Revealed: The Duchess of Cornwall’s choice of photographer for birthday Country Life portrait

·4 min read
The Duchess of Cornwall as she appears on the cover of the July edition of Country Life - The Duchess of Cambridge
The Duchess of Cornwall as she appears on the cover of the July edition of Country Life - The Duchess of Cambridge

As the future Queen Consort, she had her pick of the world’s most renowned portrait photographers.

But from the moment she agreed to guest edit next week’s edition of Country Life, the Duchess of Cornwall knew who she wanted behind the lens for her cover shot; the Duchess of Cambridge.

The result is an “enormously relaxed” image of the Duchess taken in the place she is happiest; the garden at her private home, Ray Mill in Lacock, Wilts.

With minimal focus on hair or make-up, the photograph encapsulates the close bond that has developed between the two Duchesses, who share a common destiny.

It depicts the relaxed and smiling Duchess wearing a blue and white floral dress and cardigan, sitting on a bench with a trug filled with pelargoniums, ready to be planted.

Cover of July issue of Country Life
Cover of July issue of Country Life
The Duchess of Cambridge - AFP
The Duchess of Cambridge - AFP

The Duchess, 74, edited this month’s edition of the magazine to mark her forthcoming 75th birthday, following in the footsteps of her husband, the Prince of Wales, who has taken on the role twice.

Mark Hedges, editor of Country Life, revealed that the Duchess had asked if she could “have a go” at it herself some time ago.

When it was eventually agreed she would take charge of the July edition, the senior editorial team decamped to Clarence House for a meeting.

‘One of the most amazing things that could happen’

Mr Hedges said one of the most pressing issues was to ask whether the Duchess had any ideas for the all-important front cover.

“She immediately replied, ‘Oh I’d quite like Catherine to do it’,” he recalled.

“I spent the next three or four minutes desperately racking my brains trying to think of a professional photographer called Catherine.

“Then I suddenly grasped what she meant - one of the most amazing things that could happen. I found it one of the easier things to nod my head at.”

Mr Hedges said the resulting image showed just how close the two women were, the Duchess clearly at ease.

“I don’t think anyone else would have made her feel so relaxed,” he added.

“They didn’t bother too much with hair and make-up, they just got some flowers for the garden and got on with it.”

A royal aide said the Duchess had chosen her step daughter-in-law to take the images because she had long been impressed by her photography skills.

The Duchess of Cambridge, who is patron of the National Portrait Gallery, has increasingly released her own images to mark her children’s birthdays as well as those of other of members of the Royal family, including Prince William with Prince Charles, Prince George with the late Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen, the Duke and their various great grandchildren.

Sources revealed that she was intimately involved in the process, putting “a lot of thought and effort” into every step, from communicating with Country Life about what kind of shot they wanted, right through to ensuring it was properly framed and positioned on the cover.

The Duchess of Cornwall had the final say on the choice of cover image, as well a second one to appear on the leader page, showing her walking through forget-me-nots in her garden.

However, she took advice from both the Duchess and Prince Charles.

The Duchess of Cornwall shown in a ‘a new light’

Mr Hedges said the special Royal edition would show the Duchess in a new light.

“It shows her interests and passions in a way that has not really been seen before,” he said

“I don’t think the Duchess has ever revealed so much about herself.”

The Duchess invited various guest writers to "discover her passions, reveal her personal countryside champions" and meet the people who run the charities and advocate for causes she cares so deeply about”, including people severely injured in Afghanistan, loneliness, domestic violence and literacy.

She and her sister, Annabel Elliot revisited their childhood home, Hall Place, in Plumpton, East Sussex, which is the focus of a feature about architecture.

A film crew documented the experience for an ITV documentary, Camilla’s Country Life, to be broadcast on July 13, which also includes footage of the Duchess on various engagements from the Royal Cornwall Show to Aintree.

The Duchess will be the third royal guest editor of Country Life. Prince Charles edited it to mark his 65th birthday in November 2013 and his 70th in 2018. The latter became the biggest selling issue of all time.

In 2020, the Princess Royal oversaw a best-selling issue in July to commemorate her 70th birthday.