Meghan Markle and Prince Harry waving during their carriage procession down the Long Walk after the Royal Wedding. Copyright Benjamin Wareing.
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry waving during their carriage procession down the Long Walk after the Royal Wedding. Copyright Benjamin Wareing.
In the build-up to the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex), I was told that, as a student photographer attempting to capture the Royal Wedding, I was “irrelevant.”
This dismissal didn’t come from a Twitter troll (although there were a whole bunch of those), but from a figure in quite high esteem within the royal bubble.
What follows is my complete story about how, as a 19-year-old, I came to photograph the Royal Wedding, and how I’ve since continued to photograph royal engagements as the youngest photographer of this kind.
Last November, I sat in my journalism class in university watching a Sky News live-stream of the wedding announcement. It was set to take place in the Diana Memorial Garden in Kensington Palace, as Meghan Markle — an actress I’d long admired from watching her Netflix show, Suits — held onto the arm of Prince Harry. Usually strong and confident, the Prince appeared, for the first time in my memory, calm, shy, and somewhat nervous. The loving glances they gave one another, the cute laughter, the jokes they shared in the later interview with BBC, all made me understand that this was a special relationship — a relationship I needed to photograph.
The Royal family is upheld by what some would argue are the world’s most stringent traditions. To see so many of these traditions broken within one relationship, but in the most constructive and positive way, was humbling and unforgettable. This wedding was a moment in history that would inevitably change the course of the Royal family, their traditions, and the way the public perceives it all.
My tutor must have been annoyed at me during that class; I was glued to my phone, watching and listening to the engagement and grinning at every word and joke made to the dozens of photographers gathered across the pond from the Royal couple. How I envied them.
The engagement was imminent — just weeks before, Kensington Palace issued a warning to the media against a “wave of abuse and harassment” directed toward the American Duchess-to-be, a drastic and public move the Palace would not have even considered had Meghan and Harry’s relationship not been at the engagement stage.
That evening, I set about planning how I might photograph the Royal Wedding, with the usual caveat I face: I’ve never photographed anything like it.
I began my career in photography (current affairs, politics, royalty, and breaking news) roughly two years ago, and taught myself everything I do today. I hadn’t yet photographed a Royal Wedding, I’d barely photographed royalty (in November of 2017, I had only photographed Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall), and I had never before been to Windsor.
Using Google Maps, for the next few weeks I familiarized myself with the landscape of Windsor, whilst juggling exams and other university worries. I quickly grew accustomed to the names of key areas and streets, especially those along the Long Walk, from where I’d be shooting. In very early May, I received the now infamous accreditation email from the Cabinet Office; I could photograph the Royal Wedding from various platforms along the procession route, for the small fee of £750 (plus value added tax would mean paying approximately £900) — the highest photographers have ever been charged to photograph a British Royal Wedding.
Almost immediately, my heart sank. As a student, £900 would be almost an entire term’s (three to four months) worth of food, books, equipment, and travel. It would be countless hours in a part-time job, or result in a massive dip into overdraft. I come from a council estate upbringing, with little to no financial support from family for photography (I don’t ask for or expect it; they’ve done enough for me to get me to this point), so £900 was an amount I’ve never even seen in person, yet alone held.
I tweeted about this, explaining my situation, and suggesting that £900 is a ludicrous fee to ask of any photographer — including those in the Royal Rota who follow royalty for a living, and those employed by the biggest agencies. It was a shocking fee to ask of anyone, but especially for a student that figure hits hard. At the time, I had to make a choice between taking the accreditation and having no money whatsoever for food, university costs, traveling home to see my family, clothes, and accommodation, or raising the money in an exciting, engaging, and open way.
I turned to GoFundMe, and the incredible social media community of royal-watchers (shout-out to all those amazing people on Twitter), to raise as much of the £900 as I could, in the belief that I would, hopefully, be able to get that accreditation and deliver photographs that made the world, and my supporters, happy. I offered incentives: for a small donation a supporter would receive an exclusive photograph; for a medium donation, a signed thank you letter and a polaroid of one of my photographs of the Royal Wedding; for a larger donation, a signed canvas print of one of the photographs.
This was my way of saying, “Thank you for your belief in me, for your support of me, and for your help. I’m doing this for you, and I’m going to give back to you.”
And then there was the quite major issue of my camera. For the previous year or so, I had relied on my Nikon D3400, which covered me for some pretty major events — from the Manchester Arena terror attack, to photographing Prince Charles and The Queen, to concerts and festivals, photoshoots and more. I’d made it work — though, with it being a somewhat basic camera, it has its limitations. But while it had been good enough for past events, I knew it would fail me for such a historic event as this. It was too slow, too limited, too low-quality, and too unreliable for battery life. I knew, given the fast-paced nature of the Royal Wedding, how long I would be working (about 50 hours in total), and the amount of photos I would need to take (in the high thousands), that I would require a better option than my trusty-yet-annoyingly-not-good-enough D3400.
This was just one of the few times being a student benefitted my photography aspirations. My university was more than accommodating for the opportunity I had, and lent me a Nikon D750, a spare battery, a spare industry-standard memory card, and a 24–70mm lens (a total kit worth around £1700) with complete trust in me not to steal it, break it, go swimming with it, or hurl it off a mountain somewhere. This was a godsend, quite frankly, and I owe my university so much for having that trust in me, and for believing in my efforts. Thank you, Staffordshire University.
The night before the wedding, I made sure literally everything was ready: I triple checked the charge of my camera batteries, double checked that all my memory cards were working and empty, loaded everything into my camera bag, including snacks and drinks (I’m quite proud of how well I packed that camera bag), and charged a bunch of portable mobile chargers. I also picked my outfit — knowing it would be freezing at night, but boiling during the day. A hoodie, a ¾-length jacket, a t-shirt and black jeans, with a pair of converse sneakers for all the standing and walking. Also, of course, sunglasses — it was going to be a sunny one!
Once the nerves and anxiety settled down, I got a few hours of sleep. I awoke ready for my 12 p.m. train journey — the walk to the train station was hell, and I soon realised a camera bag with wheels would probably be needed for future events like this.
The walk to the station wasn’t rushed (normally I set off for the train far too late, and have to make up for it by speed-walking). I gave myself plenty of time to get there and chill out for a bit, phoning my father to let him know I’d set off. Being a monarch-skeptic, his voice didn’t sound too bothered. It was a sunny Friday — well, sunny for the U.K. The train to London was uneventful, if a bit boring, and once in London I set off on the tube to Paddington Station.
I love traveling by the underground in London, but not in sweltering heat while hauling such a cumbersome bag around. Nonetheless, I got there on time for my connection to Slough, where I was greeted by dozens of station helpers wearing green high-visibility jackets, specifically positioned there for the next two days to guide tourists on to the correct train: “All aboard the Royal Wedding special to Harry and Meghan Central,” the platform sign read. Windsor and Eton Central train station had, of course, been transformed for the special wedding — a humble nod to the couple drawing to this otherwise small yet historic city more than a hundred thousand people.
Stepping off at Windsor, the first thing I saw (after dodging past the dozens of people pulling their phones out to snap pictures of the castle in the distance) was the “Harry and Meghan Central” sign that replaced the platform signs; they served as a lovely supplement to the excitement for the biggest wedding of the past five years, and as a welcome surprise for a lot of the travelers who had arrived from overseas. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and by now it was around 21 degrees Celsius, but felt much hotter. It was a fairytale arrival, and I still thank the stars for preventing a single drop of rain during those two days.
At that sign is where I started my two days’ worth of photographs in Windsor. From there I took the long walk (no, not that Long Walk) to the castle, where I would figure out where to sit for the next 30 or so hours.
Making my way past a few life-size cutouts of the Royal couple, and a whole bunch of activities put on by various local companies (one being a sort of ‘remake the engagement picture with little beads’ group activity, tailored for the kids), I finally arrived at the looping street that makes its way up to the base of Windsor Castle — the magical venue for a magical wedding. I squeezed past a large group of amassed tourists and a few scattered campers before reaching the front gates of the castle. At this point, I didn’t really know what I was doing; I just felt that it was a good place to get a few crowd shots, and it seemed as though a crowd of other photographers were lurking nearby, so it must be the place to be, right? Well, my curiosity paid off: within ten minutes of me climbing on top of an anti-vehicle crash barrier to get a better shot of the thousands of people now lining the streets, Prince William and Prince Harry emerged for their famous pre-wedding walkabout. And I had a perfect view.
The atmosphere was electric, with screams and cheers echoing around the streets and frenetic waving of flags — blue, white, and red blurs across the thousands of people behind barriers. Harry smiled and joked with a few of the journalists on his way toward the public awaiting him, and William smiled, seemingly full of pride for his younger brother. Some of my photographs from the walkabout, despite my having been completely unprepared for it, turned out quite great — someone had gifted Prince Harry a little teddy bear as an early wedding gift, so it featured largely in my shots of him after his walkabout. William was all smiles, at various points glancing back at the mammoth crowd crammed on the streets.
Once William and Harry had entered the castle for the final time, the crowds died down a little. I took this as an opportunity to head to the Long Walk for the first time in my life. My months of analysing Google Map views of the walk in the hope of pinpointing a prime spot would finally culminate in actually finding a spot. In my head, the Long Walk would already be populated by thousands and thousands of people camping out (I’d considered paying extra for an earlier train, deeply worried I wouldn’t be able to find a good spot only the day before the wedding). However, I was pleasantly surprised to find, as I ambled toward the entrance to the walk, that on the side closest to the castle — past the now bustling and packed pub — the Long Walk was mostly empty of campers but incredibly busy in the form of foot traffic. It was a carnival atmosphere, with the mixture of brilliant weather, cheap beer, cheaper champagne, and selfies with the castle creating an infectiously enjoyable air to the place, making it a joy to photograph. I snapped some photographs of couples with the castle in the background, some of children on parents’ shoulders, many of the amazing police officers patrolling up and down the Long Walk, and a few of the colourful outfits, decorations, and attitudes of those who had already decided to camp out.
I then had to make the decision of where to set up. As it was now less than 12 hours before the beginning of the wedding, and only a few hours before the police made their final security sweeps of the area, I couldn’t get the controversial photographer pass to be perched on some scaffolding overlooking the carriage procession somewhere. I settled for a spot on the right of the Long Walk (the left if you’re heading toward the castle) with two ladies who had already set up for the long haul of a night camped out.
Windsor Council had already confirmed that tents would not be allowed, as they pose a security risk (so they say). This was reinforced by the hourly police patrols, who would repeatedly mutter “set up a tent and we’ll take it down,” as though the first five times we heard it weren’t enough.
Andrea and Kerry, the two women with whom I camped, made the entire adventure into an unforgettable and belly-laughing experience. Both women were immediately welcoming, even though it would have been incredibly easy for them, and justifiable, to just say “Go away” when I asked if I could pitch next to them. But their hospitality was kind beyond description: they offered me food, water, blankets and an endless stream of banter fit to keep me awake through the night.
Had I stuck it out alone, I would have needed to bring the entirety of my photography kit with me on walkabouts, with the obvious downside that the kit was heavy as hell and the temperature was boiling. I would also have had no guarantee of saving a prime spot on the Long Walk — which had been one of my most prominent worries over the previous few weeks. But because I had met these two women, I didn’t need to lug my kit around with me everywhere, and, most importantly, my spot was safe next to them — safe from the prying desperation of American tourists and visiting locals. I owe Andrea and Kerry so much for making shooting the wedding considerably easier for me on a practical level, and for reducing a lot of stress.
After editing my walkabout photographs of William and Harry and posting them to Twitter, I set off for my own walkabout — this time focusing my photographs on the crowds that had by now begun camping through the sunset. I shot some vibrant photos of the dozens of spectators huddled in Union Flag sleeping bags on the concrete sidewalks outside Windsor Castle. It was a troubling irony that these people were allowed to camp out in the sleeping bags and that the homeless of Windsor were told to remove from the area. I noted this, and wanted to capture it in some way.
On the Long Walk, I photographed a lone person, the first I saw sleeping, with no one around him for metres, asleep by 8 p.m. in a dirty green sleeping bag. Outside Windsor Castle, down the road a little, there was a similar scene — this time with two spectators in dull blue sleeping bags huddled together, asleep against the edge of the pavement and security barrier. These people, who were temporary to Windsor, were largely viewed by the authorities as more important than those homeless in Windsor who considered this place their permanent, or at least long-term, home. It was a saddening juxtaposition, and one aspect on which I predominantly focused my lens.
By this point, at 9 p.m., it was already dark. I found myself outside the now famous Marks and Spencer which had spectacularly rebranded itself as “Markle and Sparkle,” a publicity stunt that must have cost the company a few thousand. Here I photographed countless spectators, visitors and locals alike posing for selfies, or snapping their own phone shots of the wonderfully sparkly signage. At one point, I noticed a homeless gentleman was moved from the bottom corner of the outside of the store — but I couldn’t find a suitable angle to capture this before the incident. Outside, down both sides of the street (toward the castle and away), Union Flag bunting dangled high above the storefronts, making for spectacular background to many photographs.
Back on the Long Walk, the skies had turned pretty pitch black. Siri told me it was five degrees celsius outside, but factoring in the wind and the lack of a sleeping bag, it felt like minus 10. I remember at one point, after packing away my two cameras and their lenses safely into my bag, and wrapping that bag a dozen times around the barrier, as I was sitting back into the camping chair that the ladies next to me had loaned me, my breath turned to frost as soon as it left my mouth — maybe even in it. It was bitter and miserable. As the night wore on, condensation collected all over anyone who had gathered for the night along the Long Walk. Sleeping bags were covered in literal puddles of water, canopies were dripping onto the people who had set them up to keep dry and warm, and blankets were as effective as a towel that had fallen into the bathtub. It was grim, and the stickiness of the damp fabric really felt horrible.
But I kept my spirits up as much I could. It was a long night without any sleep. For six or so hours, I had to keep my mind occupied, in fear that if I fell asleep, the people awaking around me in the dawn would find a man trapped in an ice block. I burrowed my head forward into the neck of my sweatshirt, and breathed hard into the fabric to maintain any bit of warmth, running through a million thoughts: what was my plan for the morning? Would I do an early morning walkabout to photograph the morning of the wedding? How about food? Would I stink in the morning? Does this soaking with dew count as taking a shower? How many SD cards did I bring? How many would fail tomorrow? What if my battery dies?
I also remember having vivid, deep thoughts — sort of akin to daydreaming — including really detailed imaginings of how exactly I planned to get the best shot, how I’d need to be stood, how standing in my step might annoy the people behind me (it did, but more on that later), whether or not I was on the better side of the Long Walk (I had studied past Royal Wedding videos for a few hours in the days prior, and recognised a pattern on royal behaviour when it came to carriage riding), and how to get Meghan to look toward the camera. These thoughts were, I guess, pointless in the end, as most of the variables I was stressing about were completely at the hand of fate. Perhaps Meghan would be bored by the long procession, and would not bother waving on the last stretch of the Long Walk. Perhaps Meghan and Harry would break royal tradition and sit on opposite sides of the carriage to what was expected. Perhaps, as had happened in the past, my memory cards would freeze and buffer at the crucial point — forcing me to miss the money shots. It’s safe to say I was stressing myself out, but all in the pursuit of making the trip worth it — in the pursuit of paying back those who had financially and emotionally helped me reach this historic moment.
I shared my “progress” through the night on my Twitter account, posting hourly updates that I was still awake, sadly, and that it was progressively getting colder and colder, and wetter and wetter, and that all I could dream and hope for now was the sun to emerge on the morning of the Royal Wedding. And a gin and tonic. And a better camera.
At 5 a.m., before the sun emerged (that was still a few hours away), the sky was a little brighter, and, tired of being absolutely frozen solid, I decided to do a final morning-of-the-Wedding walkabout.The Long Walk was fairly quiet, with most people still huddled in sleeping bags to keep warm, but a few scattered characters donning union flag suits, glasses, wigs, and more, cheering at the media and the police as they walked by. The pub that had been absolutely flooded the night before was, obviously, closed and quiet, with the street completely clean of the plastic cups that had dotted the area a few short and drunken hours ago. A cardboard cutout of the Royal couple still stood in a doorway — a miracle that it hadn’t yet been stolen — and more cutouts peered creepily through closed, dark windows.
Police officers were dragging up manhole covers and peering deep inside the street, looking to prevent anything that might ruin the day. The officers gave me a weird sort of good morning nod, notable considering I was probably one of the first awake and walking from the Long Walk.
I headed toward the front of Windsor Castle again, this time avoiding more street closures and barriers, snaking around back streets filled with tourists pitched up with sleeping bags and camping chairs. It took me a little while to get back to my spot, partly because of the diversions, but also because I was photographing the entire duration of the walk. I was also just tired and dragging my feet. I snapped shots of people just waking up, and shots of the a large influx of people flooding into Windsor for the morning of the wedding. One particularly memorable image I captured was of a couple (I assume) who’d recently awoken, and who were just sitting upright, with a union flag draped over their shoulders, staring at the dozens and dozens of police officers walking up the street to sign on for duty. It was a glimmer of calm and peace in an otherwise chaotic and fast-moving scene. If you just came upon the place, you’d be confused as to whether you stumbled into a 5 a.m. festival wake up, not realizing that you were just around the corner from the historic castle where history would be made.
Right in front of the gate, massive crowds had begun to squeeze in. They were slotted behind the Canadians who had camped out against the barriers, all waddling inch-by-inch to fill each and every microscopic space. If space were being sold that day, in that location, I’m willing to bet that some people would’ve sold all their possessions to buy a spot.
By this point, hundreds and hundreds of police officers were rolling in, all heading from the direction of the town centre and spanning the length of the Long Walk, standing perhaps two metres from each other in what must have been the most tightly packed police arrangement I’ve seen in years. Later, bearskin adorned soldiers would also line the route, making the security line pretty hefty.
The officers received thunderous cheers and applause as they walked by. In turn, they smiled and waved to the sleepy crowds. They chuckled at some of the outfits, pointed out some of the signs that lined the barriers painted by local school kids, and looked in awe at the scale of a scene that was growing minute by minute.
As I snapped away at the waves of police officers, the odd golf cart whizzed by carrying various reporters and presenters and attracting even more roars of applause and screeching cheers. Though the cheering people probably didn’t know who the golf-cart riders were, I want to believe that the good and great Philip Schofield is such a world renowned figure that the crowd went wild specifically for him. The snaps I got, of him gleefully recording for his famed Snapchat, turned out to be really entertaining. He had so much energy for 6 a.m. — I don’t know how he does it.
A few more hours and the sun was finally rising at a good pace — though, annoyingly, our position was in the shadow of the tallest tree on the Long Walk (seriously — we checked!) so we were the last to be greeted by the warmth. Whilst literally everyone around us, and along the two mile stretch of road, basked in the boiling heat of a truly blissful day, we were still huddled together, egging on a miracle to knock the tree down or speed the sun up.
When it finally hit, it hit hard. Within ten minutes, I had to ditch my jacket and sweatshirt. Setting up a little cordon around my area, I established the final spot from which I would photograph the wedding. I propped open my little step — a cheap item from Amazon that increased my height by maybe about a foot or two — and pretty much remained standing on top of it for the next seven hours straight. I think I counted just twice that I sat down that day.
I set up my ‘personal’ space early on with the understanding that morning stragglers of course also wanted a front-row view. Setting up a space gave me room to work, and reduced stress a little (though this was short-lived).
I focused my next series of shots on the extensive crowds along the Long Walk, now bursting at the seams in an image that would strongly rival Trump’s infamous inauguration crowds. Here, the atmosphere was electric. As the big screens showed celebrity after celebrity, the crowds would cheer and wildly wave union flags, fluttering a shimmering blue, white, and red through the full length of the walk. Some of those photographs remain my favourites, as they truly represent a once-in-a-generation moment. Both sides of the Long Walk, from the gates up to Windsor Castle right down to the end, were a flood of colour, of excited faces, and of popping champagne bottles. Through the occasional gaps in the crowd that opened up when a convoy of people shuffled toward the rows and rows of portable toilets set up by Windsor Council, I photographed some of the more colourful people that turned out that day: one gentleman wore a sparkling, bedazzled union jack suit, covered head to toe in white, blue, and red flags — including his socks, shoes, and tie; a woman wore an African-style summer dress, with a union flag head-wrap and sunglasses, finished off with glossy red lipstick; a group of people were carrying two of their dogs dressed up — supposedly — as Meghan and Harry.
Various broadcasters were also attempting to film pieces amongst the crowd, some with more success than others. I watched and photographed Alex Jones from the hit BBC show The One Show record a piece to camera with a group of ten or so wedding-goers, all in different stages of hype. They recorded another piece with a younger looking woman who seemed to be on the verge of exhaustion. It was an eclectic mixture of people to broadcast as the best of the British, but it made for good photos, and boosted the morale around us as they repeated, again and again, the same cheer to get it “just right” for camera.
8:54 a.m. rolled by, and so, too, did singer Emeli Sande aboard the back of another golf-cart, barrelling in the same direction as Schofield, although not looking as happy. In review of my photographs, she only smiled once — and I can’t blame her, given how cold it was, and how early it was. Regardless, her dress seemed nice, so did her hair (normal, for Emeli), and she wore piercing bright red lipstick. Minutes after this, the Household Cavalry photographer nudged down the Long Walk, and I didn’t envy him. Sure, he was provided the best camera equipment available in the world, but the poor chap had to wear full uniform. A blessing in the cold, but when the sun later emerged, he would surely feel the burn.
To kill time, and to keep my brain awake, I watched a lady stand completely still for maybe half an hour, just looking toward Windsor Castle. At first it seemed odd, why was she just standing there, emotionless and seemingly without purpose? When I stood on my step, however, I realised she was sketching the scene in that moment on a small notepad, drawing every tiny detail from the hidden snipers atop the surrounding buildings, to each brick she could see on the castle itself. This image of her with her notepad made for a set of photographs that made 140,000 people seem so quiet and small. It was as though time stood still when I saw her work through my viewfinder, much like how her world might have frozen when her pencil hit paper. Another inquisitive young police sniffer dog interrupted us all from that moment as he inched along the barriers smelling everyone’s bags. He seemed to enjoy my bag, not for any suspicious reason, I assumed, but instead because I had earlier bought a bacon sandwich and left half the remains by the barrier.
At exactly 10:49 a.m., a police officer named Lee Willis began to entertain the crowds by rousing the loudest cheer; whichever of the two sides cheered the loudest won. Adding to the increasingly loud atmosphere, Lee would run down the length of the barriers, in full black police gear, shouting to make the crowd louder. It worked. Lee wasn’t required to galvanize the crowd, but when he did people of all ages beamed with the biggest smiles of the day. Tracking him down on Twitter after the wedding, he told me that he was “all about community policing and making sure everyone has a great time on a great day.”
The first hint of the day’s royal magic came as Meghan Markle and her mother, Doria Ragland, ready for the wedding, drove down the Long Mall to St George’s Chapel. Using my royal contacts on Twitter, I had timed it to the minute, and was prepared to shoot a large series of photographs as the car approached and zoomed by.
As the car approached, rolling down the Long Walk, my distance shots were largely ruined by the sheer heat of the day. From the extreme ends of the two mile stretch, heat distortion ruined some of the pictures, reducing the fast-approaching car and wild crowds around it to a wavy, blurry mess of colours. Some worked, but most had to be forever abandoned in my hard drive.
By the time the car was a few metres away, the speed at which it was traveling was apparent. A few people near me clocked it as going around 30 miles per hour, a considerably speedy trip perhaps intended to limit the public’s view of the bride’s wedding dress before the big moment. At the crucial moment, when Meghan and Doria were in crystal clear view of my camera, my memory card froze up with a buffering issue. In my viewfinder, I had the perfect shot of Meghan looking right at me, as Doria silently and elegantly shedding a tear while looking deep into her daughter’s soul. In reality, my shutter locked up and I couldn’t take the picture.
I kicked myself for missing that one, realising that in the build-up I had been using a slower memory card, as crowd shots were less intensive to capture. I’d forgotten to replace it with a faster memory card, and as a result, lost the shot of the moment.
I did, however, get a few photographs of the car close up — close enough to crop Doria crying next to Meghan — and just one frame of Meghan and Doria as they passed adjacent to me, though it is slightly out of focus, perhaps one more frame away from perfection. Moments like that pass in a millisecond, and small mistakes can cost you a lot.
As the bride and her mother arrived at Windsor Castle for the wedding, and during the actual wedding itself, I again focused completely on capturing the crowd atmosphere on the Long Walk — particularly focusing on the reaction to key moments being streamed to the entire crowd on big screens and loudspeakers. When William and Harry stepped out of their car, a thunderous roar erupted across the area, echoing down from Windsor town and all the way to us at the bottom of the stretch of pathway. The people’s Prince, Harry, was steps away from a new era of royalty. Stepping up from being seen as the child of the Royal family to being seen as a man. The reaction reflected that change — flags fluttered, women swooned, and men stood in pride observing how dapper the two Princes looked. A man next to me smiled at the fact that Harry had not shaved his now legendary ginger beard, bucking what’s usually customary when wearing full uniform such as he did.
When Her Majesty The Queen arrived with Prince Philip, another roar thundered around me. Balloons were released, champagne corks popped, and more cheers of celebration. It was one thing to see the Monarch turning out to such a momentous and significantly different Royal Wedding, it was another to see Prince Philip walking with her. At the age of 97, he was recovering from a hip surgery, and some shared worries that he simply would not be able to appear at his grandson’s wedding. When he did appear, it was much to the delight of everyone watching in Windsor and at home.
And then, like a moment out of a fairy tale, the car carrying Meghan finally reached the steps of St George’s Chapel, where the bride stepped out, followed by a length of veil, and by her beaming-with-pride dress designer, Clare Waight Keller of Givenchy. An almighty applause echoed around the Long Walk, with some swooning at the beauty and elegance of the dress and the dazzling tiara. I grabbed more shots of the crowd cheering and waving flags, as well as some cheeky photographs of police officers taking quick glances at the screens to see the action for themselves. The event was finally happening, and the countdown was on for the carriage shots I had come for.
After an emotional wedding ceremony, and a crowd singalong of “Stand by Me,” I was set up to capture an image of the carriage. I triple checked my camera settings, made sure my memory card was empty, adjusted my step, adjusted my millimetres to make my view just perfect, and prepared those around me to watch out for my giant camera lens. If they hit it with their head, I was adamant that it would be their own fault!
We watched anxiously as the carriage, carrying the newlyweds, made its way slowly around the historic streets of Windsor. Just moments before, I had photographed the crowd’s reaction to That Kiss, which had gathered by far the biggest cheer of the day up until that point. Women had tears rolling down their cheeks, saddened that the people’s Prince was no longer alone on his royal journey, whilst men punched their pint glasses together in celebration. “Cheers to him, lucky lad,” one fellow said.
The carriage procession finally emerged into my view, just after it had turned the final corner onto the Long Walk, and slowly made its way toward Windsor Castle. In the extreme distance and even more extreme heat, my camera and lens struggled to focus; the temperature caused the horizon to suffer heat distortion, the sort of mirage-like wavy atmosphere that rendered many of my images useless. Shots of the crowd roaring and waving flags with the carriage in the distance worked well, however, and I could feel the energy rising as the Royal couple drew closer and closer.
About halfway down the Long Walk, the picture grew clearer — though, annoyingly, a procession of horses led the carriage Harry and Meghan rode in, blocking them from view. It was at exactly 1:30 p.m. that Meghan Markle first came into clear sight through my viewfinder — waving and smiling to the crowds to her left, whilst her new husband, the Duke of Sussex, was still hidden behind the Windsor Grey horse riders. Further obstructing my view were the Americans who had now wiggled their way in front of us — despite the fact that we’d saved this place an entire 24 hours longer than them — and who were now waving phones and cameras in the air. Most of those mid-length shots are blocked by an out-of-focus DSLR glued to someone’s hand and stuck in the air, although Meghan is still in perfect, clear, and unobstructed view.
At 1:31 p.m. Meghan and Harry were directly in front of me. This was the moment for which I had suffered the discomfort of the past 24 hours, and for which I had been planning over the past few months. This was the make or break moment, and I had to remember all my past mistakes in this short window to avoid repeating them at all costs. My memory card was correct, my focus length was set, my buffer was clear — I was ready. Ensuring continuous focus was set, I tracked the married couple as they passed at speed in their carriage, firing off dozens of frames, capturing every blink, every breath, every smile, and every wave in a perfectly clear window.
I got the shot.
After more than 24 hours of waiting through the elements, I had the shot I came for. And it was perfect.
The six or so hour journey home was bittersweet, given the electric atmosphere of the past two days, but I was occupied by editing and putting out some of my best photographs of the day — onto my Twitter account first (something I always do with every event I photograph) — and thanking the people who had supported me in photographing such an historic moment.
I finished editing my ‘priority’ list of Royal Wedding photographs at about 5 a.m., before finally getting some sleep.
I then spent the next three or so weeks editing each and every picture, sharing them on social media, and reliving the nerve-wracking few weeks building up to the wedding and the wild few days of experiencing it.
Throughout the build-up, the royal engagements I photographed prior to the Wedding, the day itself, and the aftermath, I took huge inspiration from a number of Press Association photographers for their incredible photography, their unrivalled passion for their job, and their wit and humour through arduous of work. I want to make special mention of Owen Humphreys, Danny Lawson, and Yui Mok for their historic images that day, and thanks to Owen and Danny for their support and kind words.
I didn’t rest for a long time, though. Over the next month and a half, I photographed the Royals a few more times: Her Royal Highness Sophie, Countess of Wessex, in Staffordshire; Trooping the Colour in London; Her Majesty The Queen and Meghan Markle (now the Duchess of Sussex) in Chester; and the Order of the Garter in Windsor. In a few days’ time, I’ll be photographing the entire Royal family in another engagement, but that’s a story for another time…