- Getty archivist has picked nine royal engagement photos dating back 126 years
- His expert analysis offers insight into the relationship between the couples
- Experienced royal photographer also offers his take on what the pictures show
- Couples include King George VI and the Queen Mother and William and Kate
To celebrate this special occasion, Matthew Butson, vice president of the Getty Images Archive – which has access to over 130 million images, including some of the most iconic imagery of the royal family – has selected his nine favourite photos of previous royal engagements, dating back more than 100 years.
They range from the doomed engagement of the Duke of Clarence and Princess Mary of Teck in 1891 – he died of pneumonia before they could wed – through to Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips’s in 1973 and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s portrait in November 2010.
Together with Getty Images’ Royal Photographer Chris Jackson, who is responsible for some of the most iconic recent images of the British monarchy, he analysed the images exclusively for FEMAIL.
Here, the pair talk through Chris’ pick of portraits of the royal couples – and what each image reveals about their relationships…
The Duke of Clarence and Princess Mary of Teck, 1891
Tragic end: The Duke of Clarence, son of King Edward VII and grandson of Queen Victoria, and Princess Mary of Teck, in 1891. The duke died the following year aged 28 before they could wed
‘The story behind this image is fascinating,’ said Matthew. ‘The Duke of Clarence [grandson of Queen Victoria] is pictured with Princess Mary of Teck on their engagement in 1891. Theirs is a somewhat tragic love story, as he sadly died of pneumonia in 1892 at the age of 28, before they could marry.
‘It’s only recently come to light that the Duke had originally been corresponding with Princess Hélène of Orléans, whose father was a pretender to the French throne and who he was unable to marry because she was a Roman Catholic.
‘The Duke and Princess Hélène embarked on a long battle, however their attempts were futile, and instead the Prince became engaged to Princess Mary, seen here.
‘After his death, Queen Victoria contacted the heartbroken Princess Hélène with a letter and dried flowers from his coffin, letting her know that she had not been forgotten. Not all royal romances have a happy ending sadly and this proposed union was no exception.’
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, 1923
‘Modern’ royals: The Duke of York and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, in 1923. By choosing Elizabeth, who was not a member of a royal family, their union was considered more modern than previous royal marriages
Matthew Butson: ‘This picture shows the Queen’s parents, then styled as The Duke of York and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon as they were about to board a train to Sandringham after the announcement of their engagement in 1923.
‘This image is very much a stiff upper lip approach to such an announcement, the “happy couple” do not appear to be enjoying their time in front of the world’s media.
‘Although their formal and reserved pose may seem old-fashioned in contrast to today’s more tactile royals, by choosing Elizabeth, who was not a member of a royal family, their union was considered more modern than previous royal marriages.’
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, 1947
Platinum anniversary: The then Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten announced their engagement 70 years ago, in July 1947. It was speculated that the couple had actually become engaged the previous summer, but delayed the official announcement until the Queen was 21
‘The Queen and Prince Philip, then Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten, announced their engagement 70 years ago, in July 1947,’ Matthew said. ‘This picture was taken at Buckingham Palace shortly afterwards.
‘It was speculated that the couple had actually become engaged the previous summer, but delayed the official announcement until the Queen was 21.
‘Here, the then Princess Elizabeth proudly shows her engagement ring while looking into her future husband’s eyes—the perfect shot for the awaiting press.
‘Although the couple look very much in love, their rather reserved pose is perhaps an example of the more formal approach to an announcement like this in days gone by, as compared to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s much more relaxed and natural manner.’
Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones, 1960
Young and in love: Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones reading telegrams of congratulations after the announcement of their engagement in 1960
Matthew said: ‘This is Princess Margaret and her fiancée Anthony Armstrong-Jones reading telegrams of congratulations after the announcement of their engagement in 1960.
‘From their smiles, and the way he’s leaning in, they appear like any happy young couple.
‘However, it was widely speculated that Princess Margaret had been in love with the divorced Group Captain Peter Townsend and many had expected they would marry instead.’
Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips, 1973
Private joke: Princess Anne with Captain Mark Phillips on their engagement in 1987. ‘They married in Westminster Abbey on November 14, 1973 but later divorced in 1992
‘The Princess, who was known by this name until she was given the title of The Princess Royal by The Queen in 1987, can be seen showing off her dazzling engagement ring,’ Matthew said.
‘The couple are looking lovingly into each other’s eyes and appear to be laughing, as though sharing a private joke, despite the many photographers that would have been present.
‘They married in Westminster Abbey on November 14, 1973, in a ceremony that was televised around the world—with an estimated audience of 100 million.
‘Arguably the first of the new era of royal weddings with global media coverage, but like Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon, a marriage that would ultimately end in divorce, in 1992.’
Prince Charles and Princess Diana, 1981
Family heirloom: Prince Charles and Princess Diana at Buckingham Palace in February 1981. Princess Diana shows off the engagement ring that is now worn by the Duchess of Cambridge
‘Probably one of the most famous royal engagement announcements of them all,’ Matthew said. ‘This photo marks the engagement of Prince Charles and Princess Diana at Buckingham Palace in February 1981.
‘Prince Charles and Lady Diana married in St Paul’s Cathedral watched by 3,500 invited guests and an estimated 750 million people around the world on live television. It certainly was the wedding of the century and a national holiday was declared for the occasion.
‘Here, Princess Diana can be seen proudly showing off her engagement ring, which Kate Middleton now wears, as Prince Charles places his hand on her shoulder as a gesture of support.
‘Rather curiously Charles was made to look taller than Diana for the occasion by standing on one of the steps behind, given they were actually the same height.’
Prince Andrew and Sarah the Duchess of York, 1986
Tender: Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson offer the press a glimpse of the ring while posing in the grounds of Buckingham Palace. The couple divorced in 1996 but remain close friends
Matthew said: ‘Taken in 1986, this image shows Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew’s engagement at Buckingham Palace.
‘Here, the pair are giving the press what they want—a glimpse of the ring—while Prince Andrew tenderly holds Fergie’s hand. The white and yellow gold engagement ring featured a Burma ruby, surrounded by ten drop-diamonds.
‘Sadly, another royal marriage that ended in divorce – in 1996 -though the couple remain close friends.’
Prince Edward and Sophie the Countess of Wessex, 1998
Best friends: Prince Edward is said to have proposed to Sophie Rhys-Jones in the Bahamas just before Christmas in 1998. This was taken when the couple announced their engagement at St James’s Palace on January 6 1999, when Edward declared he and Sophie were ‘best friends’
Matthew Butson: ‘The Queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward, is said to have proposed to Sophie Rhys-Jones in the Bahamas, just before Christmas in 1998. This photo was taken when the couple formally announced their engagement at St James’s Palace on January 6 1999.
‘During the photo call the prince told the press: “We are the very best of friends and that’s essential, but it also helps that we also love each other very much.”
‘This close-up shot really accentuates the joy on Sophie’s face and, coupled with their comfortable body language, they look relaxed and very natural despite having the world’s eyes on them.
‘The Earl and Countess of Wessex went on to get married in June 1999, at St George’s Chapel in Windsor. At the couple’s request, the ceremony was primarily for family and friends.’
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, 2010
Next generation: Prince William and Catherine Middleton announce their engagement in St James’s Palace in November 2010. The couple are now expecting their third child next spring
Photographer Chris said: ‘I remember this day so vividly. I’d been photographing something fairly mundane in South London when the call came through that Prince William and Catherine Middleton (as she was then) were engaged, and we only had a couple of hours to be ready and at St James’s Palace for a photo call.
‘As the happy couple walked into the grand apartment the flashes were dazzling; photographers keen not to miss a second of this historic moment.
‘From that point on it all changed as the nation looked ahead to the excitement of the Royal Wedding—certainly one of the biggest media events of the decade, possibly the century, watched by billions around the world.’
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
Photographer Chris said: ‘People use the phrase “happy couple” but these two looked absolutely on top of the world as they posed for photographs—poignantly in the sunken garden at Kensington Palace, one of Princess Diana’s favourite places and a stunning location for that special moment.
‘Meghan looked so happy as she held tightly onto her fiance’s arm, displaying her impressive engagement ring—designed by Prince Harry and using diamonds from Princess Diana’s collection. It certainly brightened up a grey and chilly London morning!
On top of the world: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s excitement was palpable as they announced their engagement in the sunken garden at Kensington Palace this week
‘People were on the edge of their seats waiting for some kind of official announcement from the Palace over the last couple of weeks. There was much speculation it would be last week but when the tweet and email dropped at 10am on Monday, I think many were caught by surprise. It’s a great feeling to have a “feel-good” story like this, and the promise of a royal baby (for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) and now a wedding in 2018, certainly excites a royal photographer.
‘Prince Harry is fantastic to photograph—he’s an affable and extremely likable guy who gets on with the job in hand. I have spent a lot of time documenting his involvement in charity endeavors such as Sentebale and Invictus, but today was different.
‘Being a royal though means you’re involved in many different situations where you must feel the weight of history on your shoulders, and this was certainly one of those. You feel the excitement of documenting a historical moment and there was certainly the sense that this wasn’t an “everyday engagement”. Couple that with the fact you’re photographing two people very much in love and it’s an exhilarating moment for all involved!’
Courtesy: Daily Mail Online