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What The Photographer Who Took the Queen’s Last Picture Says About the ‘Unposed’ Moment

Photo Credit: Jane Barlow - WPA Pool / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Jane Barlow - WPA Pool / Getty Images

The photographer who captured the last official photograph of Queen Elizabeth II has shared some insight into the moments leading up to what has become the most iconic photo of the Queen’s final days.

Taken in the receiving room in the Royal Family’s Scottish summer residence Balmoral Castle, photographer Jane Barlow recalled the Queen looked “very happy” and “very smiley” despite her failing health.

The story behind the Queen’s final photos

Barlow was sent to photograph the Queen receiving Britain’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss, the 15th prime minister elected under her reign. “When I came into the room with the Queen’s press secretary she was very smiley and then moved across the room into position and there was a wee while,” said Barlow. “And just prior to the new prime minister arriving in the room, I had a few moments with Her Majesty and that’s when I got that picture.”

The picture shows the Queen standing in front of a fireplace holding a cane. She wore a tartan skirt with a shirt and sweater, and of course her iconic patent leather purse. While her small frame and bruised-looking hands were of some concern, the huge smile on her face said otherwise.

“It wasn’t posed at all, it was just a nice natural moment where she just looked up and smiled,” said Barlow. The photographer also noted the Queen commented on the dark and gloomy weather outside, but she seemed in “very good spirits… I got lots of smiles from her.” The historic photo has helped to assure the world that the Queen’s final day of her royal duties was a happy one spent in good company at her favorite place: Balmoral.

Queen Elizabeth II greets newly elected Prime Minister Liz Truss
Queen Elizabeth greets newly elected leader of the Conservative party Liz Truss as she arrives at Balmoral Castle. (Photo Credit: Jane Barlow – WPA Pool / Getty Images)

Queen Elizabeth II died on the evening of September 8, 2022, surrounded by her loving family. The death of the 96-year-old, Britain’s longest reigning monarch, has rocked the world into a period of mourning. Her eldest son, now King Charles III, will be officially coronated alongside his wife and Queen Consort Camilla in the coming months.

After learning of the Queen’s passing, newly-elected Prime Minister Truss shared a touching tribute to the monarch:

Britain is the great country it is today because of her… She was the very spirit of Great Britain—and that spirit will endure. It is an extraordinary achievement to have presided with such dignity and grace for 70 years… She has been a personal inspiration to me and to many Britons. Her devotion to duty is an example to us all

… Earlier this week, at 96, she remained determined to carry out her duties as she appointed me as her 15th Prime Minister… And with the passing of the second Elizabethan age, we usher in a new era in the magnificent history of our great country—exactly as Her Majesty would have wished.

Elisabeth Edwards

Elisabeth Edwards is a public historian and history content writer. After completing her Master’s in Public History at Western University in Ontario, Canada Elisabeth has shared her passion for history as a researcher, interpreter, and volunteer at local heritage organizations.

She also helps make history fun and accessible with her podcast The Digital Dust Podcast, which covers topics on everything from art history to grad school.

In her spare time, you can find her camping, hiking, and exploring new places. Elisabeth is especially thrilled to share a love of history with readers who enjoy learning something new every day!

The Digital Dust Podcast