The photographer and the Prince. A special photo-fit friendship that’s lasted through the decades.3 May 2023
Exclusive: By Paul Martin.
Holding a cup of tea, or raising a glass of wine, Carole Cutner is ready for the Coronation. From her living-room, she will say ‘Three Cheers!” and swear allegiance to the man she helped catapult to international stardom.
Carole was a photographer who in the mid-1970s got Charles onto the cover of Time magazine and of Paris Match. On Saturday (May 6 2023) she’ll be glued to her telly, next to a photo she took of him and that he signed. On the kitchen table there will be 47 Christmas cards that he has sent her every year since her first photographic assignment with him.
Now in her mid-80s,Carole got her dream assignment because her daughter Louise, then 14, was at a school being visited by the Prince.
“In 1974 I was on the parents’ committee of Carmel College when we were told Prince Charles had agreed to open the boarding school’s state-of-the-art new dining-room,” Carole, now 87, said at her central London flat. “The governors didn’t even know I was a photographer, but I offered to take photos of him.”
As she snapped away, Carole felt there was some personal chemistry that was making the pictures come to life. “I was a youngish woman photographing a young man, so that feeling comes through as you line up the shots,” she recalls.
Then Carole sat down to a celebratory dinner and happened to be seated alongside the Prince’s personal private secretary. “I told him: ‘The Prince is far better looking than all the previous photos I’ve seen’. The private personal secretary, Squadron Leader David Checketts, asked if I would be interested in doing portraits of ‘the young man’. He then scribbled a phone number on his name card — a card I have kept ever since.”
When Carole rang the number after the weekend, a plummy voice answered: “Buckingham Palace”. She was summoned to the Prince’s office to display her portfolio to Mr Checketts and his team, and a few days later she was told the Prince wanted her to come and do a session.
“I phoned to tell the prince’s personal secretary I was terrified. He assured me all visitors to the Royals felt the same, but the Royals were experts at putting their visitors at ease.”
“I had asked in advance what to call him. ’Sir’, I was told. But I said that term reminded me of my school headmaster, and I asked to call him just ‘Prince Charles’. And that’s what I did.”
Carole says she found herself put at ease almost immediately, and the Prince was witty and also very accepting of her professional wishes. “I asked him if we could avoid uniforms and formalities, and do the shoot outside in the Palace gardens. I used just one camera, a Hasselblad, no lights, and I asked him to stand next to a tree.”
Photos selected by the Palace, from her two reels of film, flashed around the world on his 26th birthday.
One picture made it on the front cover of Time magazine, enhancing the Prince’s status as the world’s most eligible bachelor. Time magazine paid her the princely sum of eighty pounds.
Prince Charles soon ordered another shoot.
This time it was to be inside the Palace but the Prince agreed again to Carole’s use only of natural light from a window, and that she would take the pictures in black and white.
Then he commissioned a third shoot, in a series in different military uniforms. The French magazine Paris Match later chose one of these photos for its front cover: showing the Prince, as colonel-in-chief in the Welsh Royal Guards, resplendent in a huge bearskin hat that virtually covered his eyes.
Carole also had the opportunity to photograph Charles’s mentor, his great-uncle Lord Mountbatten, at the famous war leader’s home in Hampshire. She had been summoned there one evening to take more photos of the Prince. She, Mountbatten and Prince Charles had an informal dinner, listening to the Goon Show on the radio, she recalls.
On another occasion, she photographed Prince Charles in a jolly mood, dancing on top of an upright piano.
Carole went on to a long career as a portrait photographer, specialising in heart-warming photos of her clients’ children. Though she very seldom got more Royal assignments, she and Prince Charles kept in close touch — mainly through letters and Christmas cards.
“I send him a birthday card each year. And I’ve been getting a Christmas card, with his personal message, every year since 1974. That was when he used one of my own photos of him. What an honour! He’s also hand-written me a number of letters, which are of course confidential,” says Carole.
But she says the comments he has written inside the cards, alongside a different photo each year, are “typical of the man himself”.
“We like each other. We laughed together. And his cards and notes are full of humour and wit and kindness.” she says.
In recalling their first meeting, Prince Charles would often ask Carole, in hand-written notes, how her daughter Louise was doing. (Louise, then 14, has since become a successful caterer in Paris.)
Two other career highlights for Carole, who grew up in Leeds, were photographic sessions with Senator John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth, with Senator Barry Goldwater, the candidate for the US Presidency in 1964, and with renowned British artist David Hockney.
“I’m fit thanks to luck, golf and good genes, but my career is virtually over,” Carole says. “However, King Charles’ new career is just beginning!”
She reflects: “He’s a deep thinker, deeply sensitive, and a person of deep integrity. One thing I’m sure of: Charles will go from strength to strength. He will be a wonderful, magnificent king. You’ll see.”
Unless otherwise indicated, all photos are Copyright Paul Martin / Correspondent.World. Here are two more of Paul Martin’s efforts, for Correspondent.World, to capture Carole on camera in 2023 — though, he says, all his pictures of her are probably not quite up to her photographic standard:
Carole outside her block of flats.
Carole holds up the front cover of Time magazine that featured her iconic photo of young Prince Charles alongside a tree in Buckingham Palace’s gardens.