As photographers nationwide latched on to the power of advertising, a noble or even royal patron was seen as a sure way to boost the popularity of the studio. The most prestigious patrons were the Royal family and even if they had never set foot in the door it was still possible to claim an association, however spurious. One ploy that photographers used was to decorate the backs of their cartes de visite photographs with emblems such as the Prince of Wales feathers or the very British Lion and Unicorn. In this way, subtle or not, the photographer implied that there was a connection between his studio and the higher-ups in society.
While some studios merely made claims of royal patronage, others were more blatant. J C burrow of Camborne declared himself ‘photographer to the Prince of Wales’, while Guttenberg of Manchester revealed that their studio was ‘patronized by Her Majesty’. It wasn’t just the British Royals that were ‘adopted’ in this way. One photographer, S. Long of Woolwich, headed his advert with a stirring recommendation from no less a person than the Prince of Siam, who had made ‘honourable mention for excellence of portraiture’ to the studio. Schreiber and Dutton, again of Woolwich, claimed that their work was ‘By appointment to H.R.H. Prince Ibrahim Hilmy, Pasha of Egypt’. In the meantime, Audas of Grimsby made do with the Duke and Duchess of Connaught and H.R.H. Prince Albert Victor.
The truth of these Royal connections may or may not have existed but as one firm found, it didn’t do to bandy the name of Queen Victoria about, as the firm of A. & G. Taylor found to their cost. Although a nationwide and even worldwide firm, they were called to account for ‘using in connection with their business the Royal Arms without the permission of the Queen’. Representatives of the company were taken to court, had their wrists slapped and warned not to transgress again.
However, the best way to exhibit the fact that the Queen had indeed sat for her portrait was to make sure the public saw the image that one had captured. In the photograph by Mayall of London & Brighton, the widowed Queen is seated between her son, the Prince of Wales and his new wife, the Princess. Prince Albert also makes an appearance in the form of a white, probably marble, bust on a nearby plinth. Doubtless at least some of the photographers who claimed Royal patronage actually did so and it would be easy to smile at the pretensions of those who did not. But business is business and a little Royalty goes a long way.