Kate Middleton has drawn on four generations of queens for landmark photographs to celebrate her 40th birthday, encapsulating the past, present and future of the British r oyal f amily.

he duchess, who marks her milestone birthday today, has posed for a series of images for the National Portrait Gallery (NPG).

Taking influence from the work of era-defining royal photographers such as Cecil Beaton, the duchess has also channelled her admiration for Victorian photography for a series of three very different images. One, in which she is captured in profile, is reminiscent of the young Queen Victoria and shows the modern mother-of-three in regal serenity.

A second, also in sepia tones, is more intimate, seeing her look directly at the camera with a beaming smile in a pose which echoes those of Princess Diana in her Mario Testino photoshoots.

The third, in which she wears a vivid red dress with hands in her pockets, projects a younger aura, with earrings loaned to her by the queen. In other images, the duchess wears the distinctive South-Sea pearl-drop earrings once worn by Diana.

The photographs are the most heavily symbolic of any taken of the duchess in her royal life so far.

They are intended to capture the family and creative influences in her life, paying tribute to the taste of the young Queen Elizabeth, whose image was so often captured by Beaton in a similar style.

They also show the different sides of the duchess herself, from the friendly smile of the accessible mother to the more formal pose of a future queen.

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The Duchess of Cambridge is celebrating her 40th birthday (Paolo Roversi/PA)

The Duchess of Cambridge is celebrating her 40th birthday (Paolo Roversi/PA)

The Duchess of Cambridge is celebrating her 40th birthday (Paolo Roversi/PA)

The Duchess of Cambridge is celebrating her 40th birthday (Paolo Roversi/PA)

A source said the duchess worked in collaboration with photographer Paolo Roversi, sharing her clear vision via video call before they met at Kew Gardens for a shoot lasting a few hours.

The pictures will now enter the permanent collection at the National Portrait Gallery, of which Kate is patron. She has previously curated an exhibition of 19th-century photography at the gallery.

The NPG will exhibit the pictures throughout the year as part of its Coming Home project, which sees photographs of notable public figures displayed in locations that are meaningful to the subject. The duchess’s will go to her home county of Berkshire, her university town of St Andrews and her first marital home of Anglesey.

Roversi, an Italian high-fashion photographer, is a regular contributor to Vogue. One of the veterans of European photography, he cut his teeth as a young news photographer in the early Seventies.

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The pictures were taken at Kew Gardens in November (Paolo Roversi/PA)

The pictures were taken at Kew Gardens in November (Paolo Roversi/PA)

The pictures were taken at Kew Gardens in November (Paolo Roversi/PA)

The pictures were taken at Kew Gardens in November (Paolo Roversi/PA)

He said he approaches fashion photography as a news assignment and that his technique was to try and strip away a subject’s masks “until you have something pure left”.

He paid glowing tribute to his latest subject, saying taking the duchess’s portrait “was a true honour for me, and a moment of pure joy”.

“I was moved by her warmth and welcome and enchanted by her shining eyes that reflected the loveliness of her soul and her smile showing the generosity of her heart,” he said.

The photoshoot took place in November in the Temperate House at Kew Gardens, where William and Kate recently spent time with children at an engagement relating to the Earthshot Prize.

The dresses are each by the Alexander McQueen fashion house. One incorporates silk jacquard, lace, organza and tulle repurposed from previous collections in an effort to improve sustainability.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]

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