Photographing the Queen – our Royal memories

From Corby to Kettering, Wellingborough to Oundle and all the places in between, when Queen Elizabeth II visited she was cheered by crowds.

Living in the public eye was part of her role. In her words she needed ‘to be seen to be believed’ and journalists are there to be the readers’ eyes and record those events.

The Queen made many visits to the north Northants over the years, two of which I covered for this paper.

Her Majesty Elizabeth Queen II visits Corby International Swimming Pool and Corby Cube. Waving goodbye to Corby on Wednesday, June 13 2012Her Majesty Elizabeth Queen II visits Corby International Swimming Pool and Corby Cube. Waving goodbye to Corby on Wednesday, June 13 2012
Her Majesty Elizabeth Queen II visits Corby International Swimming Pool and Corby Cube. Waving goodbye to Corby on Wednesday, June 13 2012

Nerve-wracking for everyone – except for the Queen – with months of planning for each moment of her itinerary, her visits brought joy to those lucky enough to meet her and it has been a real privilege to ‘meet’ her, albeit seeing her through a lens.

My first time photographing the Queen was at horse racing experts Weatherbys in Wellingborough in 1992.

Before a Royal visit, journalists are briefed as to where you can stand, how far away you can be from the visitor and which places are off limits – and there is a highly-trained security detail to keep you from overstepping the mark. They will tell you in no uncertain terms with a look, gentle push on the elbow or a tug on a camera strap or an urgent whisper in your ear to move – NOW.

As her Majesty was hugely interested in Weatherbys’ work providing editorial services to the sport of Point-to-Point horse racing in Great Britain, she was engrossed in her tour.

In The Core Theatre, Corby - Queen Elizabeth II surrounded by VIPsIn The Core Theatre, Corby - Queen Elizabeth II surrounded by VIPs
In The Core Theatre, Corby – Queen Elizabeth II surrounded by VIPs

Accompanied by Her Majesty‘s Lord-Lieutenant for Northamptonshire Sir John Lowther, a splendid Second World War veteran resplendent in a ceremonial uniform, towering over her, but certainly not out-shining The Queen.

My major memory is of nervous excitement and semi-panic. Pre-digital, the visit was taken on film with care to be taken to not use too many of the 36 exposures and a reminder of not to not over-do it – not use flash too much or often.

Staying ahead of The Queen during the tour of the warren of offices was tricky. Although there’s a plan of the people to be introduced, The Queen also liked meeting everyone, showing great interest in the minutiae of the business, taking time to chat and ask questions.

As I tried to find the best angles and keep ahead of Her Majesty, sneaky escape routes were hampered by many desks. At one point I was crammed in a corner taking a photo across the desk, when the Queen who wanted a better view came round to my side of a computer screen – I swear she gently and briefly stood on one of my very large feet. I tried to be as invisible as possible and stayed still until I could get out of the way. Sadly I don’t have the photos of the visit – lost in space.

Her Majesty Elizabeth Queen II on walkabout outside Corby International Swimming Pool and Corby Cube on Wednesday, June 13, 2012Her Majesty Elizabeth Queen II on walkabout outside Corby International Swimming Pool and Corby Cube on Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Her Majesty Elizabeth Queen II on walkabout outside Corby International Swimming Pool and Corby Cube on Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The second time I had the privilege was twenty years later, at the opening of the Corby Cube and International Swimming Pool in 2012.

A gloriously sunny day, we had a team of journalists around the town to cover the visit from start to finish. Part of The Queen’s golden jubilee tour, the whole town appeared to turn out to welcome Her Majesty.

To prevent a media scrum, one roving photographer is given the job of providing photographs to the rest of the media – to be on Royal Rota – my job that day. The usual briefing to journalists of how to behave was given. The car park outside the Corby Cube and Pool was closed off with barriers allowing members of the public an excellent view of The Queen and with hopes of a Royal walkabout.

From the moment she stepped from the limo she was smiling, greeted by flag-waving children and crowds cheering. She was introduced to VIPs as we got into position on the floating platform across the pool alongside a group of cheerleaders.

Her Majesty Elizabeth Queen II meets Corby Carnival Queens on Wednesday, June 13, 2012Her Majesty Elizabeth Queen II meets Corby Carnival Queens on Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Her Majesty Elizabeth Queen II meets Corby Carnival Queens on Wednesday, June 13, 2012

When The Queen was sitting poolside, a display began which meant the assembled media were bounced about as the dancers went through their routine – quite tricky trying to get a steady photo of Her Majesty’s enjoyment of the proceedings.

Moving from the muggy pool, a much-anticipated walkabout took place. One of my favourite images was The Queen meeting the Corby Carnival Queens – she was the only one not wearing a sparkly crown.

Moving ahead of the Royal party we plunged back into the darkness of The Core Theatre, waiting nervously for The Queen to arrive. Our bustling arrival heralded Her Majesty’s imminent presence. As the great and the good sang the National Anthem, I knew it was an important image for the town to capture the moment when the Monarch visited Corby.

Out again into the bright sunshine, the visit was nearly over. She was cheered by the patient, excited crowd.

When she had first arrived, although she was smiling after meeting everyone, she was beaming at her warm reception. She was smiling with her whole face, you could see it in her eyes, she was genuinely moved by the moment shared with her people of Corby.

Northamptonshire Telegraph News