interviewken lennox
Lennox was royal photographer for The Daily Mirror, 1986-1994

q:  What was it like as a photographer covering the Royal Family in the early days?

lennox:  It was fairly formal and there were set patterns of how you would cover the Royal Family. You had to be dressed accordingly. You couldn't turn up for a job in a sports jacket. I was sent home, almost in tears, from one of my early jobs for working in a sports jacket and flannels. It wasn't allowed. We had to stay fifteen feet away and we walked backwards and we didn't intrude in the space. The photographs were very dull and very boring except when we were invited up onto the moors above Balmoral where we could photograph the Queen as she went about her business. But they didn't publish the same way. They seldom published and most of it just went into libraries and was never seen again.

q:  The photographs of the Queen relaxing weren't published?

a:  No they weren't published. I don't think there was an ethos of publishing photographs behind the scenes the same way as there is today.

q:  Can you give any examples of how you would take what you thought was a great picture and then it wouldn't appear in the paper?

a:  I was once on the moors above Balmoral and it was raining and the Queen was wearing a plastic hat and a raincoat and a kilt and she trudged across the top of the hills in the pouring rain, talked to everyone, leaned against Land Rovers and climbed over stiles and there were great, great, great pictures of this, really good fun pictures and it was archived -- just not enough interest to publish them.

q:  Can you describe what happened when you photographed the Queen coming off the plane?

a:  Yes I'd gone to Dyce Airport for The Express and the Queen was flying in to start her holiday in Balmoral and, as the Queen stepped from the Royal Andover aircraft, a gust of wind blew her dress up. I took her photograph and the Queen straightened her dress, got to the bottom of the steps, shook hands with the airport manager and glanced at me and let me take a close-up photograph, got into the car, sat by the window and waved to the airport manager as she left and off she drove to Balmoral.

I drove back to the office and, when I got to the office in Aberdeen, the secretary said Sir Max Aitken's secretary has been on the phone for you. She will phone back. And within five minutes she phoned up and she said: "Mr. Lennox, I believe you were out photographing the Queen arriving at Dyce Airport." And I said, "Yes, I was." "And I believe there was a bit of an incident at the airport." I said, "Yes, there was." "Could you describe the incident?" I said, "The Queen's dress blew up." And she said, "Well, Sir Max would like you to send the film undeveloped down to London and we will collect it." I said, "Well unfortunately the film's in the developer already." And she said, "Well, I take it Sir Max can trust you not to print any photographs, that you will take them straight to Dyce Airport and inform me which plane they're going to be coming down to London on" -- which I did.

q:  What did that tell us about the period?

a:  I think that was of the period. I don't think the Express would have published a photograph of the Queen's underwear. It just wouldn't have happened. I mean I took it as a reflex. I didn't think about it too much. I was going to pass that problem onto someone else. I was a very junior photographer in those days but it was in keeping with the times.

q:  In terms of publicity, did the Royals hold more of their own cards in those days?

a:  They held all of the cards. They didn't even tell us which game they were playing with the cards. We just watched them as head of a table. We were not invited in at all. We were allowed to take photographs of the Queen opening fetes and going behind a counter selling jam once a year, but that was it.

q:  Now when do you think that it began to change?

a:  I think with the Queen's sister. Princess Margaret was the first to look racy. She was interesting. The Express Diary loved having photographs of her and wherever she went -- photographers would follow. She clubbed. She went out at night. So I think the Express and the Mail and other papers had people wandering around the clubs at night hoping to catch her.

q:  Did the media interest begin with Princess Margaret's affair with Roddy Llewellyn?

a:  I think it was slightly before that. Princess Margaret married a photographer and he dressed a bit differently from the other Royals. He did things differently. He still had a job in town. That was different. They used to go out to the Caribbean, be seen on the beaches. They both had tans. She would wear a short skirt and he would wear a white suit. The marriage broke up, which was sensational. We didn't think how sensational it was looking back on it. And then, of course, she had her friend Roddy Llewellyn. She went out to Mustique with him and had an affair with him which was fascinating. So the rules were changing. Royals didn't get divorced. That was one of the rules. Royals didn't have their photographs taken off duty. That was another rule. They were both traded in very quickly.

q:  Did Margaret appear to care very much about being photographed?

a:  I think she knew it was coming. I think she knew she was going to be followed and photographed. She didn't ever squeal about it, she accepted it. She tried to be dignified but we had photographs of her in her swimsuit and Roddy in his swimming trunks and these were sensational times. She accepted it. She didn't ever complain. It was her lifestyle. She wanted to break away from the Palace confines, which she did very successfully and therefore she was photographed in public and was fair game. I think there was a little bit of willfulness with the Princess. I think she wanted to be seen to be different. She led a Bohemian style of life. I think she became a little heroine with some people for doing this and she enjoyed it.

q:  Tell me about the first time you spotted the Princess of Wales.

a:  It was the morning of the Braemar Games and the Royal pack were up in Aberdeen. When I say pack there were seven or eight photographers who regularly followed Prince Charles around. And we would always try and find out who the house guests were and who he would squire to the Braemar Games. We would run around the riverbank early in the morning because Prince Charles would always try to get a morning's fishing in before the Games and we would scatter up and down the banks trying to find him.

We did find him fishing and he had someone with him. It was a blond girl and within seconds of us arriving she got up, turned her back, walked away from us in a straight line while Charles continued to fish as if nothing had happened and stood behind a tree. We thought, "oh who's this?" We couldn't really see much of the girl because she had a cap on pulled down and a Barbour pulled up. But within a few seconds a hand appeared round a tree holding a compact with a mirror and she held it round a tree to look to see where we were and used that to walk away, keeping the tree between us and herself and we thought, "my God, who is this? This is different." Normally the girl would sit on the riverbank looking fairly dizzy and make some half-hearted attempt to shoo us away. This girl did not want to be photographed and she was very smart and she knew what she was doing. I mean to, to pull out a stunt like that, to think of doing that, we thought we're up against something here.

Later on that weekend James Whitaker flew down on an aircraft to London and Diana Spencer was on the plane. He almost ruled out the fact that there was going to be any romance there because her sister had already been one of Charles girlfriends. But he knew who she was and we used the picture on the Monday morning. They weren't very good, very poor pictures, but it was the first photograph and the first inkling that the two of them were together.

q:  What kind of relationship do the photographers -- the pack -- have to one another?

a:  The pack -- in the early days -- was seven or eight people, very competitive -- each one looking for a scoop on Prince Charles. It was mystery blond hunting -- unnamed girls with Charles. It was very competitive, but once the chase was over we all got together and would discuss what had happened -- who we thought it was, whether we'd seen her before. Was this a real romance? Would it peter out? Where were we going to find out about the latest girl. And the next day, we would get up, go our separate ways, chase up and down riverbanks or on foreign trips or even hire models to jump into the sea with him in Australia. We did all the bits and pieces. It was great fun. I think Charles enjoyed a bit of it. He once made a very rude and sexist remark. He said he could always tell when it was a set-up. The really beautiful girls were a set-up and the plain ones did it of their own volition, he said.

q:  What did you call yourselves?

a:  Snappers, I think was the most common expression. We would call someone a good snapper or a good, sometimes photographer but he's a good snapper or a good operator. A good operator was more than just a photographer. He was a wily, cunning, horrible man to be up against. So there was all this sort of thing. It was a bit of a game.

q:  What was your relationship like with Diana in the early days?

a:  In the early days Diana was very young and we had a lot of sympathy for her, although we did want photographs and we did want to chat to her, but there was rules about how we did this. If the cameras were up she would go about her business in a straight-forward way. The shy Di is a myth. That came about because she would put her head down and her hair would fall over her face and she would glance up every now and then to see where we were. So this made her look very coy, very shy. She's never been shy and she's never been coy and she's never been silly. But when the cameras would go down she would chat, laugh, look at Private Eye, see what they're saying about her, sit in the cars, joke about how she'd lost us the day before and then she would talk about serious things. She would talk about things that we'd got wrong and she didn't ever tell us a lie. If we'd asked her about something -- were you at such and such, she would say "No, I wasn't Mr. Whitaker or I wasn't Mr. Lennox."

q:  How much did Diana Spencer cooperate with photographers particularly in the early days?

a:  Diana was very good with the photographers in the early days. She's a naturally polite young lady and wouldn't really be rude to anyone but she knew to keep her nose clean. She wouldn't do silly things but she would cooperate and there were certain times we would ask her for particular photographs. I was very short of close-ups to do a full front page for the engagement and I waited for her to come back one night. No cameras. The camera was in the car. She drew up in a little Metro and said, "what's happening?" And I said "I'd like to do some close-ups of you. I need to do some close-ups of you. I haven't got a good one, good enough to go on the front page for the engagement." She said, "what engagement?" I said, "well if it ever does happen we need something really good and I'd hate to put a duff photograph on the front page." And she said, "what would you need?" I said, "I need just you happy smiling, a big close-up." And she said, "if you are at the flat at seven o'clock tomorrow morning and there's no one else there I will come down and do your close-ups but I'll go into the car and I'll put the window down and you can have as many as you want." And I was there the next morning and no one else was there. She came down, walked to her car, didn't say a word, got in her car, rolled down the window, started it up, hands on the steering wheel and looked right down the lens and I got a dozen very good, happy, smiling close-ups. But she would have to tow the line. She couldn't overstep the mark. There were things like the see-through skirt. That was inadvertent. She didn't do that on purpose and the photographers didn't realize it was happening themselves until it was happening and from then on she was very careful.

q:  Can you describe the incident when she was being harassed by a Frenchman?

a:  There was an occasion where I was driving behind Diana and she was difficult to follow because she would play the traffic light game. She would draw up at the traffic lights and sit there all the way through green and, when they went to orange, she would shoot across. Now that's all right for first across but second across you tend to hit buses and so on. So we would sit there praying that we would get across with her because she was a fast driver and she would disappear. One day I was following and I saw, she stopped, double parked, head down on the steering wheel and I thought oh crikey. She was nineteen years old and I have children the same age and I thought it's too much. I've done it now. Jumped out the car and ran up, knocked on the window and I said, "are you all right?" And she was a bit tearful and she said, "it's not you Mr. Lennox. I can always lose you but I can't lose the Frenchman on the motorbike. He'll be with me all day and all I want to do I promise you is go and visit my grandmother, Lady Fermoy." And I said, "I'll lose him for you. Just drive around slowly and I'll lose him." So she drove around and eventually the Frenchman was on my inside, so I drove my car over, blocked him in and she drove off. I just gave her one flash of the headlights and she was gone. He then kicked lumps out of my car up and down, calling me unprofessional, going berserk at what I'd done to him and I went back to the flat and sat outside the flat. She came back an hour later and just mouthed "thank you." So it was a bit of old-fashioned chivalry which has almost gone.

q:  Now were you at Sandringham when Prince Charles showed his irritation with being pursued?

a:  Yes, I was there and we didn't take it too seriously. He came up to us and wished us all a happy New Year-- and a very bad one for all of your editors. It was probably preying on his mind because his bride-to-be was getting a lot of attention and I think they were just beginning to realize that the attention he'd been getting as a bachelor, going round the world looking for a new wife or whatever, and the beautiful Diana -- that the rules were changing. Instead of seven photographers being there, there were seventy. And some occasions the whole event was wrecked by the number of photographers being there. Before, there had been one from each paper and a couple of freelancers. Now they were coming from France, Germany. The Australians were sending their own photographers. Americans were coming to have a look at her. The Japanese were turning up. I mean for us it was a bit of a nightmare because we had a fairly easy time up until then but when you have seventy photographers all squeezed into one spot, trying to climb up ladders, pushing and shoving with each other. I mean it was a new game and elbows were what you kept yourself safe by.

q:  What was the effect of the Princess of Wales on the front page of the newspaper?

a:  It was devastating. Anyone covering the Princess of Wales was guaranteed front page day after day. It was funny sometimes. She would go to Australia or New Zealand and from the photographs you saw nothing of Australia or New Zealand. We cropped everything out. All we had was the Princess of Wales smiling and sometimes it was her dress but it was seldom anything to do with the country she was visiting and it was seldom anything to do with the visit. It was always how she was looking, what she may have worn that day. She was radiant one day. They were running out of superlatives for her. It was crazy time and the freelancers made a fortune. She was just a sensation in the media at the time.

q:  And what did it do to the sales of The Star at the time?

a:  The Star was a very new, brash newspaper, sort of born out of the Express and we went hell for leather. We saw how much Diana meant to the public and we virtually became a gazette of her movements, whatever she did. It didn't matter what else was happening in the world, we had to do Diana and this was a paper with a very small budget and most of it was pitched straightforwardly at following the Princess of Wales and nothing was ever held back. In the early days the Star's circulation went up to 780,000 copies and not all of them responsible for the Princess of Wales for goodness sake -- I would be wrong to say that -- but she was a big part of the coverage in those days and people loved the Princess of Wales. They called her Lady Di in those days and it was Di, Di, Di. It was an absolute sensation.

q:  Can you take us through exactly what happened when you went to the island in the Bahamas.

a:  We heard the Princess of Wales was going to Eleuthera and the Prince of Wales had been in Eleuthera before for a holiday and we naturally were going to follow and James Whitaker phoned up Michael Shea and said "Michael, we're off to Eleuthera." And he said "Look old chap, there's not much point in going. You'll get nothing. The Bahamian Police have promised full security and they're going to turn it all on to make sure they have a holiday in peace without you chaps getting there -- but do come along. You're welcome. You'll get a very nice picture of her arriving at the airport and when she leaves, seven days later, you'll get a great picture of her leaving with a suntan." So we booked up and flew out, arrived a couple of days in advance knowing other papers would be there. I think the Mirror chose not to go because of the Palace saying you won't get anything but we knew the Sun had, who were the big rivals, and that we were going and there would be freelancers there. So we went out there to do a recce. I mean you didn't do these things lightly. We found out that they were going to a different little island off Eleuthera -- it's called Windermere Island -- So we bought a map of the island and worked out how we would get there using compass references because there is a scrub jungle there and there is no point of reference and you're crawling through spiny jungle. It takes hours to go through and we had a lot of equipment to carry and a lot of water. We knew that the Sun were up to the same thing and I knew that the Sun photographer, Arthur Edwards, had been before and been successful and photographed Prince Charles water-skiing, so they had an advantage.

So we got up at five in the morning, put on thick sweaters and gloves -- this is to walk through great heat -- but the spines in the jungle just tore you to pieces. We made our way through and about eight in the morning we could hear the Sun crashing through the undergrowth the same way we were doing.

Eventually we got to an area of beach or mangrove swamp at the waterside. We could see a beach across from us which we reckoned was the one that we'd seen the day before. We'd gone out to the island, photographed the house they were going to stay in and had that picture standing by. We heard the Sun arriving, knew there was not much we could do about that and from checking the day before we'd found the Sun had hired a light aircraft to fly back to the main island. So we thought we're really up against it. James and I discussed the tactics. We thought if they get a picture of her, I'll give it to James. He will flee the island on a light aircraft, taxi aircraft, go to the mainland where there's a local agency. They would transmit the picture back to London for us and this is just to keep up with the Sun. It would have been much wiser to hold on another day but competition was so great.

Anyway within ten minutes of us getting there a party arrived on the beach consisting of Lord Romsey, his wife, Diana and someone else and Diana was wearing a beach robe and within seconds she took the beach robe off and was wearing a bikini underneath. I was watching this through a lens, the lens of a drainpipe and my colleague, James Whitaker was watching through his binoculars. And as I was trying to take the first couple of photographs, there was a mile of water between us and the water, the heat was rising off it and the image was shimmering and James said Oh shit because we'd never seen her like this before and we knew this was a controversial picture. So I shot a roll of film of Diana with Romsey and gave that to James who then disappeared, just crashed out the jungle. Then Charles arrived and the two of them got into the water. They were bobbing about, just their heads about the water, kissing and I kept shooting this and I was shooting color and black and white knowing the magazines we could sell to recover all the cost of the trip and so on. And it was great stuff. Within an hour or so the Sun team arrived and said, "Well what do you think of that?" I said, "Terrific." and we chatted for a minute and they said, "where is James?" And I said, "Oh he's probably gone off into the jungle to do some business." Well Arthur just exploded and he said, "has he gone back to transmit pictures?" And I said, "oh I don't know Arthur." I'm was being very cagey and he said, "because we're not. We canceled our plane." I said, well I don't know what they're doing. It might not be successful." Well the two of them disappeared really angry because they were going to come and tell us they were good boys and they were going to keep it for another day. But it didn't work out that way. So I stayed on for another hour and shot a lot more and packed up and carted the stuff back out the jungle.

q:  So who got the picture in first and what was the reaction of the Palace and the competition?

a:  Well, we got the pictures in all editions. A front page picture of Diana on a beach, The Sun, unfortunately, only got it in the last edition in Fleet Street which maybe a few people had seen but not very many. There was a huge uproar in London, which I wasn't aware of. I'd gone to bed that night, transmitted, and I still had more films to go of the kissing in the water, Diana throwing a towel over Charles head and wrestling him to the floor and real good horseplay pictures of them on the beach. I get up the next morning. I didn't want to call from the hotel because I knew the police would be looking for me by this stage. So I went to a call box at the airport and phoned up, got a reversed charge through and I said to my Picture Editor, you know, I shouted down the phone, "Bob, it's Ken." "Where are you?" So I told him I was on the island and I said, "I've got great, great pictures. They're much better than yesterdays. It's Diana throwing a rug over Charles head, wrestling him down in the sand, him picking her up in the water, heads bobbing, kissing." And Bob says, "Get off the island." And I said, "Sorry Bob, what's happening?" "Get off the island. Do not transmit any photographs." I said, "Why Bob? I know the police, I'll catch a plane off the island. I know the police will be looking for us now because we've upset and we've beaten their security." And he said, "No you must get off. It's been raised in Parliament as the blackest day in British journalism." Well my heart dropped and it was a really mean time.

I then did get a taxi over to the mainland but couldn't book into a hotel because my name was all over the front of the paper and they were looking for me. The poor guy at Reuters had his room raided and they found one of my prints on his transmitter. It said Ken Lennox in the bottom of it. And they arrested the guy and put him in jail. Despite his protestations they thought he was Ken Lennox and they put him in a jail and held him there and the Americans get really upset if one of their people have been held for taking a photograph of, so he was freed and flown to Miami where he was treated like a long lost hero coming home. Meanwhile I was dodging about on the main island with a suitcase, which eventually I buried in the sand and sort of walked about. I'd have been fairly obviously walking about with a suitcase and a bag full of cameras. I went to a local agency and this little Scots lady - I think her name was Kerr said "Oh Mr. Lennox. I have been told by the police to, the minute you come into the office to phone them and tell them you're here. I'll give you five minutes start" she said. So I disappeared again and eventually caught a flight directly back to the States. But back in London Lloyd Turner, the late Lloyd Turner who died just recently was fired at eleven o'clock in the morning by the proprietor but he was reinstated early in the afternoon. Oh there was a huge fuss in London.

q:  Could you just describe how Michael Shea reacted to the photographs and why he was so upset by these particular pictures.

a:  The biggest upset of the pictures was that it had been announced that the Princess of Wales was pregnant. She was about four or five months pregnant. But a lot of people thinking back thought she had a huge, big tummy. She didn't have. She had a little tummy. A little normal tummy that lots of ladies have but because she was pregnant -- that was what it was all about. Pregnant Princess photographed in a bikini on the beach. It didn't matter that two hundred other people on the beach had all photographed her. It was a public beach and they had been lining up to take her photographs but bad old Press photographers had done it. Oh I was in trouble, big trouble at the time. I was exiled. I was sent to the Hertz Mountains in Austria to photograph Richard Burton making a film and I was there for weeks.

q:  What was the Queen's reaction?

a:  Well she issued the statement about the blackest days in British journalism. MPs raised it in Parliament. The Press Council sort of got up the lynch mob for us and when I eventually got back into circulation again I was sent up to cover the Queen at Balmoral-- the Games there. I got there and there was a whole group -- twenty, thirty photographers there -- and the Queen who has an eagle eye spotted me and sent a detective over to me, who took me aside and said, "Her Majesty has seen you here and doesn't want you here." And I said, "but I've got a pass, you know, I'm doing it officially for my paper." And he said, "this town isn't big enough for the two of you. You're coming on the trip to Italy. If I were you I would make yourself very scarce." And I looked over the detective's shoulder. The Queen was thirty meters away but she wasn't watching the tossing of the caber or the highland dancing. She was watching my reaction and I picked up my bags, put my cameras away and got out of town.

q:  What about Royal holidays?

a:  Well holidays are supposed to be off-limits. We're not supposed to be there but we are there and we're there if it's a foreign holiday -- by right to be there. So what happens is there's a little bit of shuffling goes on and when we all turn up Michael or whoever would come down onto the beach and say "Look chaps, this is a private holiday. You can't do this." And we would say, "Michael, can we have one photograph to show that the couple are in Kenya or wherever and we will all go away?" "I will put it to them" he would say, "but I must have promises from each one of you as people, not as newspapers, that you'll all be on the next flight out and I want assurances from anyone who comes to do this beach photograph that you'll be gone the next day." We would then consult our offices and say "We have been told we can have one good beach picture and if we get that we've got to clear off." And normally they would accept that and we would go back and wait and Michael or whoever would come back down to the beach and say, "Right chaps, eleven o'clock tomorrow. Fifteen minutes only. It will be a walk along the beach. No swimming costumes, no funny hats. We will just do a straightforward picture." And we would say, "Oh we need the funny hats." And we would try to argue up the picture. "We need them in the water. We need this." If the children were there, "we need the children with them." And it would be a bartering job. I mean it was an Arab Souk out in the middle of wherever we were and it was too and fro and too and fro. Then whoever it was would go back and the rules would be laid out on each side and we would get some form of picture.

If the picture was rotten, we wouldn't go away. And if it wasn't, if they didn't keep to their end of the bargain we would say that it was hopeless. They were six hundred yards away. They were behind bushes most of the time. You didn't play the game. "But you promised to go away." "Well we didn't get a picture worth publishing." "But it's in all the papers this morning." "But it's not on the front pages it's on page thirteen," we would say and it would go on like this. There would be a game which was played to the limits. Then we would go off. It was the same with skiing. No matter what they did they would come and pose for pictures and they would get rid of ninety percent of us at that time. But then the real paparazzi would stay on. They wouldn't even come to the first one because they couldn't sell that one because everyone else would have it, but they could sell the one three days later when Charles was peeling grapes for Diana. That's where they would make their money.

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