A Royal Engagement

No photographer has followed the lives of the Royal family as closely or for so long as The Sun's Arthur Edwards. Pat Parker talks to the Hutton-based snapper about his career capturing moments in history

FOR 34 years, The Sun’s veteran snapper, Arthur Edwards, has photographed the royal family, taking some of the most iconic images of Princess Diana, capturing relaxed shots of Princes William and Harry when they were toddlers, and snapping the Queen’s spontaneous joy when she has a winner at the races.

He photographed the then unknown Lady Diana Spencer at a polo match when she was first courting Charles, took the famous picture of the naive young Diana at the nursery where she worked, unaware that the sunlight had made her skirt transparent, and photographed her alone in front of the Taj Mahal as her marriage disintegrated. Arthur was Diana’s favourite royal photographer (she referred to him as ‘our Arthur’) and has won the affection and trust of Charles, Camilla and Prince William. He always said he would never retire until he saw William married and on April 29 he will fulfil this ambition as the Prince marries Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey. When I met Arthur at his Hutton home, he was still pondering where to stand to capture that perfect wedding shot – either outside Westminster Abbey or in front of Buckingham Palace. ‘I want to get the kiss picture on the balcony,’ he explains.

Arthur, of course, covered the ill-fated wedding of Charles and Diana 30 years earlier, but is sure William and Kate’s union will stand the test of time. ‘They’ve given it a lot of thought. They’ve had seven years to get to know each other and they’re definitely in love. As William said to me just before the engagement photos, he wants this marriage to last for life. I think they’ll make a great team.’

Arthur was born in the East End of London in 1940. He underachieved at school and left at 15 to work as a photographer at a West End advertising agency. For his 18th birthday, his mother saved up to buy him a Rolleiflex camera, which allowed him to work freelance at weekends. The family were devout Catholics, and Arthur remains so to this day.One of his most treasured moments came two years ago when he accompanied Prince Charles to the Vatican. To his amazement, the Prince introduced him to the Pope, who granted him a private audience. ‘I was fazed, overcome,’ explains Arthur. ‘And Charles fixed that for me. That’s just one of the things he’s done. He’s such a super bloke.’Arthur met his wife Ann – who retired as a nurse at Brentwood hospital last year – at a church youth group. The couple had their first two sons, John and Paul, in Poplar, before moving to Hutton after the birth of their third child, Annmarie. John is now The Sun’s picture editor, while Paul also works for the paper as a photographer. ‘It’s a dynasty!’ laughs Arthur.

‘As William said to me just before the engagement photographs, he wants this marriage to lastfor life. I think they’ll make a great team’

Arthur joined The Sun in 1974 after working for several East London papers. He worked in general news until the then editor, Larry Lamb, came up with a special assignment for him – to discover the girl Prince Charles was going to marry. ‘I didn’t want to do it,’ says Arthur. ‘I remember spending three days in Harwich, where Charles’ minesweeper was berthed, and it was the most miserable time of my life. I thought, “If I have to go on doing this, I’ll go mad”.’

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Prince Charles wasn’t amused by Arthur’s attentions. In 1979, Arthur was following a public footpath across the Highgrove estate when a furious Prince galloped up to him. ‘Charles started screaming at me to get off his land. I said I was just doing my job. “Some job!” he retorted. “At least I’ve got a job,” I said. He took exception to this and stormed off. The police in the house told me later he’d burst in, smashed his riding crop on the kitchen table and shouted, “You’re supposed to be protecting me, and Arthur Edwards is on my front lawn!”’Arthur’s persistence eventually paid off. In 1980, he was told Charles had brought a girl called Lady Diana Spencer to a polo match. ‘I had no idea what she looked like, so I walked round the park and saw this girl wearing a ‘D’ necklace, and I asked if she was Diana Spencer. She said yes, and posed for a picture.’

He checked with the office and was told she had only just turned 19. ‘I thought, “Oh, he’s not running around with teenagers,” and we just filed the picture. But a month later I saw them together, and that was it. A year and a day after I took that picture, they were married.’

At the time, Arthur was enthusiastic about the marriage. ‘I told Charles I thought Diana was fantastic, and he said, “I’ve got to get it right first time. I can’t live with a girl for two years like others can”. So he was obviously having thoughts about it.’ Arthur is convinced that the couple were crazy about each other at first and was one of the last to believe the marriage was crumbling. But by 1992, with the famous trip to India in which Diana posed alone before the Taj Mahal, the tensions between them were all too obvious. Their last royal tour together was to Korea. ‘Diana was so miserable, and everyone was miserable because of it. And a month later, they split up.’

Arthur is scathing about the paparazzi who hounded her constantly until her death in a car crash in Paris. In 2007, he told a select committee looking at invasion of privacy that the press harassment of Kate Middleton had come to resemble ‘the feeding frenzy’ which surrounded Diana before her death.

Some, he says, will stop at nothing to get a picture. ‘They’ve terrorised her at night, chased her on to buses or into cabs, insulted her to try to get a reaction. If we haven’t learnt our lesson about what happened to Diana, we never will.’

‘I had no idea what she looked like, so I walked round the park and saw this girl wearing a ‘D’ necklace, and I asked if she was Diana Spencer. She said yes, and posed for a picture for me’

On the day Diana died, he had to fight back tears as he stood outside the hospital in Paris as her coffin was brought out. ‘I watched her go from a young 19-year-old girl to a mature 36-year-old woman. I saw her charm kings and prime ministers, AIDs babies and lepers. She was an incredible person, and will never be forgotten.’

Of all the royals, Arthur reserves his greatest admiration for Prince Charles, with whom he has built a close working relationship, despite their early skirmishes, and in 2003 Arthur received an MBE for services for journalism.

‘He’s my hero. He’s such a great man and an incredible ambassador for our country. He’s an example of how one man can make a difference and he has made a big difference, in architecture, in the way we eat, in complementary medicine and saving the rainforests. I think there’s been nobody better prepared to be our king in the history of the monarchy.’

Arthur can see aspects of Diana in both of her sons. ‘Harry’s very much his mother’s son. He’s impetuous. William has her looks and her compassion, but he also has his father’s sense of responsibility. He thinks things through carefully and he’s quite stubborn. He looks to his father as his hero, and of course, Charles’ main goal in life is to make William a good king.’

Arthur feels that William has had to overcome an initial reluctance to accept his fate. ‘He doesn’t want it, but he realises it’s his destiny. I think he’d sooner be an RAF search and rescue pilot. One of the good things about university was that he and Kate had this great peace with no media and that turned him from a boy into a man, and from a reluctant member of the Royal Family into thinking, “This is my job, this is what I’m going to do and I will do it well”.’

How much more of the unfolding royal saga Arthur will capture with his camera remains to be seen. For now, he’s very much focused on covering the wedding of Kate and William, the Prince he’s known since he was a baby. Next year, there’s the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics. ‘After that, I’ll probably see.’

When Arthur does decide to hang up his camera, certain members of the royal family will probably miss him almost as much as he’ll miss them.

Fnd out moreMagic Moments, a book containing a hand-picked selection of Arthur Edwards royal photos, is published by Metro, priced �14.99. Arthur is planning a second book of photos later this year.