Photographer Arthur Edwards on His New Doc and Covering the Royal Family for More Than Four Decades

Arthur Edwards

Arthur Edwards pictured with his camera in front of Buckingham Palace, waiting on members of the Royal Family to appear on the balcony. Edwards is a legend of Fleet Street and a 43-year veteran of covering the Royal Family’s highs and lows. Photo: Courtesy of BritBox

Opening scene: then Prince Charles is seen with then Duchess of Cornwall at an everyday engagement in the U.K., circa 2021. The prince spots a familiar face, a man who has a camera crew following behind. The crew is there to record the photographer recording the royal couple. Charles says to the photographer, “I hear you are being followed around.” He waits a beat, then delivers the kicker: “Serves you right!”

The photographer in question is Arthur Edwards, a legend of Fleet Street and 43-year veteran of covering the Royal Family’s highs and lows, both their big moments and the more quotidian ones. The joshing turns to warmth: “I’m glad you are making a program on him,” Charles concludes.

This is how Arthur: A Life With the Royal Family begins. Edwards, 82, works at The Sun, the Rupert Murdoch-owned paper, which was at one time famed for its topless Page 3 girls (the paper ceased that tradition in 2015). The documentary is now available in Canada on the BritBox streaming service, part of the channel’s coronation package of offerings.

The relationship between the Royal Family and the press is a complicated one indeed. On the one hand, we have stories from Prince Harry absolutely vilifying the press, especially the tabloid press; he currently has a suit against The Sun in progress. Harry has also accused the Royal Family of fashioning secret deals with the press to ensure favourable coverage for what he says are preferred family members.

On the other hand, and what this documentary really drives home with actual footage of the Royal Family interacting with Edwards over four decades, is that the truth is much more complicated. Edwards himself explains it in a Zoom interview from London, where he is preparing to cover the coronation this weekend.

Of Charles, he says: “I started photographing him around 1978 in a serious way. Those years, the ’70s and ’80s, were very aggressive at newspapers. There was a huge fierce circulation battle in Britain and sales were in their millions.” He describes his job at the time as literally trying to suss out whom the then prince, the world’s most eligible bachelor, was going to marry.


Prince Charles with members of the Press (Arthur Edwards is at right), who were returning his joke  (he’d previously worn a disguise to fool the Press Corp), in Kloster, Switzerland, Jan. 24, 1980. Photo: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images


The documentary recounts how Edwards got his big break, when he came upon Charles’ polo manager with a broken down horse trailer. Edwards went for help, the game was saved, and he now had a friend with inside knowledge of where Charles would be. He admits he ticked off Charles a number of times, notably when he snapped a shot of the back of Charles’ head revealing a small bald spot that was published on page one with the headline: “Patch in Thatch.”

But it was when he spotted Diana, wearing a D letter necklace, at a match shortly thereafter, in July 1980, that he had his real scoop. At that time, he had been told only that she may be potential girlfriend of the heir to the throne.

He asked Diana for permission to take her photo, and she agreed. These were his first shots of the sweet and naive 19-year-old. After that, Edwards says he waited patiently for confirmation of the relationship. One day soon after, when he spotted Charles and Diana fishing near the Balmoral grounds, he had his proof they were indeed a couple. The Sun ran with the story, and Di-mania began.

It was also Edwards who got that famous shot of Diana in the see-through skirt in the sunshine, holding her charges at the kindergarten where she worked. When he met her a decade or so later, he showed up in a red sports car. Diana quipped, “Did I buy you that car, Arthur?”


Diana with Edwards, May 23, 1993. Photo: Barry Batchelor – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images


Edwards later found Kate Middleton in the background on an early ski trip to Gstaad, breaking the story of the next-generation royal romance, too.

Edwards has been a true witness to history, attending some 4,000 royal events over the years. Oftentimes they are workaday, but he says you never know what is going to happen. And that gives him the same rush it did when he was a cub reporter. He relates a story from just last week. “William and Catherine were up in Birmingham at an Indian restaurant,” he says. “But then the phone rang, and William picked it up.” He took down a reservation for lunch, and boom, there is the money shot. Royals doing normal things! 


Prince William takes a restaurant booking beside his wife,  the Princess of Wales, Birmingham, England, April 20, 2023. Photo: Arthur Edwards – WPA Pool/Getty Images


“You never know what’s going to happen. That’s when it’s exciting.” He found a Camilla impersonator shortly thereafter in Windsor — another winner of a shot. 

It is Charles, however, who changed Edward’s mind about the nature of the job. “For a long time,” he says, he felt the prince was his quarry. “Some girl would grab him and kiss him and I got a great pic that went in the paper. But one day I realized he had a long way to go before becoming king, but in the meantime, he was trying to help people.

“Slowly I listened to what the prince was saying in his speeches. In the Amazon he made this speech pressing them not to rip up this precious resource and really did the same in Malaysia, and in Cameroon, and all these rainforests. He was talking about saving the planet 30 years ago, and no one was listening. He got terribly stressed about it and frustrated. I remember him making a speech and he said ‘It’s not for me, it’s for my children and my grandchildren.’ He was right. Now, of course, we’re in crisis.”

At that moment, he says, “I realized I wanted to help him. It changed me. It changed the newspaper, too. They suddenly realized this man was on a mission and we should support him. That’s how it changed.” 


Then-Prince Charles, and Arthur Edwards, on his visit to Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire, March 19, 2018. Photo: Eamonn M. McCormack – WPA Pool/Getty Images


Charles, he explains, has worked with the newspaper to raise funds, selling prints of his paintings to readers, for instance, to help a women’s shelter in Katmandu. This relationship between the Royal Family and the newspapers is not one we see often on this side of the pond, as the narrative so often is about press incursion. The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle, but this documentary is Edward’s point of view. It does soften the view of The Sun, as it was no doubt intended.

Edwards is fiercely loyal to Charles, in particular. (He also spoke about how magical it was waiting for the Queen to smile so he could get the money shot, and how he was moved to tears photographing her smiling on the balcony of Buckingham Palace at her Jubilee last year. But as a newspaperman, he is now focused on the stories of today, and today means King Charles III.) 


Arthur, poised for the iconic balcony shot outside of Buckingham Palace. Photo: Courtesy of BritBox


He does not hold back on the praise. “He was a visionary,” Edwards says of Charles. And several times calls him “a very humble person.” He recounts, with emotion in his voice, a story from the documentary where Charles got him in to meet the Pope. Edwards, a Catholic, was blown away by this kind gesture. “It’s special,” he says, “for him to take that trouble. He’s a very kind and decent man.”

Edwards is fully behind Camilla, too. “He’s supported by lovely Camilla,” he says. “She doesn’t outshine him, and she supports him completely.” He also enjoys their easy dynamic. “They get the giggles sometimes and that is a picture on its own.”

Edwards says in the documentary of Camilla: “She’s taken a lot of the stuffiness out of that job. And she has never lost that common touch. And I think some of that common touch has rubbed off on him.”

Arthur: A Life With The Family


Harry and Meghan, though, earn less admiration from Edwards. The King, he says, “is a happy person. The unhappiness has to do with Harry. Harry is being silly, really, revealing all these secrets, which you know every family has. It upset them all a lot. It upset William tremendously. But I don’t know what’s making him do this.”

In the documentary he also recounts the fun he had on tours with Harry,  adding: “I’m so glad he’s coming to the coronation.”

Come Saturday, Edwards will be in what he referred to as “the forecourt” at Buckingham Palace, in place to get photos of the King and Queen Consort as they emerge on the balcony wearing their crowns. (Edwards was positioned on the stairs at St. Paul’s and got a lovely shot of Diana’s wedding train, but he did not get the balcony kiss. He did get William and Kate’s page one smooch, though. And he was literally under the stairs at Windsor Chapel for Prince Philip’s funeral to capture the coffin being carried up those stairs.)

“The King is now a great star,” says Edwards, adding, “I hope to get a picture in the paper.” 


Arthur: Life With the Royal Family is available now on BritBox. BritBox will also live stream ITV News’ live broadcast of the occasion, hosted by Tom Bradby and Julie Etchingham. The coverage will be available later, on demand, if you aren’t up early enough on Saturday, May 6 to watch it live.