LAWRENCE AUDRAIN, A CANADIAN, WAS ALREADY A WELL-known photographer when, in 1939, Queen Elizabeth—now the Queen Mum—invited him, along with Toronto Star staff photographer Gerald Richardson, to Windsor to take pictures of the royal family before a visit by Elizabeth and her husband, George VI, to North America. Many of the photos ran in Canadian newspapers at the time, but a dozen, including those on the preceding pages, "were never published anywhere," Audrain told his wife, Natasha, in 1941, when she first saw them. "They were the ones the Queen rejected," he explained. "She thought they were too informal."
If Audrain had failed to mention the photos before, perhaps it was because he was preoccupied. Shortly after his royal shoot, he became chief photographer for the Canadian Army. On assignment in England in 1940, he met Natasha, then 27 and a reporter for a French magazine; they married three months later. The couple moved to New York City after the war, and though they eventually divorced, they remained on good terms until 1956, when Lawrie, 47, died of a heart attack. By then, Natasha had lost track of the royal photographs and sadly assumed they were gone forever.
Ironically, although the story of the photos' rediscovery a year ago is intriguing (see Inside PEOPLE, page 13), it is only the second-best anecdote in Natasha's remarkable life. Born in Russia in 1912 to a journalist and his wife—who served as a lady-in-waiting to Empress Alexandra—Natasha escaped with her family at the start of the Bolshevik Revolution. She smuggled out her mother's jewels—including a Fabergé bracelet—in the stuffing of a teddy bear.
Today, Natasha, 83, who never remarried, lives in a North Carolina retirement home and dotes on three granddaughters. "I have suffered in the past and lost so much," she says. "But I feel that these pictures are a final gift from Lawrie."
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