Elizabeth Queen of Scots

A striking photograph of the Queen, taken in the open countryside near her Balmoral estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, has just been released after being kept under wraps for nearly 3 years.

Dressed in the robes of Scotland’s Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, the Queen also wore the emerald-covered Vladimir Tiara – once owned by the Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna, aunt of the last Tsar Nicholas II – which was smuggled out of Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917.

Photographer Julian Calder said: “We wanted to photograph the Queen as the Queen of Scots and I wanted to do it as a Raeburn painting. He did paintings of Scottish clan chiefs and I thought they were very romantic. In the picture the Queen is obviously looking at us but we wanted to have her looking at the massed clans on the distant hills.”

The photograph is one of 100 portraits in a new book called Keepers, published to mark the Queen’s 60th anniversary on the Throne. She agreed to be photographed after an approach by the book’s author Alastair Bruce, a direct descendant of Robert the Bruce.

For the location of the shoot in August 2010, Mr Calder and Mr Bruce chose a remote stream called Gelder Burn, which runs into the River Dee.

Mr Calder said: “We spnt the day before the shoot looking at locations on the Balmoral estate which weren’t too far from the Castle. We looked at three locations and decided this was the best one. It’s remote, you can seen the heather was out and everything was right about it. Creatively, the curve of the stream could mirror the curve of the cape. The dark green of the trees and the heather all worked as a composition. It had all the ingredients.

Mr Calder said there were concerns about the Scottish weather, as well as the midges which notoriously infest the Highlands:

“The Queen was concerned – as we all were – that because the wind had dropped and it had been raining that the midges would come out. We had seen her on the day of the shoot and she said, ‘As long as it’s not raining we will do it’. There was anxiety about midges. There are two stages of a midge attack – in the first you think you are going to die, and in the second you are worried you might not. Of course, when the Queen left the midges came out and we nearly died putting the kit away.”