The royals and the paparazzi have not always been a happy mix. Back in the 50s and 60s, however, the monarchy was less aware of the intrusion - and the first British 'pap' was able to follow them wherever they went, snapping fabulously candid, un-posed pictures, a rarity in an era when everything was kept on a thoroughly formal footing.
Now, the images, taken by 'London's first pap', late photo-journalist Ray Bellisario, are up for auction, with 1,100 photographs set to go under the hammer at the Dominic Winter Auction on September 8th & 9th 2021.
The remarkable collection is expected to bring in at least £30,000 and could go for much more.
Most show the Queen, with and without Prince Philip, and their social circles of the day. Others depict the Queen Mother, Edward and the Duke of Windsor, along with Princess Anne and Princess Margaret in bathing suits and Prince Charles water skiing wile sitting on a chair, a shot set up for Bellisario by Lord Snowdon.
Bellisario followed the Royal family for nearly 20 years, gaining notoriety as the first British 'pap'. The 'spotting scope' sight he used to gain the long distance photographs and which he adapted to fit his camera is also included with the sale.
An auction house spokesman says, ''He was known for documenting activities of the Royals in a period when due deference was expected."
"Among the other photographs here are ones of other socialites, mostly connected to the Royals plus other non-Royal subjects.''
Although his 'stalking' of the royals was what gave him notoriety, he later wrote to a fellow journalist, "I am profoundly offended by being labelled ‘paparazzo’.
"I want to be recognised for my real work as a charitable, concerned journalist who covers stories such as the Bhopal gas disaster, Aberfan … and famine in Africa and India.”
He so angered Prince Philip that he allegedly asked the Queen if the photographer could be sent to the Tower of London, to which she replied, "not any longer, dear."
Princess Margaret also referred to him as, "that bloody Bellasario."
When a book of his work was published, called To Tread on Royal Toes, he jokingly sent a copy to the Queen, which was swiftly returned to him, with a note reading "Her Majesty does not accept the book and it is therefore being returned herewith.”
The photographs are being sold as part of a Printed Books, Maps & Autographs, 20th Century Photography sale on September 9 at Dominic Winter Auctioneers in Cirencester, Glos.
Watch: Photojournalism paints a bigger picture at Visa pour l'Image festival