The Queen at war

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01 April 2022
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Princess Elizabeth stood in front of an L-plated truck when she was in the ATS (IWM (TR 2835)) Princess Elizabeth stood in front of an L-plated truck when she was in the ATS (IWM (TR 2835))
The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee at IWM: exploring over 70 years of crown and conflict through photography, film and objects.
The Queen at war Images

Throughout her 70-year reign and in the decades before, Her Majesty The Queen has lived through times of conflict, maintaining an enduring relationship with the armed forces and honouring those affected by war at home and across the world. Marking the Platinum Jubilee this spring, Imperial War Museums (IWM) will present a rich programme that, for the first time in the museum’s history, explores the role of The Royal Family in conflict, tracing The Queen’s personal experience of war through poignant items, including rarely seen film and photography, in IWM’s collections.

As Princess Elizabeth, The Queen’s first public duties were during the World War II, which broke out when she was 13 years old. Upon joining the Auxiliary Territorial Service in 1945, she became the first woman in The Royal Family to enlist as a full-time member of the armed services. Since then, The Queen has supported those who serve and veterans of conflict in her role as Head of the Armed Forces, a post that continues a long royal military tradition. 

New research into IWM’s photography archive demonstrates just how keenly The Queen’s role as monarch has been shaped by her wartime experiences. This relationship between crown and conflict will be explored through IWM’s collections, bringing human stories to the foreground and providing a unique lens through which to join the national moment. From an exhibition of rarely seen photographs, to object trails and special projections of newly digitised film, visitors to IWM London, IWM Duxford and IWM North will delve into more than 70 years of history and uncover the unique role of conflict in the life of Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.

 

Crown and Conflict: Portraits of a Queen in Wartime

IWM London, 27 May 2022–8 January 2023

At IWM London, Crown and Conflict: Portraits of a Queen in Wartime is a new exhibition of poignant photographs exploring the breadth and scope of The Queen’s role in times of war. Drawing from IWM’s extensive image archive, this closely focused exhibition of 18 photographs will chart The Queen’s experience of war, from growing up in World War II and serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), to carrying out important public duties involving the armed forces. Newly digitised photographs include an image of The Queen dressed in overalls and cap while working on a vehicle during her time in the ATS and captured with her father King George VI and mother Queen Elizabeth during a visit to airborne forces in 1944. Alongside these, a more contemporary selection of images will show The Queen carrying out official duties such as meeting with members of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association and leading the annual Service of Remembrance.

Royals in Wartime

A dedicated trail of historic objects on display across five gallery spaces at IWM London will explore The Royal Family’s long-standing and intimate association with the British armed forces and its key role in times of war and conflict. Starting with a Princess Mary Gift Fund box which was sent to those serving at Christmas in 1914, this trail will guide visitors through time and space, featuring stops in IWM’s brand-new Second World War Galleries and finishing with contemporary objects from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

IWM North, 1–30 June 2022 

Throughout the month of June, the striking architecture of IWM North’s main exhibition space will host projections of film and photography that depict The Queen’s long history of involvement with the military and demonstrate the various roles she has played in war and peacetime. Beginning with some of her first official engagements as young Princess Elizabeth, visitors to IWM North will be able to enjoy a rich selection of rarely seen archive material that surveys her life in an immersive and unique setting. 

 

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee: Ready for take-off

IWM Duxford, 27 May 2022–8 January 2023

In IWM Duxford’s AirSpace visitors can get up-close with some of the world’s most famous aircraft. A trail of objects in this hangar will tell the story of British and Commonwealth aviation during The Queen’s 70-year reign, a time marked by unprecedented social, political and technological change. The year The Queen acceded the throne was the same year that the world’s first Comets entered service, slashing journey times for passenger aircraft. Visitors to IWM Duxford will be able to explore an example of this in a de Havilland Comet, which made the very first eastbound trans-Atlantic flight in 1958, and explore a new addition to the Duxford fleet – a BAe 146 aircraft that was used by The Royal Family to travel the world and one of the first jet aircraft in The Queen’s Flight.

Film

Accompanying the trail at IWM Duxford, a large-scale projection of recently digitised film from IWM’s archive will provide a visual backdrop to the permanent displays of AirSpace. Presented together for the first time, this footage offers glimpses into the official public duties of The Queen alongside more private moments in her relationship with the armed forces. With a running time of approximately ten minutes, this special display includes a colour sequence of The Queen travelling to her coronation in 1953, attended by British and Commonwealth armed forces, as well as footage of her as a young princess travelling to South Africa on HMS Vanguard in 1947 with her father King George VI, mother Queen Elizabeth, and sister Princess Margaret.

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The Queen’s Green Canopy

As part of a nation-wide tree planting initiative created to mark the Platinum Jubilee, two cherry trees have been planted at IWM Duxford. Chosen as a traditional form of remembrance for the fallen servicemen of World War II, the blooming of these cherry trees throughout the spring and summer months will act as a permanent reminder of the historic moment of the Platinum Jubilee.

 

New publication

The Royal Family in Wartime, published 12 May 2022

Showcasing over 50 photographs from IWM’s vast collections, this new publication marking the Platinum Jubilee features several rarely published photographs of Her Majesty The Queen. These images demonstrate – often in vivid colour – how the connection between royalty and the armed forces is so enduring, illustrating the many and varied ways that members of Britain’s Royal Family, from King George V to The Duke of Cambridge, have played their part in wartime over the past century.

Kate Clements, Curator of Crown and Conflict: Portraits of a Queen in Wartime and author of The Royal Family in Wartime, said, “We are delighted to be offering visitors to IWM London, IWM North and IWM Duxford a unique lens through which to explore The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Reflecting on her incredible 70-year reign, this new programming brings to light rarely seen material from IWM’s archive alongside collection objects to trace the varied roles of The Royal Family in times of conflict. From an exhibition of photographs and a brand-new publication to museum trails and projections of historic film, we hope our audiences discover something new about the enduring relationship between crown and conflict.” 

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee at IWM runs from 27 May 2022 to 8 January 2023 at IWM London and IWM Duxford and throughout the month of June 2022 at IWM North.

 

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