As the Daily Mirror’s royal photographer, Kent Gavin followed the late Prince Philip around the globe for 30 years.
He experienced some of the most momentous occasions in royal history.
And it was also an intimate insight into the Duke of Edinburgh, often witnessing firsthand his famous wit and, as Prince Harry called him, a “legend of banter”.
Some days Prince Phillip loved a chat, a natural inquisitor.
Other days, having his photo taken was clearly not top of his wishlist.
Indeed Kent clearly remembers being on the receiving end of expletives.
Kent says: “In my years with the Duke you got what you saw. He always saw things as he spoke it. During my experiences with him, I found that sometimes we had a great relationship and other times it was a bit frosty!
“I liked him. There were two sides of his personality but he was what he was and he was never going to change.”
The Prince died aged 99, last Friday, in his private apartment in Windsor Castle, with his precious Queen by his side.
Here Kent Gavin reveals the reality behind some of his most iconic photos over the decades – from royal tours, to birthdays and christenings and, of course, those precious candid moments where everyone let loose…
Visiting the Daily Mirror, 1976
The Queen and Philip visited the Mirror building in Holborn.
And the first thing he said when he came in was, he looked across at me, and said: “Mr Gavin, did you wear that tie for a bet?” That broke down all the protocol.
He was pictured laughing with me about my tie. Both were very interested in our picture library.
Prince William’s christening 1982
It was a great honour that Diana and Charles chose me to do that.
Prince Philip was joking with Charles and William didn’t stop crying throughout the shoot.
At the end, Diana asked had I got everything and I said: “Yes, thank you.” Then I realised the picture we were missing was the Queen Mother holding William.
The christening was on her birthday and the Queen said: “How have we missed that?” She added: “Mother, mother, please come out.” And she put her gin and tonic on the table.
Philip was laughing his head off wondering how all the red carpet entourage forgot to get one of the main pictures. He was so amused by that.
Taking a step back in Normandy, 1994
When the Queen and Philip went to France for the 50th anniversary of the Normandy landings the picture I wanted was of the Queen on her own among the gravestones.
It was pouring but the Queen put down her umbrella, which was lovely.
I said: “Sir, would you mind taking one step back, so we can get a picture of Her Majesty on her own?”
And he looked up at me, laughed and said: “I always take one step back.” So he did. And we got this page one picture of the Queen.
Queen Mother’s 100th birthday, 2000
It’s a joyous picture. Indeed they were happy. I think he wanted to be 100 too.
Philip was a great cricketer and one of his quotes was “100 not out” but sadly it didn’t happen.
I have such happy memories of him. In his own ways, he did try and change the old-fashioned set- up he was marrying into and he made a good job of it. And I think that’s why he understood the problems Diana was going through. He did try to help her during that marriage break-up.
He understood the problems of marrying into a royal family. He went through it in his early days.
Royal visit to Australia, 2000
I went with them to Australia. It was a good trip. He knew the best way to handle the media and that’s how those pictures worked.
On tours, you always get a media reception. The Queen would come down and say hello but Phillip would always ask you: “What are you looking forward to on this tour?”
And he asked how many cameras you had got and how you were going to cover this and that.
He was interested in the media operations, fascinated at how the whole thing works.
Royal Windsor Horse Show, 2005
He was a prize-winning horse carriage rider in Windsor.
He used to practise all the time and I was sent down to cover it.
And he came down on his carriage and shouted, “What are you doing on my private land?” To which, I said: “Sir, I’m on a public footpath, as you can see.” And he was still in the carriage with the horse, and he looked over his shoulder and said: “F*** off!”
I started laughing, I didn’t know what to do. Anyway, 30 minutes later, he came out on a little mini-scooter and he whizzed around and we got these amazing pictures of him laughing his head off. So he wasn’t too upset!
He realised we were on public property. And you wouldn’t have thought he was uttering obscenities 45 minutes before.
Christmas Day service, 2006
They are always good days. It was a set occasion where you’re put in the press pen and get what you can.
They are mainly interested in the public and there’s no banter or whatever.
The Queen always arrived in the car but Phillip, even despite his age, always walked down from Sandringham to the church. He was always good and he did his bit.
Diamond Jubilee pageant, 2012
I was fortunate to be one of two photographers on the Queen’s Barge for the celebrations.
It was a torrential day and the weather was absolutely awful.
On the barge were two huge red velvet seats for the Queen and Duke to sit so they could watch all the flotillas go by.
But they were going to stand up behind the cover that was put there. I said: “Sir, would you mind sitting for one picture?”
And he said: “Mr Gavin, only one person is going to get wet on this barge – and that’s you!”
I got soaked. And you see the pictures of the Queen and Duke standing behind these huge red chairs, so it was quite funny.