On March 28th, 2007, Annie Leibovitz became the first American to take a portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
As her new exhibit, “Women,” opens in London, Leibowitz was asked about her most famous subject and what really happened that day in Buckingham Palace.
Was there “controversy?”
Was the Queen being difficult, as the BBC claimed at the time?
In an excerpt from her 2008 book, Annie at Work, Leibowitz recalled the shoot, which took place ahead of Her Majesty’s US visit to mark the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, Virginia.
“It’s ironic that the sitting with the Queen became controversial. I’m rather proud of having been in control of a complicated shoot,” Leibowitz wrote.
The network was filming a documentary about Her Majesty at the time, so a production crew was present.
“The controversy arose about two months after the pictures were published, when the BBC claimed that the Queen had walked out while we were shooting.
“I would never have agreed to their being there if I felt I had any choice, but they had been following her around for months. Their microphone picked up her saying, ‘I’ve had enough of dressing like this, thank you very much,’ as she marched down the hall.
“Later, when segments of footage for the BBC were edited for a promotional film, it appeared as if the Queen were stomping out of the photo session rather than going into it. Thus the brouhaha.
“This was completely untrue, and although they retracted the claim and issued an apology to the Queen and to me almost immediately, the scandal had a life of its own. The story, which came to be referred to as Queengate, wouldn’t die.
“Eventually the head of BBC One resigned over it.”
Last week, Leibowitz has nothing but praise for the monarch while speak with CNN’s Christine Amanpour.
“That was the session that had so much controversy over it. And I said, ‘what are you talking about?'” Leibowitz said, according to the Daily Express.
“I mean, she was just incredible to work with.”
Though Leibowitz did admit that the Queen was “a bit cranky” during the shoot, she knew there was a job to be done.
“Oh my god, she’s feisty,” Leibowitz said.
“The reality is, she is a woman with a great sense of duty. She has so much energy and so much drive. And she definitely has opinions.”
What’s more, Leibowitz revealed that what she loved most about the Queen is that she does her own hair and makeup.
“Right after we finished, I went up to the press secretary and said how much I loved the Queen. Later I mentioned to a couple of friends that she had been a bit cranky, but it was nothing unusual. What was remarkable about the shoot, and I wrote the Queen a note about this later, was something the BBC missed: her resolve, her devotion to duty.
“She stayed until I said it was over. Until I said, ‘Thank you.’ We were finished a little before our allotted 25 minutes were up.