Annie Leibovitz became one of the world’s preeminent portrait photographers by shooting bold portraits of famous people. But during one shoot with Queen Elizabeth a decade ago, Leibovitz took her creative direction a step too far and got a mild scolding from the Queen.
Back in 2007, Leibovitz was hired to shoot a set of portraits of the Queen at Buckingham Palace in preparation for a state visit to the United States. The photographer and her 11 assistants spent 3 weeks preparing for the 30-minute photo shoot.
The Queen was to start things off wearing the full regalia of the ancient Order of the Garter, complete with tiara, and the “complicated” and “cumbersome” outfit took longer than expected to put on, delaying the start time by 15 minutes.
After Leibovitz finally got the Queen seated at the first portrait location, she had an idea for a last-minute change.
“I think it will look better without the crown,” the photographer told the Queen. “[…] Could we try without the crown? It will look better… less dressy. Because the garter robe is so…”
But before Leibovitz could finish her sentence, the Queen cut her off.
“Less dressy?” the Queen replied with annoyance in her voice and on her face. “What do you think this is?…”
The Queen’s dresser then quickly informed Leibovitz that once the crown is removed, it can’t be put back on for the rest of the photo shoot.
“It can’t? Okay…” Leibovitz replied. “Um… Well, maybe… I have an idea: let’s take a couple frames with it on, then we’ll take it off and leave it off for the rest of the shooting. Is that okay?”
The Queen agreed but said that she would first have to go back and tidy her hair after the crown is removed.
This exchange was captured in A Year with the Queen, a 2007 fly-on-the-wall BBC documentary that followed the British Royal Family over the course of a year.