‘He was a charmer’ - royal superfan shares her memories of Prince Philip

One of Britain’s most devoted royal watchers recounts her experiences with the late Duke of Edinburgh

A royal superfan who has been photographing the royal family for more than 30 years has lifted the lid on her memories of Prince Philip.

Julia McCarthy-Fox - dubbed Britain’s most devoted royal watcher - has travelled thousands of miles from her Sussex home over the years to take photos of the royals and was in New Zealand on Friday when she learned of the Duke of Edinburgh’s death.

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“Although I knew that Prince Philip’s health was not brilliant it was still a shock to hear,” she said.

Julia McCarthy-Fox and some of her photos of Prince Philip with the Queen

“I don’t really think I expected it ever to actually happen, and I was more upset than I expected to be. I feel so very sad for the Queen.”

Julia, who lives in Southwater in Sussex, got to know the royals well over the years. She says that Prince Philip was “a charmer”, that his gaffes were deliberate, he was kind to children and old ladies - but could be “downright rude” if he felt people deserved it.

“Although Prince Philip cultivated his public image as a somewhat cantankerous old man at times he was no such thing. He was a charmer, and even at an advanced age it was easy to see why the young Princess Elizabeth had fallen for him so many years ago,” she said.

“He still stood tall and upright beside her, and had changed very little really to look at. He often had a twinkle in his eye and his so called gaffes were absolutely deliberate.

“He was frequently downright rude to people in crowds, usually because they had said or done something stupid so he considered that they deserved it, and certainly didn’t suffer fools gladly.

“On the other hand he was generally friendly to old ladies, and he always tried to ensure that all the children with flowers had the opportunity to give them to the Queen, even lifting them over barriers himself if he had to, so that they could go to her.

“He hauled my son, Zachary, over a barrier on more than one occasion - this is not just an urban myth!

“The Duke was always protective of the Queen, and on royal days out, especially ones involving walkabouts, his job was to look out for Her Majesty and make her life as simple as possible, especially as they got older.

“He would instruct police officers to let children out of the crowd to go to the Queen rather than have her come to them, and disliked people trying to hold her up or get in her way.

“He would also give short shrift to any police officers that he considered to be standing in unhelpful places, and woe betide any photographers getting in the way.

“I was privileged to be able to watch the Queen and the Duke together many times over the years, and always enjoyed seeing how comfortable they were together and how happy they always appeared.

“One particular time was during the Queen’s Golden Jubilee year - the Queen was lighting a beacon to start a chain around the UK, in The Mall, at an unspecified point.

“We found ourselves a position very early and eventually a dais was set up for them, straight in front of us - we were so lucky.

“At the appointed hour the car arrived and the Queen and the Duke climbed up the steps and stood in the dark waiting for the countdown, and as they waited he said something to her and she turned to him with a look of total adoration that I will never forget.

“I have a beautiful photo in the UK that is one of my favourites.

“I also always loved watching them together at Guards Polo Club watching the Concours d’Elegance following the polo one Sunday each June.

“They used to sit on the terrace of the royal box in wicker chairs, beside each other, to watch the carriages, and they would chat together as if nobody else was there, although they were surrounded by other guests.

“I loved seeing them walk down the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral some years ago, holding hands to support each other but not letting go when they stopped to talk to The Dean halfway.

“Several hardened royal photographers close to me at the time also commented on how lovely they looked together that day. They were a team and had been for the Queen’s entire reign - ‘The Queen and The Duke’ go together, and it will be odd to think of the Queen on her own.”

A version of this story was originally published on our sister title, West Sussex County Times