Royal family waves to the crowds after Queen Elizabeth II coronation
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Monday, February 6, marks the anniversary of the late Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne. In 1952, aged 25, Her Majesty succeeded her father and began her reign as the longest-serving British monarch in history. Her death, in September 2022, came just months after the monarch celebrated her Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years as Sovereign. While the Queen is often lauded for her commitment to service and duty, she is also remembered for her sharp sense of humour, particularly by those closest to her. And one royal photographer — whose relationship with the monarch did not get off to the best start — revealed he was once on the receiving end of the Queen’s quick wit.
Arthur Edwards, The Sun’s royal photographer, was a guest on last week’s episode of Hello! Magazine’s A Right Royal Podcast.
Speaking with hosts Andrea Caamano and Emmy Griffiths, the award-winning photographer chronicled his career following the Royal Family and experiencing life within Palace walls from behind the camera.
Having joined The Sun in 1977, Mr Edwards has built a reputation as a well-respected royal photographer.
His achievements were even recognised by the late Queen when he was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for “outstanding service to newspapers”.
During his appearance on the podcast, he recalled receiving the significant honour back in 2012 and Her Majesty’s humorous quip as she presented the Order of Chivalry, revealing his relationship with the royals did not begin pleasantly.
He explained that he was not initially a royalist, admitting to being “very aggressive” during the early days of his career.
“In fact, newspapers in the Seventies and Eighties were very aggressive,” the 82-year-old continued. “There was a sort of ‘no prisoners taken’ — there was none of these rules that go we go by now, there was absolutely nothing like that.
“And so I was aggressive. I’d go and get really stuck in. I remember [photographing] the Queen at Sandringham and [Prince] Edward riding his horse at me [trying] to get me out of the way. That’s how brazen I was.”
He added: “In fact, when I got my MBE, the Queen said, ‘I can’t believe I’m giving you this’, as though she was remembering back to that day.”
As Mr Edwards went on to explain, both his respect for the Royal Family and his relationship with its members have developed in the decades he has spent as a photographer.
Following the Queen’s death, he revealed where he was on the day of the monarch’s accession in 1952, and recounted his first sighting of the young Sovereign.
Writing for The Sun in September, he recalled: “I was queuing for lunch at my East London school when the headmaster walked in and said, ‘It has just been announced that the King has died.’ It did not mean anything to me and I just carried on getting my food.
“Three or four months later, we were all marched up from our school in Stepney to Whitechapel to see the young Queen driving past. It was my first sight of our new monarch, the lady I would be destined to spend a lifetime photographing.”
He went on to acknowledge the Queen’s impact on the country, largely as the “only monarch” many had ever known.
He wrote: “…when you think how she was only 25 when she became Queen, it shows just how brilliantly she did, all with no fuss…Travelling the world with her for 40 years, she made me proud that I am British — and so proud that she was our Queen.”
Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne following the death of her father King George VI, who had been suffering from a prolonged illness which had forced him to abandon a Commonwealth tour just days earlier. His elder daughter and her husband Prince Philip took the King’s place, leaving London on January 31, 1952.
On February 6, during an official visit to Kenya, she received the news of her father’s death and her own accession to the throne. The tour was abandoned and the newly-appointed Queen flew back to Britain.
On the evening of her Coronation, Her Majesty addressed the nation, saying: “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
It renewed the pledge she had made six years earlier on her 21st birthday, and later made on the 70th anniversary of her accession.
On this day last year, she said: “6th February, marks the 70th anniversary of my Accession in 1952. It is a day that, even after 70 years, I still remember as much for the death of my father, King George VI, as for the start of my reign. As we mark this anniversary, it gives me pleasure to renew to you the pledge I gave in 1947 that my life will always be devoted to your service.”
In his first national broadcast as King, Charles said his mother’s life was a “life well-lived, a promise with destiny kept,” adding: “That promise of lifelong service I renew to you all today.”
Mr Edwards, who photographed the former Prince of Wales from his early bachelor days to the first months of his reign, shares a particularly special relationship with the new monarch.
He praised King Charles III for his kindness and generosity, noting his desire to benefit others, “never himself”.
He told the podcast: “[I’m] not only photographing…I’ve also come to admire him and think, ‘what a great man’…I’ve never known him do anything for himself or the Royal Family. It’s always for the others and it’s just impressive.”
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