Royal Photographer Arthur Edwards Reveals What You Don't Know About King Charles and Queen Camilla
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Though the royal spotlight burns bright, it doesn't show every side of King Charles and Queen Camilla.
Arthur Edwards has served as a royal photographer for The Sun for 45 years, following the British royals on 200 tours in over 120 countries as well as snapping seven royal weddings, five funerals and seven births. Edwards, 82, exclusively spoke with PEOPLE about his new photo book, Behind the Crown: My Life Photographing the Royal Family, and what the public doesn't know about the King and Queen Consort.
Describing the death of Queen Elizabeth as "the end of an era," Edwards said he felt compelled to put pen to paper. The photographer, who was awarded a Member of the British Empire for his services to newspapers in 2003, has been a click away from Charles, 74, since 1977.
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"I watched this prince who was a visionary make these proclamations about architecture and organic food and saving the sea from plastic. And I realized he was just doing everything he could to make a difference," Edwards tells PEOPLE. "As he said, 'Not for me, but for my children and grandchildren.' I felt he's just a lovely person to work with and I wanted to put it all down."
The veteran cameraman says this drive to make a difference is what people don't know about the King.
"For 70 years, he waited to become the King, but he wasn't going to sort of just sit there and play backgammon and shoot champagne. He was going to make a difference, and he did. He's a pioneer for the underdog. If a big supermarket was coming to a village where all the local shops would be destroyed, he'd fight for the village," he says.
"He's just a genuinely kind man, and so far he's at a great start to his reign as King. And I think the people now are behind him. I went to Bolton, a town in the north of England, about three weeks ago, and the crowds were 30 deep, come to see him! Now, he never got that as Prince of Wales," Edwards says. "Suddenly at 74, he's become this big megastar, like a rockstar, and everybody wants to come and see him. It's strange to sing 'God Save the King' now, not 'God Save the Queen.' So yeah, things have changed."
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In Behind the Crown, released in November 2022, the royal photographer writes that Charles gets up every day to "do his best for other people," and tells PEOPLE he thinks the royal will continue to lead from the heart as monarch.
"This monarchy's been going since William the Conqueror, over a thousand years, and it's a tough job to keep it going. And only there because of the will of the people," he says. "But so far, the people are supporting him, the people want him to succeed, and I think he's going to. He's got his son William and his wonderful wife, Catherine. They're following on and they've got lovely children, George and Charlotte and Louis. So the royal family's in pretty good shape."
Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images
"And one of the main roles Charles had in his life was to make William into a good King, and William's job now is to make George a good King, because so far he's still enjoying going to school and playing with his friends," Edwards says of the destinies ahead for Prince William, 41, and Prince George, 9, given their positions in the line of succession.
"But one day he is going to have to assume this job. And it's a terribly tough thing to do. You're in this electronic goldfish bowl all the time and people watching everything you do and listening to everything that you say and dissecting it. There's always somewhere ready to snipe and to sort of undermine it really, but he [Charles] is bigger than that."
Arthur Edwards - WPA Pool/Getty
Reflecting on how Princess Diana changed the royal family forever, Edwards says he "stuck" with Charles in the difficult years after her death in 1997.
"I was often only the one person on the plane, going out there with him. Like Nigeria or Saudi Arabia. People wasn't bothering. They thought 'Diana's gone, that's it, over.' But it wasn't over because he was doing some amazing work. And I was getting really good pictures," he says.
When Camilla stepped more formally into the spotlight around 2004, Edwards says she brought a fresh new energy.
"Our first tour was the United States, and I remember going to a market north of Los Angeles, and someone gave her a peach or something and she started to eat it, which no royal would do! But she did. She really enjoyed it," he says. "And I remember saying, 'Diana would never do that.' But she was different. And she brought a whole new meaning for Prince Charles. He's now a much happier person. He's contented. And he always refers to her as 'my darling wife.' "
The couple is set to celebrate their 18th wedding anniversary in April, and Edwards agrees that Queen Camilla, 75, brings out the best in King Charles. In Behind the Crown, he writes that she "has such a wonderful sense of fun" and "has brought a spring to Charles' step."
"The thing about Camilla, which is I think her strongest point, she never lost the common touch, and she makes him laugh. I've got pictures of them in the book just laughing together," Edwards says. "She's just always there to support him, and that's her way," he adds, explaining that this makes her a "great asset" to the nation.
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As Buckingham Palace prepares for the historic coronation in May, Edwards, as ever, will be on the ground taking pictures.
"It's going to be a great day, and then we've got the big concert the next day and street parties. We do know how to have a good party here," he says of the festivities. "I hope the weather's nice for him, but certainly the crowds will be huge. It's something to look forward to."