One image is of a happy little girl enjoying a carefree outing in 1934, the other is of a nonagenarian monarch in 2020, as stoic and graceful as ever.
It might not sound like there should be much to compare between these two photographs and yet they are remarkably similar - both portraying The Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) riding a pony in the grounds of Windsor Castle. At eight and 94 alike, she is dressed in a timelessly elegant equestrian look.
Keep calm and carry on riding. If The Queen did own a novelty tea towel, then I really wouldn’t be surprised if it bore this slogan.
Now that she is sheltering in Windsor for the foreseeable future as the Coronavirus remains a threat, Her Majesty is tasked with remaining a reassuring presence for the nation - and the world - despite being unable to make her usual public appearances.
Initially this issue was solved through two morale-boosting broadcasts, one to mark the 75th anniversary of V.E day and another to counsel that we ‘will meet again’ despite the lockdown measures. Now, The Queen and her courtiers will be searching for more subtle ways to keep her front of mind.
What better than a new image of Her Majesty enjoying one of her best-loved pursuits? It’s a balm to know that there is still some semblance of normality for our equine-mad monarch, but is there any sight more comforting, too, than seeing her in yet another jolly silk headscarf, as immaculately knotted in place as ever? In that pristine tweed blazer and spotless cream jodhpurs, too, is a message of an unerring dedication to keeping up appearances.
The Queen may have made brightly coloured coats with matching hats and Launer handbags into her public uniform, but she has an equally resolute approach to dressing for more private pursuits which has become just as, if not more, iconic. Via carefully selected photo opportunities, she has crafted an image which blends equestrian sophistication and British tradition, upholding those values in an ever-transforming world.
In the early years of her reign, the Queen’s riding look was often captured in fast motion - she was photographed cantering at Royal Ascot in 1961, that famous silk scarf slipping to the back of her head in the wind. It was a shared passion with her children, too. In 1975, she rode with Princess Anne - a talented rider herself who competed at the 1976 Montreal Olympics as part of the British Eventing team - in Ascot; notably, Anne is casually dressed in a padded jacket and baker boy cap while her mother remains immaculate in a blazer and silk scarf.
In 1971, Patrick Lichfield took a series of portraits of The Queen, Prince Philip and their family to mark the couple’s 25th wedding anniversary in 1972. Naturally, this involved Her Majesty in all her equestrian glory, wearing a saffron-edge scarf with a matching shirt.
The Queen gave her beloved riding attire a turn on the world stage in 1982 when she was pictured riding with US President Ronald Reagan, both leaders dressed in matching long riding boots, jodhpurs and blazers, the Queen’s ensemble softened by a powder pink silk headscarf.
Indeed, it is via those headscarves that The Queen asserts spark and individuality whenever she wears them with the rest of her equestrian get-up. Often opting for designs by French luxury maison Hermes, Her Majesty’s collection spans pretty floral designs, novelty corgi-emblazoned options and abstract art prints.
In this latest example of equestrian chic, there is a message in her choice of headscarf. The fuchsia design incorporates different jockey silks - a timely nod to her private passion for horse racing and breeding (The Racing Post is said to be the first newspaper she reads each day and she has bred hundreds of racehorses over the years), given that the picture was released the day before racing was allowed to resume in the UK and at the beginning of June, the month in which some of her best-loved race meetings including the Epsom Derby and Royal Ascot take place.
Whether you share The Queen’s love for racing or not, the sight of her as classically elegant as ever atop her pony is a joy to behold.