Gone are the days of the Palace issuing the latest Snowdon or Litchfield family snap and it smoothly finding its way to prominence in every daily paper. Take yesterday, for instance, the 78th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
The anonymous Press Association shot of three horses, or six, depending on your politics (sorry Ma’am), colourfully graced page 5 in The Times, made it onto page 13 in the monochrome part of The Daily Mirror (complete with snide leftie comment about aforementioned monarch ignoring riding hat safety guidelines) and was shrunk to the irrelevancy of a postage stamp on page 2 of The Sun. Surprisingly, it didn’t get into the Mail at all, an example of the sort of roguish editing which keeps a newspaper becoming a parody of itself, though in the Mail’s case I fear it’s a bit late.
This scattergun approach to royal coverage is mainly to do with the appalling chocolate-box crassness of the photograph itself. It could have been handled so much better. Described as ‘informal’, I dread to think what the ‘formal’ version might look like. I guess they’d be wearing enormous crowns instead of merely flashing them. Not that the horses are unattractive. Far from it: in their smart piebald outfits they enjoy far greater stand-out than their tweedy grey-clad riders.
It’s just that if it had been Tony or Patrick who’d been invited to lug his Leica down to Windsor and join the family under the blossom (yes, blossom, for heaven’s sake) there’d have been a Much Better Photograph of our Queen and her distinguished equestrian offspring on offer, and that in turn would have meant picture editors not being too embarrassed to suggest using it rather than losing it.