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The story of the royal family through their balcony photos

For over nine decades, Queen Elizabeth II has been making appearances on the Buckingham Palace balcony. The photos serve as a kind of royal family album, marking celebratory moments: birthdays, weddings, coronations and other major state occasions. They are also a meaningful markers of royal deaths, divorce and disgrace.

The Washington Post

A new page was added to that album on Thursday, when family members gathered to celebrate the queen’s Platinum Jubilee, an unprecedented 70 years on the throne. Only senior working royals and their children were present. Prince Andrew, stripped of his titles, did not attend. Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, who quit their royal responsibilities and moved to California, were not on the balcony either.

The Washington Post

Here is a look at the balcony photos that illustrate the changing face of the British monarchy.

The Washington Post

June 26, 1927.

Press Association Images

Press Association Images

Elizabeth made her public debut on the balcony when she was 14 months old. She appeared with her parents, then the Duke and Duchess of York, and her grandparents, George V and Queen Mary. The young princess wasn’t in line to become queen. But her father became King George VI after the abdication of his brother King Edward VIII.

Press Association Images

May 6, 1935.

Len Puttnam/AP

Len Puttnam/AP

Many of the early balcony photos that include Elizabeth are in black-and-white, a reminder of her longevity. In this one, at age 9, she looks out at a hat-waving crowd during her grandfather’s Silver Jubilee. King George V died about a year later.

Len Puttnam/AP

Nov. 20, 1947.

AP

AP

Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten married on Nov. 20, 1947. The bride was 21 and the groom was 26. Elizabeth first met Prince Philip of Greece when she was 8 and then again when she was 13.

AP

“Tolerance is the one essential ingredient of any happy marriage,” Philip said during a toast to his wife for their 50th wedding anniversary. “You can take it from me, the queen has the quality of tolerance in abundance.”

The queen said of Philip, “he has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years.”

AP

June 2, 1953.

AP

AP

Elizabeth became queen immediately following the death of her father in 1952 — Britain is never without a monarch. But the coronation, which has a religious aspect to it, usually occurs after a period of mourning. There was live TV coverage of the queen’s coronation on the BBC on June 2, 1953, a seminal moment in the history of British broadcasting. She was 27 years old. The waving children in the front of the balcony are Prince Charles and Princess Anne.

AP

July 6, 1977.

AP

AP

The queen celebrated her Silver Jubilee in 1977. As is often the case during jubilee years, she and Philip embarked on a global and domestic tour. The United Kingdom was struggling economically at the time, so the jubilee was widely seen as helping to buoy the nation’s spirits. This was also the year the queen became a grandmother. Today, she has four children, eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

AP

June 1981.

Bob Dear/AP

Bob Dear/AP

Lady Diana Spencer made her first appearance on the balcony in June 1981, a month before her wedding to Charles, the queen’s eldest son and heir to the throne. The royals reportedly have a strict “no ring, no bring” rule for the balcony, but Charles and Diana were engaged in this photo. They reportedly met just 13 times before he proposed.

Bob Dear/AP

July 23, 1986

Dave Caulkin/AP

Dave Caulkin/AP

Prince Andrew, the queen’s second son, and Sarah Ferguson were married July 23, 1986. They divorced 10 years later, though they still live together on a royal property in Windsor, England. Earlier this year, the queen stripped Andrew of his military titles and patronages following allegations that he committed sexual abuse. He is not expected to take part in this year’s balcony family gathering.

Dave Caulkin/AP

June 13, 1987.

Mauro Carraro/Cover Images/AP

Mauro Carraro/Cover Images/AP

This Trooping the Colour photo from 1987 features Ferguson, then-wife of Andrew; Princess Diana, who died in a car crash in 1997; and Prince Harry, who is no longer a front-line royal and did not make a balcony appearance during this year’s jubilee. Prince William and his aunt, Princess Anne, are both taking part in the ceremonial inspection of the troops.

Mauro Carraro/Cover Images/AP

June 4, 2002.

Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

Britain celebrated the queen’s Golden Jubilee, marking 50 years on the throne, in 2002. The final day of festivities drew a million-strong crowd, and even those who want Britain to become a republic conceded it was a success. “If we are going to have a monarch in this day and age, then a long period of rule by a decent, prosaic, uncontroversial, rule-bound and dutiful one like Elizabeth II is probably as good as it is likely to get,” the Guardian newspaper said in its editorial.

Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

April 29, 2011.

Matt Dunham/AP

Matt Dunham/AP

Children on the balcony have a habit of stealing the show. In this photo, family friend and flower girl Grace van Cutsem, 3, covers her ears as she stands in front of newlyweds Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

Matt Dunham/AP

June 5, 2012.

Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Only five other members of the royal family joined the monarch on the balcony for her Diamond Jubilee: Charles and his wife, Camilla; William and his wife, Catherine; and Harry. Normally, Philip would have been expected to appear on the balcony, but he had fallen ill.

Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

It has long been said that Charles has plans for a “slimmed-down” monarchy when he becomes king. But in practice, that has been happening already for some time.

Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

June 9, 2018.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

A month after the blockbuster wedding of Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex appeared on the Buckingham Palace balcony for the first time together, in June 2018. In January 2020, they stepped down as senior royals. The queen rejected Harry and Meghan’s “half-in, half-out” proposal, but also made it clear that the Sussexes remain much-loved members of her family.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

June 12, 2021.

Chris Jackson/AFP/Getty Images

Chris Jackson/AFP/Getty Images

The traditional Trooping the Colour — and subsequent balcony shot — was canceled in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic. There was still a splash of pomp, with a reduced military parade held in the grounds of Windsor Castle. During the pandemic, the queen shifted her primary residence from Buckingham Palace in London to Windsor, 22 miles west. She doesn’t appear inclined to return to big-city life.

Chris Jackson/AFP/Getty Images

June 2.

Jonathan Brady/AP

Jonathan Brady/AP

The queen stood in the center of the balcony on Thursday, as she usually does, joined by her cousin, the Duke of Kent. Her mobility is such that her attendance was only confirmed on the day. After an 82-gun salute, she was joined by members of the royal family.

Jonathan Brady/AP

June 2.

Alastair Grant/AP

Alastair Grant/AP

There were notable omissions. Prince Andrew and Prince Harry and Meghan did not join the queen. Ahead of the jubilee, a palace official said that only working members of the royal family would be on the balcony.

Alastair Grant/AP

More from the Post

Platinum Jubilee: A last bash for Queen Elizabeth II and the party Brits need

Queen Elizabeth II: A visual timeline of her 70 years on the throne

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Editing by Chloe Coleman, Marisa Bellack and Reem Akkad