Previously unseen photographs of the Queen and Prince Philip relaxing at a picnic have emerged for sale in Suffolk in an astonishing archive from the estate of author Daphne du Maurier.
One of the images show a youthful Queen Elizabeth sitting on a blanket eating sandwiches next to Prince Philip. She is wearing a tartan skirt and the prince is resplendent in country attire, including plus fours.
Other snaps show the smiling Queen Mother sitting on a picnic blanket with du Maurier.
The writer’s husband, Lieutenant General Sir Frederick ‘Boy’ Browning, was a close colleague of Lord Mountbatten during World War II and was asked to work for the Royal family on his return home.
The photos are not dated but auctioneers Rowley’s in Ely, Cambridgeshire, believe they are post-war, though it is uncertain if they were taken before or after Elizabeth’s Coronation in 1953. The location in the amateur snaps has a Scottish feel and might be on the Balmoral estate.
As the photographs were amongst Du Maurier’s archives it is likely that they were taken by her husband, ‘Boy’ Browning. He served both Princess Elizabeth’s household and then Prince Philip’s when Elizabeth became Queen.
The photos were discovered in Suffolk in an archive spanning more than 40 years of correspondence between du Maurier, who is famous for her haunting novels Rebecca and Jamaica Inn, and her close friend Maureen Baker-Munton. Baker-Munton became ‘Boy’ Browning’s PA in the 1940s when they met in India.
After the war, Browning was invited to work for Princess Elizabeth’s household as comptroller and Maureen joined him as his assistant. Sometime after this, Maureen and Daphne became friends and corresponded regularly, with Maureen often asked to act as Daphne’s eyes and ears in London.
Other photographs include the Queen and Prince Philip on board ‘Boy’ Browning’s yacht Fanny Rosa and a very young Prince Charles and Princess Anne playing in toy boats on the deck of a yacht, possibly the Royal yacht.
Amongst the archive material is a letter written by du Maurier shortly after the Queen visited her and her husband in Cornwall in 1962.
She wrote about the monarch’s arrival: “The Queen inside, radiant, all in white. I don’t know what was talked about, I heard sounds coming from my mouth I didn’t recognise! She was very nice though…”
Baker-Munton’s son Kristen, who was brought up in Bildeston, Suffolk and was ‘Boy’ Browning’s godson – is selling the archive, and remembers holidaying with du Maurier in Cornwall at her homes Menabilly and Kilmarth.
The photographs will be sold at Rowley’s auction house on April 27 along with a large collection of other personal memorabilia relating to Daphne Du Maurier and her husband.
Auctioneer and saleroom Managing Director, Roddy Lloyd, said, “This is a huge archive and we are still going through letters and photographs and making discoveries.These particular images, which show the Royal family in an off-guard, relaxed mood highlight the circles in which du Maurier and Boy moved.
“The black and white photographs record the Queen and Prince Philip in a rarely seen informal setting. I particularly love the photograph of the Queen Mother standing in a tartan skirt with a corgi behind her; her character shines through – it’s enchanting. We know that the Queen also visited du Maurier and her husband at their home in Cornwall and have a photo of Elizabeth and Philip on Boy’s boat.’
Will Axon, Rowley’s senior auctioneer and value, said, “The archive is a fascinating record of Du Maurier’s life as well as her husband’s. Daphne’s wit of course weaves its way through the collection but her letters to Maureen also throw light on du Maurier’s sometimes strained relationship with her husband, who she nicknamed ‘Moper’ because of his depression and drink problems. We have seen a lot of references in the Du Maurier letters to her rather complicated relationships with friends, family and children as well as references to her writing.”
Du Maurier, whose husband died in 1965, is said to have had affairs with both men and women. The couple had three children and Daphne died in 1989 in Cornwall.
The sale coincides with the 30th anniversary of Du Maurier’s death.