Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (1900 - 2002) (right) in mourning with Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Mary (centre) at the funeral of King George VI.    (Photo by Ron Case/Getty Images)

Ron Case and the Three Queens

February 15 1952 started as a routine day for photographer Ron Case, staffer for Keystone Press Agency. His arrival in the office led to a change of assignment for him and he was sent to cover the funeral of King George V1 at Westminster Hall. Much to his dismay he had no passes or accreditation and worst of all he had to use ancient equipment, a half plate camera, an ex RAF aerial reconnaissance camera, known by the lads as the coffin because it was housed in a large wooden box. Royalty from around the world would be gathering at Westminster Hall, among them was the late Kings daughter Princess Elizabeth, soon to be Queen Elizabeth 11, Queen Elizabeth ( later Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother ) and the mother of the departed King , Queen Mary. The son of Ron Case, retired picture editor Peter Case who worked for the Daily Mirror and for the Daily Express, tells us the story.
‘’On arrival at Palace Yard Westminster Ron set up the tripod only to find the mounting was broken. Searching around for something to rest the heavy camera on he spotted a pile of beer crates outside a nearby pub. Balancing the old camera and massive lens on the crates he prepared to take pictures of the Royal Funeral. It was not ideal, but it would have to do.
Unlike modern cameras you could not see the image through the lens you had to guess the distance and hope the depth of field would keep it sharp. The King’s coffin duly arrived, and Ron spotted three shadowy figures huddled in a corner watching the events unfold. Clunk, went the ancient shutter as Ron fired off as many plates as he could. Not having a clue what he had captured on the glass plates he sent them back to the office by dispatch rider. Thinking he had nothing decent Ron returned to the office to be told that the boss wanted to see him urgently. Expecting a rollicking from the legendary Bertram Garai boss and owner of Keystone Press Agency it was with some trepidation he entered the room.
‘’Ron, you will never take a better picture than this’’ said Bertram as he held up a print of the three veiled Queens in mourning.
The picture made the front page of every national paper in the UK and many around the world. However one final sequel to this tale. This precious negative on glass plate was dropped by a clumsy printer where it smashed to bits on the darkroom floor. Luckily some prints had been made so all was not lost. It was just another day at the office for Ron Case but he produced an image that will never will be forgotten.
Ron Case 1926 – 2008.
Fleet Air Arm photographer. Topical Press Keystone Press. Southend Evening Echo.

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