When British Vogue approached Patrick Demarchelier about shooting a photo spread on Princess Diana and her boys, the celebrated celebrity photographer said yes. And why not? He was being handed a rare assignment, an opportunity to capture an intimate portrait of the princess without interference from paparazzi or bodyguards. Besides, the assignment would make Demarchelier, a 46-year-old Frenchman, one of the few non-Brits to utter “Say cheese” to a member of the royal family.
When the magazine approached the princess with the idea—as part of a story of working mothers and their children—Diana felt certain that she and the photographer would click. Diana particularly liked a cover of British Vogue that Demarchelier shot last year featuring a laughing child—one of the photographer’s three sons.
For the session, Di, Wills, 7, and Harry, 4, gathered at Highgrove, the family’s country home in Gloucestershire. Shooting for what he calls a “not too official, very casual look,” Demarchelier suggested that Diana don denim for the pictures. “She said, ‘Okay, I like jeans. I don’t mind,’ ” he reports. In further keeping with the informal atmosphere, the princess did her own hair and makeup.
As an icebreaker, Demarchelier began the session by turning his camera over to the little princes, who, giggling heartily, took a photo of their mother. After that, it was a snap. For the next three hours the foursome toured the Highgrove grounds, walking around the park and paying a visit to the stable while the lads pointed out the horses, rabbits and other items of local interest.
The photographer’s chief aim was to capture the love between mother and sons. “It’s not always easy to do that,” says Demarchelier, “but Diana was very good with the kids. I was surprised by the boys because normally a kid gets bored after about 10 minutes, but they were both very good.” They were, no doubt, following their mum’s shining example. “She was very cooperative, very relaxed. I’d like to do it again,” Demarchelier says of his crowning achievement.