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Julia Boggio photographs the Queen

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The Queen comes to Merton as part of her Diamond Jubilee by Julia Boggio

On Tuesday, May 15, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited St Mark’s Academy in Merton. As two-time winner of Entrepreneur of the Year in the borough and one of its most well-known photographers, I was asked by Merton Council to capture the event to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee.

The last time the Queen made an official visit to Merton was 35 years ago (aside from a visit to the tennis in 2010 when Andy Murray was playing). Before Henry VIII demolished all the abbeys, kings and queens were actually crowned in Merton Abbey – yes, just next to where Julia Boggio Studios is located.

Merton Abbey crowning of Kings and Queens by Julia Boggio

Now the remains of the Abbey lie underneath a dual carriageway. Merton has quite a royal history – and, of course, one of the biggest tennis championships in the world – so it’s understandable why it would secure a place on the Diamond Jubilee tour.

James, my assistant Marte, and I made our way to the school early on Tuesday morning to clear security and start photographing the details of the event. So many people had put in their time and skills to make the day go off without a hitch; florists, caterers, organisers, and the school children all worked hard to make sure it was a special day for Merton and the Queen. And my duty was to record it all, so that our studio could design and produce a beautiful commemorative album to celebrate the occasion. No pressure!

Flowers by the Covent Garden Academy of Flowers by Julia Boggio

Children enjoying the Diamond Jubilee by Julia Boggio

As the Queen’s arrival time drew near, everybody looked to the stormy sky, willing it to clear up. Personally, I had two camera bodies slung around my neck and I spent ages on my hair that morning. Thankfully, the skies did clear, just as the students were coming out to take their places.

Flag waving for Queen's Diamond Jubilee at St Marks Academy by Julia Boggio

The excitement ran high. Teachers handed out British flags to the children, who in turn flicked them in the wind so much that I feared they’d develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Marte created a Mexican Wave of flapping flags as she ran down the line with her camera held above her head. Local councilors adorned in their chains of office were just as keyed up as the kids, smiling broadly for the camera. A student samba band beat their drums with gusto, mirroring the pounding of thousands of enthusiastic heartbeats.

Queen's Diamond Jubilee visit to St Marks Academy Merton by Julia Boggio

Inside, where James was waiting in a reception room of lucky people who would get to meet the royal pair, they thought every cheer from the crowd outside meant they’d arrived. But frankly the crowd was cheering for everything. First, some of the Queen’s party pulled up. They got a cheer.

Teachers enjoying the Diamond Jubilee at St Marks Academy by Marte Rekaa for Julia Boggio

Tense minutes went by as we all listened for the tell tale chop chop of the royal vanguard, a helicopter. When it was spotted, that also got a cheer. Then finally, the car arrived. A fanfare, composed specifically for this moment, was played by a row of trumpeters.

Queen's arrival at St Marks Academy for Diamond Jubilee by Marte Rekaa for Julia Boggio

At this point, I could feel some tears of emotion gathering in the corner of my eyes. I was about to see and photograph the Queen. THE QUEEN! The last time I had seen her was from a looooong distance outside of Buckingham Palace. I was about to be feet – inches even – from her. It was so cold that I was shaking a bit. That’s my story, anyway.

The Queen arrives at St Marks Academy in Merton by Julia Boggio

Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness Prince Philip stepped from the car. The crowd went wild. Forgetting instantly how cold my fingers were, I snapped into action, alternating between my two cameras with the biggest, goofiest smile on my face. First impression? She’s so cute! She looked resplendent in blue, matching her eyes perfectly. Prince Philip followed behind, doing pretty well for a man of his age.

Julia Boggio photographs the Queen for her Diamond Jubilee in Merton 2012

Before heading into the reception, where James and many others were waiting to meet her, she conversed briefly with the mayor, head teacher, head boy and girl, then she disappeared to freshen up; after all, she had just come from an event in Bromley and was heading off to another one in Richmond afterwards, where she was going to have tea with couples celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. Marte and I went to the reception marquee to wait for her.

The room was pin-drop silent. A few nervous giggles crept through from people surely thinking, “Oh my god, I’m about to meet the Queen!”, including James who has been practically been sleeping with the invitation under his pillow. The marquee was full of about 100 people, who were notable citizens of Merton.

The Queen meets the people of Merton for her Diamond Jubilee by Julia Boggio

In a carefully choreographed figure 8, the Queen and Prince Philip divided the room, shaking hands and giving each person full attention. Even as I was photographing I was struck by how genuinely interested and friendly they both were. Prince Philip laughed along with some of the guests; the Queen smiled and was amused.

Prince Philip jokes with the people of Merton at the Diamond Jubilee by Julia Boggio

As one might expect, I had the usual slew of worry dreams the night before, centered around two things: 1) that my camera wouldn’t work and 2) that I wouldn’t get the photo of my husband meeting the Queen. So when it came time for James’ big moment, I was poised and ready. Everybody knew I had to get that shot, even the Queen’s Press Secretary.

James Derbyshire of Julia Boggio studios meets the Queen as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Merton

James had prepared a few words to say to the Queen. He chose to speak about how we’d been commissioned to capture the event and design a commemorative album for Merton. She said, “How nice.” And then he says, “And my wife is photographing the event. In fact, here she is.” At which point, the whole party turns to look at me. Caught completely off guard, I lowered my camera, waved awkwardly, and said “hi!” Then I quickly put the camera back to my eye and kept shooting. Not exactly what I would have liked to say to THE QUEEN and, when I replay the moment in my head, I come up with much better things to utter than “hi!” But she smiled indulgently. Well, I’m a colonial, after all. That’s my excuse.

Next on the schedule was the Chefs Adopt-a-School session, which is part of the Academy of Culinary Arts and is a charity supported by the Prince of Wales. The room was full of school children and Chef Idras Caldora was leading them in a colourful exploration of taste; for example, there was a red jelly that tasted like mint. My favourite was when the kids had to suck on some lemon. Their faces were hilarious! We gave some lemon to the baby the other day (come on – all parents do it at some point) and, after the initial surprise, she actually really liked it.

Idras Caldora from Chefs Adopt a School meets the Queen as part of her Diamond Jubilee by Julia Boggio

The Queen and Prince Philip stopped to say hello and find out more about the programme, as well as chat gently with one of the children (he won’t forget that day soon). They then disappeared into a room where they were having lunch with about 120 guests. We weren’t allowed to cover this part, as no one can photograph the Royals while they eat. Who can blame them?

At this point we were on the home stretch. It felt strangely like a wedding day and all the guests had just sat down for the wedding breakfast. All we had left to shoot were the speeches, the cake cutting and the first dance, so to speak.

After the lunch, the Mayor made a short speech. One of the students, who later presented the Queen with some flowers, made a very touching speech when she thanked the Queen on behalf of all the mothers and grandmothers of the nation, as she plays both of these roles, as well as Queen. For some reason, this really made me well up.

The Queen meets the students from the University of West London by Julia Boggio

Finally, the Queen got up and thanked a receiving line made up of the wait staff. Prince Philip and she retired for another five minutes to freshen up and then she unveiled a plaque commemorating the visit.

A student from St Marks Academy presents the Queen with flowers as part of her Diamond Jubilee by Julia Boggio

I absolutely love this photo that my assistant captured of the school student who is obviously so over-awed by standing next to the Queen that his jaw dropped open in excitement. Classic.

How to act when meeting the Queen by Marte Rekaa for Julia Boggio

Done with her official duty, the Queen graciously turned to greet the crowd (who, of course, went wild).

The Queens departs for Richmond as part of her Diamond Jubilee by Julia Boggio

Before I knew it, she had climbed into her car and was doing the infamous royal wave. I love this photo that I captured of her leaving the event as it really epitomises her for me. She made a lot of people very happy on this day.

The Queen gives her famous royal wave to the crowds at St Marks Academy in Merton by Julia Boggio

It was a genuinely exciting occasion and my American heart thrilled at the opportunity and experience of photographing the Queen. Now we just have to work on organising that portrait sitting…

Julia Boggio photographs the Queen at St Marks Academy in Merton


23 thoughts on “Julia Boggio photographs the Queen

  1. Julia, these are so beautiful photos if such an amazing experience. I can’t even imagine how nerve wracking it must have been but you have done Merton and the UK proud 🙂

  2. So so so soooooooo awesome Julia!!!! Love both the article and amazing pics, a day you and James def won’t forget for the rest of your lives, what a privilege!

  3. My God Julia, these photos are superb! I feel like a proud mama!
    James – I have never seen the Queen look so happy to meet someone…was your shirt unbuttoned?!

  4. Julia! So amazing! I can totally understand your emotion and excitement! Glorious photos and I simply adore the Queen’s HAT! Beautiful. Congratulations on a pretty amazing photo opportunity!
    🙂 Karin @ Cafe Bebe

    (PS- Looking forward to meeting you at BritMums Live!)

  5. Congratulations and what a great job, loving the three quarter with HRH in the background right! Merton must be proud of you both!

  6. Beautiful photographs, I think my hands would have been shaking too much! What a fantastic opportunity, and well deserved 🙂

  7. These photos are some of the best that ive seen of the Queen. She looks natural and genuinely smiling, she looks real! Well done Julia and Marte – they are amazing.

  8. WOW! What a great honour! 😀
    Many, many congratulations for 1. Getting the job. 2. Taking beautiful pictures!

    Tuesday I will be taking pictures of the Olympic torch, so hope I do as good a job with that as you did here! 🙂

    (The Olympics, the jubilee…what a great year!) 😀

  9. These photographs are beautiful– you’ve captured the spirit of the day and the Queen looks positively lovely. I agree that they are the best I’ve ever seen of her!

  10. You lucky, lucky girl what a fabulous opportunity and you have executed it beautifully, your photos are a delight to look at and will be treasured by many people for many years.
    Cheers to that Julia!

  11. Congratulations on being asked to commemorate and chronicle.
    Looks like you had pretty close contact and held your nerve. Well done to all at Boggio Studios.

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