As clients of an Edwardian photographer go, it would be hard to find one more exalted that the King of England. One of Knights-Whittome’s biggest achievements, and something of which he was hugely proud, was to have been granted a Royal Warrant, which allowed him to advertise himself as ‘Photographer to HM The King’.
According to information provided by his son Maurice, David Knights-Whittome worked for Russells, the court photographers during the early years of his career. Records of the Royal Photographic Society indeed show that he was a member from 1896 to 1905, giving his address as 13 High Street, Windsor – one of James Russell & Sons’ shops. It is likely that he first came into contact with the Royal Family during this period, and that this period sparked his later interest and ambition to pursue this line of business.
Knights-Whittome obtained his Royal Warrant of Appointment in 1911 having photographed the Royal Family over a number of years. He subsequently advertised himself as ‘Photographer to the King’ on his shop frontage, in newspaper advertisements and on his marketing materials. He photographed three generations of the British Royal family (Edward VII, George V and the future Edward VIII) in formal portrait shoots, country house parties and as part of a larger ‘press pack’ at events such as the investiture of the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle in 1911. He also photographed other Royals such as King Alfonso of Spain, King Manuel of Portugal and the Queen of Norway.
A recent post on this blog about Edwardian Sutton contained the reminiscences of a local resident Frank H. Potter of Benhill Road, taken from a talk given at Sutton library in 1975:
(In the days before the First War), the county school closed for Derby Day and I used to ride my bicycle to a house near the course, and I enjoyed seeing the coaches and side-shows and above all Edward VII walking amongst the crowd on his way to the paddock… In Sutton at this period, 1910-14, was a photographer, Knight Whittome [sic], who had a small shop opposite Grove Road. He seemed to be a court photographer, and his windows were full on Edward VII’s house parties. These I used to hear about from my father – an ardent Royalist.
May 6th, this weekend just gone, marks the 106th anniversary of the death of Edward VII who became king upon the death of his mother, Queen Victoria, in 1901.
King Edward was a popular monarch with a reputation as a playboy prior to his ascent to the throne. This website contains a short biography of the Monarch, from which the following excerpt was taken.
“The Edwardian period (1901-1910) was seen as a golden age for the upper class in Britain. Though the rigid British class system held firm, rapid industrialization increased economic opportunity, creating conditions that allowed for more social mobility, and with it, more social change. There was a rise in socialism and attention to the plight of the poor as well as a push for women’s voting rights. Domestically, Edward did not support women’s suffrage nor attempts to redistribute wealth through taxes. Despite this, he was very popular with most of the British people…
By 1910, Edward VII’s years of smoking 12 cigars and more than 20 cigarettes a day brought on a severe case of bronchitis. During an official event in France, he momentarily lost consciousness, and on April 27, 1910, he returned to London. His wife, Alexandra returned from Greece on May 5 and the next day called her children telling them their father was gravely ill. On May 10, Edward suffered a series of heart attacks and died. Edward VII was buried at Windsor Castle on May 20, 1910, in a funeral attended by a massive assemblage of royalty. His legacy is marked by criticism for his pursuit of self-indulgent pleasures but also praise for his affable personality and diplomatic skill.”
While the 106th anniversary of anyone’s passing is not a significant anniversary, it seems as good an opportunity as any to share some of the images we have of one of Knights-Whittome’s most esteemed clients.