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The picture by The Sun photographer Arthur Edwards showing the first picture of Lady Diana Spencer since she was romantically linked with Prince Charles in July 1980.

The photo of Princess Diana we almost never saw

News Corp Australia

HE shot some of the most iconic images of Princess Diana ever published - but veteran photographer Arthur Edwards didn't want to print the first photograph he ever took of a young Lady Diana Spencer.

The 76-year- old, who's been the royal photographer with the Sun newspaper in the UK for more than 40 years, told his editors just to file the first photographs he took of a young Diana at the polo back on July 28, 1980.

"Prince Charles had made a speech about how he thought 30 was a good time to get married. The editor said to me: 'find out who his girlfriend is','' Edwards told News Corp last week.

He said a contact had rung him to say Charles was at a polo match with a young woman called Diana Spencer.

Edwards found her, spotting the necklace she was wearing with the letter D, and asked her to pose for a photograph. She agreed.

"She's the youngest daughter of Earl Spencer,'' he recalled of the then-19- year-old.

"But I thought, he (Charles) isn't running around with teenagers. He was 28, he'd been going out with girls in their mid-20s. I told the editor, 'don't syndicate it, just file it'.''

Three weeks later, as Edwards was driving to Balmoral in Scotland to photograph the Queen, he spotted Charles and Diana fishing beside the River Dee, and realised the young Diana was indeed Charles' girlfriend, and most likely the one he was going to marry.

"I rang the reporter … our headline was "Charles Is In Love and She has All the Qualities to Be Queen,'' Edwards recalled.

Princess Diana with Prince Charles and their first son Prince William in 1983
Princess Diana with Prince Charles and their first son Prince William in 1983 Arthur Edwards

Edwards was dispatched to find Diana and photograph her, and discovered she worked at a nursery minding children.

He went door-knocking every nursery in west London, until, at his fourth or fifth try, he found where she worked, at the Young England Kindergarten in Pimlico. It was September 1980.

"I knocked on the door - 'does Lady Diana Spencer work here' - yes she does.''

She agreed to be photographed, but only with children, and she wouldn't reveal the children's names.

Edwards organised the picture outside in the nursery grounds. "A few paps (paparazzi photographers) who had been following her car sprung out of the bushes,'' he recalled.

"Halfway through the sun came out.''

The result was the famous photo of Shy Di, the young Diana with a child on each hip as the sun shone through her translucent skirt, showing off her legs.

Lady Diana Spencer with 2 children at the Young England Kindergarten Pimlico London Sept 1980
Lady Diana Spencer with 2 children at the Young England Kindergarten Pimlico London Sept 1980 Arthur Edwards

"I knew when I saw it that it was a fabulous picture,'' Edwards said.

Another of his favourite photographs is a black and white image of Diana, wearing her sapphire and diamond engagement ring, in February 1981.

"That was the first day after the engagement was announced and she was leaving her apartment for the final time,'' he said.

"That smile, she's so happy.''

He is also fond of another photograph of Diana dancing with Prince Charles, at a dinner-dance at the Hyatt in Melbourne in January 1988 to celebrate the Australian bicentenary.

She had her hair swept up - a new style - and Edwards said that was enough to guarantee a good run with the picture.

"I did them (the royals) twice in Melbourne actually. She wore the emerald necklace on her forehead,'' he recalled of another visit.

"We used to hold the paper at night, wherever they were in the world, for the dress picture.\

"She always wore these fabulous ball gowns.

"I remember waiting for her outside the Scala in Italy when she was going to the opera and she turned up in a dress she had worn before.

"I said to her 'why did you wear that old dress for' and she said 'what, did you want me to come naked'?

"She was very cheeky and when I see the princes now talking about her being naughty I can relate to that.''

The last picture Edwards took of the Princess was three weeks before she died, in Bosnia, where she was promoting the work of de-mining charities.

"She was desperate to halt the spread of landmines,'' he said.

Princess Diana and Prince Charles look in different directions during a Korean War commemorative service in November, 1992.
Princess Diana and Prince Charles look in different directions during a Korean War commemorative service in November, 1992. Arthur Edwards

He had previously photographed her in Angola, where she bravely strode through fields being cleared of landmines, and visited victims in hospital.

"She was very streetwise, and the things she did, they were incredible,'' Edwards said.

"The way she took the stigma out of HIV-AIDS.

"I was the pool photographer and she was hugging AIDS patients. We were all mixed up then about AIDS and we thought we needed a 500mm lens.

"That transformed me, and if it transformed me, it transformed the nation.''

One seminal picture from 1991 shows Diana leaning in close as she chatted to Steve, a 28-year-old man being treated for AIDS-related illnesses at Middlesex Hospital in London.

Edwards admits to being very fond of Diana as he followed her around the world, ready to capture every outfit and facial expression with his cameras.

Princess Diana sits in a chair chatting with Steve, 28, at a centre for AIDS / HIV+ patients Middlesex Hospital London.
Princess Diana sits in a chair chatting with Steve, 28, at a centre for AIDS / HIV+ patients Middlesex Hospital London. Arthur Edwards

"Of course I liked her, she was fun,'' he said.

"She turned up one day with short hair and I said to her 'if you go any shorter you'll be like Sinead O'Connor (the bald Irish singer)'.''

The Princess looked at Edwards' bald head and shot back "well at least I've got hair Arthur.''

Edwards also took the famous photograph of a pensive-looking Diana sitting alone outside the Taj Mahal in India in February 1992, a photograph that became a metaphor for the state of her relationship with Prince Charles.

But he had photographed her smiling a short time earlier at the Red Fort, and he didn't agree she'd been snubbed by Charles, who had announced weeks earlier he would be engaging in trade talks in Bangalore and wouldn't be able to join her at the Taj Mahal.

Edwards also photographed the last tour Charles and Diana undertook together, when their marriage was in utter crisis and they journeyed to South Korea in November 1992. Their separation was confirmed several weeks later.

Princess Diana smiling for photographer Arthur Edwards of the Sun at the Red Fort palace in Agra, India - before heading off to the Taj Mahal.
Princess Diana smiling for photographer Arthur Edwards of the Sun at the Red Fort palace in Agra, India - before heading off to the Taj Mahal. Arthur Edwards

His photograph of them looking away from each other, unhappiness etched on Diana's face, confirmed the royal marriage was on the rocks.

"It was a nasty tour,'' he confirmed.

"They just couldn't stand each other and a month later they had split up.''

Edwards is still photographing the royals, from Queen Elizabeth down to tiny Princess Charlotte, 2, and Prince George, 4.

"It's hard to believe but I'm now photographing (Diana's) grandkids,'' he said.

"George is just like William. William hated his picture being taken too.''

Edwards said he had no plans to retire.

"If you like what you do, you keep doing it,'' he said.