interviewarthur edwards
Edwards is royal photographer for The Sun and teamed up with The Sun's royal reporter, Harry Arnold, in covering Princess Diana and the Royal Family

q:  Can you describe your encounter with Ray Bellisario and what was that like in the climate of the times what he was doing?

edwards:  Well it was at Windsor. I'd never met him before. I never knew him. I just knew of him. I knew his reputation but I saw him walk up to the Queen's Range Rover and with a very short lens, 35mm lens, just shoot a whole roll of film of the Queen from about three feet away while she was sitting in the Range Rover and the Queen was trapped and could do nothing about it and I thought it was the most aggressive piece of photography I'd ever witnessed not only then but since then. I've never seen anybody being that aggressive with the Queen before and it was just an absolute shock to me. He was I think reported at the time. He just hated the Royals anyway so I think he quite enjoyed it but the rest of us I'm sure were squirming watching the Queen suffer like this.

q:  Now when you started to cover the Royal Family--the Royals-- fairly full-time with James, what were you specifically after?

a:  The Editor of the Sun at the time was keen that we find who would be the next Queen of England. I mean Prince Charles had said in a speech that he thought thirty was a good time to get married. He was now twenty eight. He'd just left the Navy or was about to leave the Navy and they thought that perhaps we should be looking more closely at who he's going out with. And with James we formed a royal team and we went to the polo. I mean where else did you go but you went to the polo? And I got the first week there a picture in the paper. The second week a picture in the paper. I thought God, this is brilliant because being a news photographer on a national newspaper it's hard to get pictures in the paper. I think people think it's easy but it's desperately hard and difficult and of course this was happening every week. Prince Charles feeding his polo ponies. Prince Charles playing the fool. And to his credit Prince Charles gave me some really good pictures at the time and a lot of them exclusive. And so I built up a kind a good rapport with him, not obviously with my feet under the table and not tea at Windsor Castle, but certainly it was Mr.Edwards this and Mr. Edwards that and he'd pass the joke. And he would be reading the paper and he would say 'Oh I saw you had that picture in this week'.

And I remember one time when I photographed him putting ice down this girl's front of her dress and she put ice down his back, and then he put ice down her back and this ran on Page 1 of the Sun and about three days later he said 'Oh I see you did the decent thing' because the picture we showed in the paper was him putting ice down the girl's back. And I said 'Oh thanks very much, sir' but what he didn't realize was that the picture of him putting down, ice down the girl's front - and she was a very big girl - was out of focus. So he thought I'd as I say done the decent thing and I didn't say anything else but it was excellent those years.

I can only begin to say that he was a real fun person to photograph. He was full of quips. I remember after the Live Aid concert and going to watch him play polo the next day and he said 'What did you think of the concert yesterday?' 'I thought it was fantastic.' He said 'Yes.' He said 'I think that Mr. Geldoff should be made a General.' And he was that switched on and he cared about politics. I remember after Mr. Callaghan lost the election in '79 asking me what did I think. Why did I think Mr. Callaghan lost? And he was a very good guy to be involved with and I really enjoyed those years tremendously.

q:  Now Ashley Walton and Harry Arnold, who were with you in India when the sort of Di phenomenon really arrived if you like. Can you describe a conversation you had with him, what he said to you and what the people that you were with replied to his questions?

a:  The Prince of Wales you're talking about?

q:  Yes.

a:  It was 1980 and Diana had just come on the scene and we were kind of hoping that this was the one. In fact we all felt in our bones that this was the one and we were at a cocktail party at the British High Commission in and I think it was Paul Callan actually from the Express - he was then working for the Daily Mirror - said how lovely he thought Lady Diana was and he said 'Oh how very kind of you to say so' we sort of carried on the conversation and he said, because he said 'I've got to get it right.' He said 'I can't live with a woman for two years like you possibly could.' He said 'I've got to get it right first time because if I don't you'll be the first to criticize me.' And then we thought this is the one. Then we knew that he was obviously thinking about proposing marriage and he was thinking along the terms that this was going be his future.

q:  Harry Arnold was very interesting about this because he said at the time you all thought the question meant why do you think that I Prince Charles think this is the one? But actually you decided many years later Harry Arnold thought that perhaps he was actually genuinely asking your opinion that why were you and the press so convinced that she was so special?

a:  Yeah. Yeah. Well.

q:  Do you agree with that?

a:  No I don't actually. I don't actually normally disagree with Harry because I've got a lot of regard for him and I like him very much. I actually feel that he wanted to discuss it and he wanted to say the reason why he was binding his time I think because it was obvious the way he was hiding her. I mean every other girlfriend we'd always photographed them together. I mean Sabrina Guinness and all of those girls we'd managed to get photographers with the Prince with them but Prince Charles was hiding Diana big time. It was not, I don't think there was one picture of the two of them or there were very few pictures of the two of them together before they were, fully announced the engagement.

So Prince Charles had been very protective of this girl and Diana was saying all the right things and she changed her car. I remember she had a Volkswagen and she changed it to a Mini and she was doing all the right things. So everything seemed right. This was the one and I think Prince Charles was still uncertain whether to go down that road and he was probably asking our opinion but at the same time he was telling us why he was in fact dwelling a little bit.

q:  What was your relation like with her before their engagement was announced? James Whitaker used to go and sit on the stairs in her flat with her and chat to her and all that sort of thing. How accessible did you find her?

a:  Well I found her charming and in fact I remember she asked me, stopped me in the street one day and she said 'Why do you think why all this harassment?' And I said 'Well, I think because you're going to be the Prince's bride.' And she said 'Why?' She said 'Just because I don't have a past?' And I said 'It could be one of the reasons.' I said 'You're actually a very pretty girl.' And she actually said, and I said to her at the time, 'Well don't forget us with a knighthood when you get the job and all that' just as fun and she laughed and I mean, and I remember saying to her 'Now look, when you walk round the corner now don't put your head down' because she has this, she had this awful habit of putting her head down and she still does it today. I said 'Look up and smile.' And she did and it was a lovely picture.

q:  Was she more accessible or just younger than other girlfriends? I mean was she kind of different in the way that she treated you journalists?

a:  She was a lot more fun. I mean she was a lot more fun and she coped with it brilliantly. I think when the amount of harassment she had especially getting to near the end. I mean she was surrounded. Everytime she left her flat, everytime she left the nursery school, everytime she went away for the weekend, she was absolutely surrounded by photographers but she coped with it brilliantly and I thought that's another good reason why this girl's going to be the one because the others I remember one particular girlfriend ran in the loo at Heathrow and hid there because she just couldn't cope with it but Diana was tremendous and I remember coming back from Balmoral with her and flying back on the plane, the first time she'd, she'd visited and we photographed them, and we'd photographed her that weekend with him and asking her to pose for me at Heathrow while we were waiting for the bags to come off and she did. And and it was just without any inhibitions. She felt that pictures were fine. And I remember when we discovered her at the nursery she, I said 'Would you pose?' and she said 'Yes.' She came out and the sun came out and we saw those beautiful legs but she said 'Yes, sure.' She never ever said a word. She wouldn't comment at all on the relationship. I think she was being very discreet. At the same time she was making herself available to the media in some ways. So I felt that she'd had some training in this, she'd had some coaching from Prince Charles and he was preparing her for, which turned out to be I think, which turned out to be the bride the wife, the Princess of Wales. And we thought probably one day be our Queen.

q:  Do you think she was actually just instinctively good with you?

a:  I think she was enjoying it. Obviously she was with her flatmates in the flat in their flat in Colherne Court and there was tremendous interest and I think she really did enjoy it and she loved that the spotlight on her. I think a couple of times she broke down. I remember once when there were some French photographers put some beer casks round her car to stop her getting, so she'd have to get out and move them which would obviously make pictures and she started to get upset and I said 'Look don't let them see you cry because that's what they want.' So there was times when it was a bit stressful for her but most times she coped with it brilliantly.

q:  What was it like for you getting pictures in that area?

a:  Well I never ever let the pressure affect me. Obviously Kelvin was, I mean I don't know if you're going to interview Kelvin, but I mean he was a phenomenal force, but I had a busy program. I mean I was at polo three days a week. I had busy engagements. I was always seeing people. I just never seemed to stop work. I mean you never thought of having the day off if there was a royal job on. You just wouldn't dream of it because it was just great to be there. I mean Diana used to go to the Derby, Diana used to go to Ascot. There was this whole program. She used to go to Wimbledon. I remember the first day she went to Wimbledon. I mean it was just tremendous and this was a girl who where you got her, she got off the plane or off the train, where her secretary would give you a slip of paper saying exactly who made the outfit and what it was made of and the colors and the materials. I mean this was incredible. This was everything. I remember the Editor saying 'Have you got the full length?' You know we had to show everytime, all the readers must see the outfit and it was just phenomenal and I mean I thoroughly enjoyed it.

No, I didn't feel any pressure. I know Harry did. I know the other reporters did because they were, I remember the stories were just precious. I remember we discovered that Diana was going to Australia and it was a page one story. Now, so what? But it was Diana and she was doing something and so we all trooped off to Australia with her.

q:  Now would you characterize the coverage in the early eighties? It was mainly kind of fairy tale in fashion was it? What happened if that was the case, what happened when occasionally a rather unpleasant fact might intrude like when Harry got the story about the falling down the stairs?

a:  Well those stories always were mega stories because, actually I got that story which I think Harry will agree. No, those stories were still big stories and I mean because that was the early days of the marriage. I mean Princess Diana was pregnant and she had this accident. A doctor was called. The Prince was concerned but they'd had a row I think the week before, a public row on the estate where she was screaming out the top window at him something 'Go on, join your mother' you know which anyone who's been married knows exactly what those rows are like. And so we just thought naturally that this was what happens with people getting to know each other in the first years of marriage and didn't think anything more of it. It was, in public they still had, it seemed to me certainly on that first Australian tour, they just seemed to be totally in love. I mean they looked at each other like they wanted to rip the clothes off each other. It was just incredible and there was Prince William sitting on her knee. I mean it was just a perfect family. I remember at the same time on that trip when we were in New Zealand and she introduced William walking and making his first steps. I mean it was fantastic and we had to ask the picture session to come to an end because it was just magnificent and this was the Princess just so proud of William and her husband.

It was just sensational and everytime William achieved something, like if you remember when he first started walking properly, we were called to Kensington Palace and had this fantastic photo facility. So it was a fantastic time. Of course what we didn't realize was that while we were sort of devoting all our energies to Diana, Prince Charles was getting totally neglected. He was, I remember on a walkabout once we were up in Silverstone and Princess Diana wasn't there this day, just Prince Charles. And this little boy said 'Ol Charlie, where's Diana?' And he said 'I'm afraid she's not here today.' He said 'You'd better go and ask for your money back.' But this was what it was like. Everybody just wanted to see Diana and I remember on one occasion, I think it was in Australia or one of those places the Press Secretary at the time, a very nice Canadian called Victor Chapman, said to us 'Look please would some of you go and photograph the Prince because it was embarrassing but you couldn't afford to leave Diana because, she was just the only one they wanted. They didn't want to see me putting pictures on the wire the next day of Prince Charles talking and greeting people. They didn't want to see anything. They just wanted to see the Princess and they just couldn't get enough of her.

q:  But there was an incident wasn't there when you were all on a skiing holiday which I think, I sort of picked up from your book as being a good example of how you began to sense that things were not quite right and I'm thinking of the story about I'll get it in the neck now. Do you remember that?

a:  Yes I do. I remember it very well.

q:  Can you describe what happened, that incident?

a:  Yes I can. In fact I can tell you what happened then and what I've consequently found out. We were in Liechtenstein. The Prince and Princess were guests of the Liechtenstein royals and they'd gone to a ski resort and it was all fixed. We was going to get this photo facility and off they went up on the chair lift and I think the Crown Prince at the time, the Liechtenstein Crown Prince had a problem with his ear and as he went high something happened to his ear and they stopped the lift, to which Diana fell off and she stormed, I remember she stormed off you know because she's a bit like that and she skied down the mountain and she grabbed her skis and she just got into the car and went back to the castle. And the Prince came down and said 'Oh God, I'll probably get it in the neck for that thinking that she thought that it was the Prince who'd stopped it. Of course it was nothing to do with him. He was completely innocent but the whole of that trip she behaved very strangely.

I remember on the same trip we went into Austria where they were skiing. I think it was a place called St Chrisophe and there was thousands of photographers. There was French and Italians and Germans and, and of course us and I remember her in the street with her hands over her head screaming and he's saying please darling obviously control yourself. You know everybody's watching you and just get in the car. But she was behaving like she was a trapped animal. Of course there was a beautiful limousine there and another one behind it if she wanted to get in. There was no need for it. And he saw that but she was overreacting or whether she was genuinely upset I don't know and to this day I don't know but I remember it made a front page picture.

q:  But do you remember what he said to you after she'd fallen off the ski lift?

a:  Only that 'I'll probably get it in the neck now,'-- that he would get the blame for it and of course I suppose that made good copy at the time. No one thought to find out what really happened. It was only that later I spoke to someone else that was there and he told me exactly what happened but at the time the Prince was pretty upset because his wife had spoilt this lovely day. She'd gone storming back and obviously she was upset and he'd have to go back and calm her down but there was that whole holiday was like that. It was a bad week.

q:  What other indications did you get if you like that Prince Charles was getting, or his team perhaps or himself were getting concerned about the fact that he and his activities were rarely reported in the 1980's?

a:  Well I didn't care actually at the time to be honest because I had this Diana bug like everybody else and it was Diana, Diana, Diana. I mean it was, you were almost dreaming of her at night you were because it was that bad. So whenever people ask me well would I be covering the Prince, I'd say 'Well what's she doing?' And that was it. Looking back perhaps I should have realized but I thought Prince Charles was, I thought he was a superman really. I still do in a way. I think that he is a very special kind of a person and I thought that he knew that his wife was an almost, she was almost a goddess. I mean we were just all worshipping at her feet, and I think I felt that he was the one that was married to her. He was the lucky guy. He was the husband and so I felt that he kind of enjoyed in a way seeing his wife getting this treatment.

It was only in later years I realized of course that he was very upset by it all and I remember the last visit to India and Princess Diana was going to the Taj Mahal and we'd been there I think a decade earlier with the Prince and I remember Harry I think or --I think it was Kate Adie from the BBC asked him if he would return one day with his bride. This was long before Diana was his bride and he said 'Well perhaps I would' and there we were going to the Taj Mahal and he was going off to a business meeting in Bangalore. Now I know only one journalist that went to Bangalore with him and it was because he was from a Sunday newspaper and he was looking for something different but the rest, everybody else went to the Taj Mahal and that was it.

q:  By this time there was obviously a lot of tension in their marriage which again didn't come out till later on but can you give me concrete examples of how in the early 1990's but prior to the Morton book the Princess of Wales always seemed to come out better of any incidents. Now Harry I think particularly you've described very well and I thought rather movingly about Canada when the Prince and Princess were in Canada and how through no fault of your own if you like you reported their reunion with their sons differently. Do you know what I'm talking about?

a:  When, when they came when the children came to Canada? Yes.

q:  And so one party greeted them one way and another did another.

a:  Yeah, that's right yeah.

q:  But the impression that was given to the readers was that one party appeared to care more than the other.

a:  Prince Charles was very upset about that.

q:  Well can you, well describe what you saw and what you photographed first of all?

a:  Yeah. Okay. Well they, the children were being flown out to, I think it was Toronto, where the Royal Yacht was berthed and Princess Diana and Charles were doing an engagement and she was edgy. She wanted to get through this and obviously she was going to see the children and we were all on the dockside and the Prince and Princess walked up and the Prince, because he is so well trained, was greeted by the Admiral on the Yacht and shook hands with the Admiral which you should always do, but Diana just tore past the Admiral and the kids rushed into her arms.

And it looked as though Prince Charles was more concerned about doing the correct thing than seeing his children. Of course he wanted to see them as much as everybody and they went into the privacy of their quarters and I imagine he was just as forthcoming but for the photographers there was this wonderful picture of Diana rushing out with her arms out and the children rushing into her arms and it looked for everyone that of course you know she was the wonderful, loving mother, which of course she is. I mean she is a great mother. I'm not saying she's not. But it looked like Prince Charles was aloof but in fact Prince Charles was just doing the correct thing first which I quite admire him for actually.

q:  SWhy was it that he appeared to be an aloof and cold person and she appeared to be this lovely warm person but it wasn't actually reflected in reality. What was going on if you like?

a:  Well he has been a royal all his life. He's been trained to one day that he will be our sovereign and he's very aware of that and he is in a way very correct and he would do the right thing before his own feelings and this, this impression that was given at the time was of course that he was an uncaring father.

Now I knew that personally to be totally untrue. I knew that he was a very loving father. I knew that, I used to see these little things at Sandringham where he would be, he'd twinkled, tweaked William's shoulders and they'd laugh and I remember they were just throwing snowballs and there was obviously a genuine love there and it was, but Diana is also a very loving mother and she was always-- I remember once at Windsor and the nanny scolding William and William breaking down in tears and he ran to his mother and she comforted him and she caressed him and it was a great show of affection and I think she genuinely is a great mother but at the same time at that time there were stories being written that Prince Charles was cold, uncaring. It was totally untrue. I mean he was at all times he loved those children as much as anybody.

q:  Did she sort of talk off the record if you like to photographers and journalists and then her Private Secretary or her Press Secretary would say 'You realize all that was off the record'?

a:  Oh absolutely.

q:  Did they worry about what she was saying?

a:  Absolutely I remember once asking her if she'd have any more children. And she said 'Oh no, I'm safe' and I remember saying to her, and she said 'Well I don't know I'm the flavor of the month but if Andrew marries a black girl or a Catholic they'll be the story.' And I said 'Oh less of the Catholic because I'm a Catholic.' And she said 'Well, you know, a black person.' And I said 'Well.' She was worried I think that someone would come along and take over her position as the Number One and I remember she commented on that about it to me once. Well if you'd have run that story at the time that would have been damaging. You would have offended black people for a start and you would have offended Catholics.

I mean you couldn't dream of doing that so I mean you had to use your loaf and not get carried away but at the same time I remember when she was suing the Mirror over the gym pictures and we were at a reception in Tokyo, made it very clear and she spoke to me for about twenty five minutes that she wanted justice and I think she's making it clear that if you want to run this story you can and there's going to be no restrictions. It was, it was a question of she was going to get her, as I say, get her compensation.

q:  What I was thinking about was, but also did she ever say things to you prior to the Morton book which could have been potentially embarrassing for the Palace if you'd used them and the Palace tell you not to?

a:  Yes, I just gave you an example.

q:  Which was?

a:  Which was the black and Catholic.

q:  Right. Right.

a:  I mean that would have been terribly embarrassing for the Palace if that had been reported. There was many things that she talked about like those things. I remember saying, her commenting once on how a hundred thousand pounds was an excessive amount to spend on dresses. It was reported and Prince Charles said 'Well we couldn't possibly afford that.' And I said 'Well you probably could if you sold one of your polo ponies.' Well I mean that was being a bit flippant on my part but I mean you wouldn't dream of coming out and reporting that because you knew that the next time there was any cocktail party you'd be excluded from the invitation list.

q:  Well I was going to ask you when you heard of the Morton book what did you think before it was published? I mean what did you think was going on? Did you ignore it?

a:  No, I knew that Andrew Morton was an excellent journalist. I'd worked with him when he was on the News of the World and I'd worked against him when he was on the Star and the Mail but the one thing about Andrew is not only is he a very good writer but he's a very, very bright person and I knew that if he had a book claiming, well we were starting to believe at the time about the attempted suicides and the way that he was being, she was being treated by the Prince then there would be a lot of substance in it and I know that some, many of the executives at the Sun totally believed this book and we were under I think the three line whip not to discuss it with anybody in case it got injuncted. So no, everybody who knew Morton and everybody that knew the scene realized that this book was going to be sensational and I know Prince Charles's friends were, were very worried about it and they were, there was I think not a plot but it was certainly discussed among the friends what could they do to sort of counter this explosive book that was about to descend on them but Prince Charles instructed them. He said I don't want you to do a thing. I don't want you to say a thing. I don't want you to speak on my behalf or in any way rubbish Diana. He was very honorable about that.

q:  That's right. Now it's interesting you said that because the friends had no reason to ask her about whether she'd done it because you sort of knew that she had. Is that what you're saying?

a:  Yeah. Whether she'd co-operated there's only, she could have only given permission to co-operate, for someone to co-operate because if you've been covering the royals as long as I have not one friend would talk, certainly not talk on the record without permission from the principal not one because they would be completely ostracized. So I knew that somebody had spoken to her and, but at the time we didn't know who because he was keeping that very close to his chest but the fact that the Sunday Times was running every indication that they'd thoroughly checked the source and it was true.

q:  So when you read the book, did you think that the Princess of Wales's image was improved or harmed by it first of all, initially?

a:  I think that she shouldn't have done the book. I think it didn't do her any good. I don't think she should have done the TV interview and nor the Prince should have done the TV interview or the book. I think it's done them nothing but damage. I think they just plummeted in my opinion because you see one great thing about the royals was that whatever happened they coped, they took it on the chin. You could say something. It could be probably inaccurate but you'd never get a comment. They would be aloof from that. They would know the truth and they were prepared to be happy, to be able to cope with that but that book I just think was, it just did Prince Charles a lot of harm, it did her a lot of harm, but more importantly it did the Monarchy an enormous amount of damage and from which I don't think they've recovered yet and I don't think they ever probably will.

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