Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Royal Profile: Patrick Lichfield

Patrick Lichfield was probably best known as a cousin of the Queen and the photographer who took the portraits for the wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981. However, there was more to Patrick Lichfield than his proximity to the royal family.

Thomas Patrick John Anson, 5th Earl of Lichfield, was born on the 25th of April 1939. His parents were William, Viscount Anson and Princess Georg of Denmark, the former Anne Bowes-Lyon, daughter of John Bowes-Lyon, the late Queen Mother's brother. Although he bore the title of the Earl of Lichfield, a title inherited from his grandfather, when he was working he preferred to be called plain 'Patrick'.

Educated at Harrow and Sandhurst, he served as a lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards before becoming a photographer. Early in his career, he found an increasing demand for editorial work in national newspapers and various magazines, including Life during the Vietnam war, although not in the war zone. His biggest break came when the legendary Diana Vreeland gave him a 5-year contract with Vogue magazine. He worked in numerous advertising campaigns including, from 1978, the prestigious Unipart calendar.

He took up photography at the age of six, taking his first picture of the Queen when he was playing in a cricket match against Eton. Unfortunately, these pictures will never be published as the headmaster confiscated his camera shortly afterwards. Undeterred, his first official royal sitting was with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in 1967, thus beginning a working relationship with the royal family.

His royal portfolio ranged from the 1971 group photograph of 26 members of the royal family, the Silver Wedding portrait of the Queen and Prince Philip, to an intimate photograph of Prince Charles with his young cousin Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones at Balmoral. His most recent commission was a portrait of the Queen for her Golden Jubilee in 2002. He published numerous books on photography and his work has been exhibited worldwide. He was awarded Fellowships from the British Institute of Professional Photographers and The Royal Photographic Society.

Before his photographic career took off he came close to springboard diving for Britain, but missed out on a place on the Olympic team. He loved swimming and in the 1980's he became a qualified underwater diver, spending much of his free time doing so on the Carribean island of Mustique where he had a home. His other hobbies included sky-diving, cricket, and riding motorcycle.

Patrick Lichfield married Lady Leonora Mary Grosvenor, who was the eldest daughter of the 5th Duke of Westminster. They were divorced in 1986. The marriage produced three children, Lady Rose (born 1976), Thomas, Viscount Anson (born 1978), and Lady Eloise (born 1981).

On November 10th, 2005 he suffered a stroke and was taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, where he died the following morning.

© Marilyn Braun

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