Cartoonists and the Royal Family, 1953-2003
This group of cartoons shows the changing representation of Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal family, in the fifty years after her coronation in 1953.
During the first decade of the Queen’s reign, newspaper cartoonists maintained the deference and respect that had been shown to British royalty since the late nineteenth century. Readers would protest if her face was shown in a newspaper cartoon, and Stanley Franklin, who became the Daily Mirror political cartoonist in 1959, acknowledged that “in my first few years on the Mirror you drew only the back view of the Queen.” There were, however, no reservations about drawing her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, and he came to feature in many cartoons.
Contemporaries looked in amazement at the way Royalty had been caricatured a hundred and fifty years earlier, and believed that the difference arose from the character of the present Queen and her family. “The art of impaling Royalty with a political cartoon is lost today,” wrote the journalist Tom Cullen in 1969, “possibly because present-day Royalty lead such exemplary lives that there is nothing visible into which the cartoonist can sink his harpoon.”
A major catalyst for change was the Queen herself, who followed her Press Secretary’s advice and allowed the BBC to film her private life. The resulting two-hour documentary “The Royal Family” was shown in 1969, and was watched by a vast audience of 31 million. For cartoonists the Queen and her family were now fair game, and their deference quickly disappeared. Within twenty years they were treating the Queen as just another public figure whose life was open to comment and ridicule.
An overview of all records in the group with annotations (where entered).
Showing records 1 to 12 of 51.
This cartoon of Prince Philip, drawn by the sixty-two year old caricaturist Ralph Sallon, was drawn during his visit to Canada. It demonstrates the popularity of the Prince at this date, and his usefulness for cartoonists wanting to depict Royalty.
This cartoon, by John Musgrave-Wood ("Emmwood") is characteristic of depictions of the Queen in the first decade of her reign. Shown on a Royal tour of India, Emmwood has chosen to draw her from the back and in silhouette, despite the fact that photographs of the Queen on the same elephant ride appeared in the "Daily Mail."
This cartoon, by the fifty-two year old cartoonist Joe Lee, underlines the fact that the Queen's coronation, on 2 June 1953, was a major television event. The Queen began her reign in a highly visible manner, and on a wave of popularity. A cartoon by David Low in the Manchester Guardian [LSE4519], criticising the cost of the Coronation festivities, was attacked as "a new low in sheer bad taste".
Another favourite trick used by cartoonists reluctant to draw the Queen was to hide her behind her husband, Prince Philip. In this cartoon Michael Cummings of the "Daily Express" has drawn an actual event in the Queen's visit to Ghana, without showing much more than her hat and the back of her skirt.
This cartoon by Wally Fawkes ("Trog") shows another common trick used by cartoonists in the 1950s when depicting the Queen. She was often drawn from behind, almost completely hidden behind the throne, although there was no such reticence about drawing Prince Philip.
Another cartoon by Wally Fawkes, still deferential in drawing the Queen from the back, but starting to break the taboos by treating her very informally.
Another deferential drawing of the Queen from behind, this time by the fifty-two year old JON (William John Philpin Jones) in the Daily Mail. The Queen is shown opening Parliament, and the joke refers to an attack on Parliament published in the same paper the previous day, by the commentator Bernard Levin.
The changing attitude of cartoonists to the Royal Family was partly response to the greater willingness of its members to appear in the media. By 1967 Prince Philip in particular was willing to make controversial public statements, and frequently appeared in the newspapers and on television. Wally Fawkes suggests that the Prince is becoming better known as a public figure than a member of the Royal Family.
Another cartoon, this time by Carl Giles of the Daily Express, combines a very informal representation of the Queen and Prince Philip on a tube train, with the careful deference of showing them from the back.
The entry of the Royal Family into the media was at first carefully managed. The Investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales in July 1969 was the subject of a documentary called "A Prince for Wales", in which he was interviewed by David Frost. Stanley Franklin of the Daily Mirror suggests that the interview was likely to be rather sycophantic.
Wally Fawkes' informal depiction of the Queen and Prince Philip was published after Prince Charles appeared as a dustman in a student review at the University of Cambridge, and Princess Anne drove a bus when opening a transport training centre. Fawkes later recalled that even these gentle cartoons of the Queen would attract complaints from readers.
When this cartoon by Leslie Illingworth appeared in the Daily Mail, the Queen had just admitted that she was living beyond her Civil List allowance, and was using her private income to subsidise public functions. In a television interview, broadcast the previous day, Prince Philip even suggested that “we may have to move into smaller premises”. This cartoon shows the Queen - still drawn from the back - attending the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium that night, with Prince Philip saying "At least it's free."