Ward, event director of the Royal Windsor Horse Show since 1996.
‘Despite her many commitments, Her Majesty will always, always make Windsor. The show is a very private, important part of her calendar and everybody involved knows that – her diary is kept clear.’