Documentary Captures the Moment Annie Leibovitz Was 'Told off' for Asking the Queen to Remove Her Crown for Some Portraits

It seems even the most reputable photographers in the industry aren’t immune from criticism. During a photo session with the Queen herself, Annie Leibovitz was “scolded” for asking her to remove her crown for a few shots.

Revealed as part of BBC One’s documentary “A Year with the Queen,” the exchange happened during a 2007 shoot which was taking place in the US. Leibovitz is quoted as asking:

Could we try without the crown? It would look better, less dressy. The garter robe is so...

It was here that the Queen cut in, remarking: "Less dressy? What do you think this is?" She claimed removing her crown would involve having to revert back to the dressing room in order to tidy up her hair again. It was here one of the Queen’s assistants explained that once the crown was off, it couldn’t be put back on.

Interestingly, when the clip was first used in a trailer for the documentary, the BBC were forced to issue an apology after they falsely made it seem the Queen had left the set as a result of the conversation, which in actual fact was not true. Their statement read:

In this trailer, there is a sequence that implies that the Queen left a sitting prematurely. This was not the case, and the actual sequence of events was misrepresented. The BBC would like to apologise to both the Queen and Annie Leibovitz for any upset this may have caused.

Check out the clip to see the pair exchange words and how the rest of the shoot went.

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44 Comments

LA M's picture

She should have known...it's not some cheesy fashion shoot for Instagram. It was the queen of the world's most significant superpower...hundreds of years old.

Dave F's picture

And yet if you watch through to the next frame, she isn't wearing it anymore.

LA M's picture

Meaning what?

That she isn't savvy enough to realize these are different times and she needs to play along?

Dave F's picture

Well apparently her request wasn't as ridiculous as you would suggest, given that she took it off.

LA M's picture

It was a ridiculous request.

The subject was probably talked to in private. "This is the world we live in now...play along"

We all do things that are ridiculous to survive.

Pedro Pulido's picture

you have too much free time if this is the kind of thing you like to complain about........

LA M's picture

Actually I have lot's of free time at this point in the year...but who's complaining?

Dave F's picture

Let me get this straight....

“It was the queen of the world's most significant superpower...hundreds of years old”

“The subject was probably talked to in private.”

That’s literally the definition of trying to have it both ways.

LA M's picture

You are slow on the uptake huh...ok.

R G's picture

I am already regretting having chimed in here - Leigh Miller : are you STONED ?! Have you ever seen A L do a cheesy Fashion Shoot for Instagram ? lol ... " different times and she needs to play along " - A L needs to play along - that is the funniest thing I ever heard ! I just looked at your work - and now I get it : you life breath the concept of ' having to play along ' ! Next time you comment on a legendary - Game Changing Photographer - be so kind and do a little research - analyze their careers - figure out why they became who they are today - and why they're so successful and influential ! A L became A L because she did NOT play along - she asked her models to do the most outrageous things - if it is a day-laborer or the f__ queen of Brexit ....

Chase Wilson's picture

Does anyone speak Dutch? I’m interested in what Erwin Olaf has to say about that short clip.

Mike Yamin's picture

Since he wasn't mentioned in the article, I wasn't sure if anyone else realized that was him! Another great photographer in his own right.

Ignace Maenhaut van Lemberge's picture

He was very amused by Annie Leibovitz saying 'less dressy' and asking the Queen to take of her crown.
He also said that he wouldn't dare to ask this but that Ms. Leibovitz had to because it was her vision for some of the pictures.. I also think the Queen reacted with humor and wasn't very upset by her question..
By the way.. wonderful portfolio Mr. Wilson

Chase Wilson's picture

Thanks for the translation and the kind words my friend.

Jim Cutler's picture

I have no dog in this hunt. But I believe it's easy to say she should have known better. In the end Annie would be judged only on the final images. That's all. Everything in that final image, every detail is the artist's responsibility. So she should at least ask. I have no need to argue this with anyone so if you disagree with me your take is just as valid as mine.

Deleted Account's picture

Well stated, Jim. Love or hate Liebowitz... at least she has the guts to ask. :)

Tony Clark's picture

I think that I saw this video a decade ago, it’s old news. Let the Queen wear whatever she likes.

Deleted Account's picture

Hmmm... read the whole article. The truth comes out. The BBC sensationalized the moment by implying things that weren't so.

Of course her crown comes off. However, like any lady of such quality... her hair needed to be reset. Bad form, BBC... making the Queen look like a primadonna for a viewing grab.

Dana Goldstein's picture

It came out at the time. This is all very old news. It’s just that the writer here is 28 years old, so I guess it’s new to *him*.

Frank Kinser's picture

I don't know what the fuss is about. I believe that Leibovitz has the right to ask the queen to remove her crown, and of course, the "Q" could refuse. However, does she not put her knickers on the same way everyone else does?

Deleted Account's picture

Huzzah! :)

Timothy Turner's picture

Slow news day?

David Love's picture

All those assistants to set the lights, set the camera and just her to click the button before giving it to her retoucher to finish the image, hard work. I watched her tutorials on masterclass and the whole time I was thinking I should be watching one from the people that do the work for her.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

You are in the technical stage. That’s good. I’m also on the stage of reinventing my light setup. And your photos are much more amazing than mine.

But emotions is the main reason to hire you.

Alex Herbert's picture

I think at a point it's because of your name that you get hired. Like with everything else in life. You become 'big' and everyone wants a piece, which in turn makes you bigger. Could they hire someone without the name and get exactly the same, equivalent or better shots? Probably. Would they? Nah, they want YOU!

Tom Lew's picture

I used to gripe and complain and feel the same.. but to put it another way.. you hire somebody for their vision and proven ability to deliver, not their technical expertise. AT&T bet on Steve Jobs for his vision, not because he could assemble iphones off the assembly line or write code for apps.

Mike Ditz's picture

Anyone can shoot the queen with the crown.

Nils Heininger's picture

This is a hilarious situation. I wish she took a picture of the Queen's facial expression when she asked her to take off the crown. Reminds me of Yousuf Karsh taking away Churchill's cigar.

Ward Vanlingen's picture

Funny thing is that in this clip Erwin Olaf and the interviewer go on about the Dutch Royals. Erwin suggests that they should get Mario Testino to do a shoot. Now, years later, Erwin Olaf himself is pretty much the household photographer for all official portraits of the dutch royals! His work is exquisite!

Michael Comeau's picture

Annie wasn't scolded. The Queen was using classic semi-sarcastic British humor.

At 2:15 in the video, the Queen is clearly smiling, because it was indeed a funny situation -- Annie saying the outfit would be less dressy without the crown.

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