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The story behind the black-and-white photo used to announce Queen Elizabeth II's death

The photo used for the announcement of Queen Elizabeth's death was taken by photographer Jane Bown in 2006
Queen Elizabeth II in a photograph taken by Jane Bown (@RoyalFamily/Twitter)
Queen Elizabeth II in a photograph taken by Jane Bown (@RoyalFamily/Twitter)

LONDON, ENGLAND: A gorgeous black-and-white photo of the longest-reigning British monarch, shot more than 15 years ago as she celebrated a significant milestone, was used by the palace to announce the news of the Queen's death on Twitter and Instagram after she passed away on Thursday at the age of 96. "I am not an artist, I'm just a hack," the late photographer Jane Bown, who was 81 at the time, is said to have told Queen Elizabeth during a photographing session in 1995.

The portrait released along with the news of her demise was taken in February 2006 on the event of the Queen's 80th birthday. It was featured in Bown's 2009 book 'Exposures'. "Queen Elizabeth II selected Jane Bown to take a photographic portrait at the start of her eightieth birthday year. Bown (a fellow octogenarian) worked as a professional photographer since the late 1940s," a description of the image by Royal Collection Trust states. 


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Queen Elizabeth in a photo taken by Jane Bow that was also used to announce her death. (Photo via @cbs/Twitter)
Queen Elizabeth in a photo taken by Jane Bown that was also used to announce her death (Royal family/Twitter)

The picture was also included in the 2012 Diamond Jubilee celebration exhibit 'The Queen: 60 Photographs for 60 Years' put on by the Royal Collection Trust. Following the Diamond Jubilee of her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria (1837–1901) in 1897, Queen Elizabeth was the second British monarch to accomplish that milestone. Royal Collection Trust recognized Bown for her "unpretentious technique, working at speed, using only available light, and for working in black and white rather than color."

According to The Independent, Bown reportedly said, "I spent my whole life worrying about time and light. If I had time it was something, but if I had light it was even better." Bown passed away in December 2014 at the age of 89. She had been photographing for The Observer since 1949, and in 2000, the Royal Photographic Society granted her an honorary fellowship. In 1985, she received an MBE, and in 1995, a CBE.

The Royal Family issued a statement along with the picture that read, "The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow." The freshly crowned 27-year-old monarch during her coronation in 1953 was depicted in a statement on the royal family's website at the very beginning of her reign. The 96-year-old Queen Elizabeth passed away on Thursday afternoon. In June 2021, Prince Philip, her spouse of 73 years, passed away at the age of 99. She is promptly replaced in power by her eldest son, King Charles III, 73, who is currently the ruler.