A prince among men: Te Awamutu photographer’s tribute to Prince Philip

Te Awamutu photographer Julia McCarthy-Fox pays tribute to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, complete with her own never-before-published photographs.

Over the past two-and-a-half years, life for Julia McCarthy-Fox has changed dramatically.

Originally from England, she moved to Te Awamutu in August 2018 to be with her new partner, and now wife, Kathy Prater.

The couple worked through immigration rules, and the global pandemic, to marry last year and have Julia’s residency visa based on partnership status approved.

Julia is especially thankful to be in New Zealand at this time, and the couple say life is good in a country where they can share a love of music, travel (albeit domestic at this stage) and friends.

Before meeting Kathy, for 35 years Julia was a photographer, both amateur and professional at different times, following the royal family throughout the UK and sometimes further.

Julia contacted the Te Awamutu Courier with the offer of her own tribute to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, complete with her own never-before-published photographs.

“I have photographed both HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh hundreds of times, and am able to offer a slightly different, personal memorial/tribute to Prince Philip,” says Julia.

“I am surprised at how shocked I was at the news of Prince Philip’s death really, and also how much it has upset me. It was not really unexpected, and yet I didn’t think it would actually ever happen.

“I feel so very sad for the Queen. I can’t imagine what it must be like for her to lose the love of her life after so many years together.

“He has been at her side throughout her reign, and although not officially Prince Consort, Prince Philip has always played a vital part in supporting the Queen and enabling her to be the most amazing monarch we will ever see.

“There are obituaries and tributes by the dozen everywhere now, but here are some of my own memories of this remarkable man.”

Julia writes:

Many years ago, long before I started taking royal photographs, I wrote a letter to Prince Philip – I think I was about 10 at the time.

I had just discovered that he had visited the British Antarctic Survey team at the South Pole while my Uncle was working there and I wanted to know whether he remembered meeting him, which he didn’t.

But I was so excited when I received a reply, from the Royal Yacht, postmarked “At Sea”. The letter told me lots of details about the trip and there was a menu enclosed, showing the delicious “local” food that was served, as well as a photo of HRH.

I have it filed away at home still – my first royal correspondence.

Although Prince Philip cultivated his image as a 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.

He still stood tall and straight at her side, 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 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 so I can confirm that 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 priority 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 as for photographers getting in the way, well they soon moved.

I was privileged to be able to watch the Queen and the duke together many times over the years, and always enjoyed seeing how natural 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.

The Royal Windsor Horse Show was always a good place to watch Prince Philip – he was involved in so many aspects of the show and was held in very high esteem there. They will miss him a great deal.

The Pony Club Games is one of his legacies and something he supported enthusiastically – there are so many obscure things that he is responsible for.

The use of balls to score penalties in carriage driving obstacles was his invention and I believe he introduced polo into the UK as a competitive sport after playing it in Malta.

When he and the Queen came across each other on the showground it was lovely to watch their interaction – I have seen the Queen leaning through the window of his Range Rover chatting to him.

One of my funniest memories from the Horse Show is seeing the duke with his packed lunch, trying not to be seen by photographers with a bottle of beer, and my favourite is him buzzing around on his little motorbike all afternoon, and then leaving it abandoned as he and the Queen strolled away into the distance together towards the castle, looking like any other elderly couple from behind, chatting and laughing happily.

I have seen Prince Philip in so many places doing so many things, but the funniest of all was in Scunthorpe at the end of a visit in 2002.

I was on the platform at the station, photographing the departure of him and the Queen.

Procedure dictates that they shake hands with a line of dignitaries before boarding the train, and the dignitaries were there waiting. Following the Queen towards the red carpet, the duke suddenly found himself being presented with a large pack of local sausages, which he took, turning immediately to hand it to his equerry or, failing that, his policeman.

Neither of them was there! Looking slightly alarmed, the duke quickly looked for someone else to take the sausages from him, in vain.

For whatever reason nobody caught his eye, nobody came to his rescue, and the Queen was almost at the train. So he had to shake hands with and bid farewell to the entire lineup of people, including the Mayor and the Lord Lieutenant, while clutching a pack of sausages in one hand – it was hilarious to watch, and I have often wondered quite how far down the carriage the sausages might have been hurled as soon as the train door closed.

The Scunthorpe Sausage Man had no idea how much grief his gift caused the recipient – not how much amusement it caused certain other people.

Eventually, in August 2017, at the grand age of 96, and with the blessing of Her Majesty, Prince Philip began his well-earned retirement from public duties, after carrying out more than 22,000.

After some 64 years as Captain of the Royal Marines, HRH appeared in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace for a final salute. I went to watch, and was surprised and pleased at the number of people who were there for the same reason, not just passing by.

It was an unexpectedly moving ceremony to watch and I am so glad that I went. It was unseasonably cold and it rained – not heavily, but more than we needed – but the man of the day took no notice at all.

Wearing his trusty raincoat and a bowler hat, he strode across the gravel towards the dais, stopping to talk along the way, and in a very short time it was all over.

With a wave of his raised and dripping wet bowler hat, this amazing man bade farewell to public life with the same dignity that he had served his country and supported his wife for 70 years, disappearing back into Buckingham Palace to the strains of “For he’s a jolly good fellow”.

I was reminded of that last engagement when I saw a photo of two masked footmen bringing the official death announcement out to the gate of the palace – that picture summed up the current situation really.

The notice only remained for a short while, to discourage crowds, and I could almost hear Prince Philip in my head, chuckling at the scene, and muttering wryly about all the fuss.

What a life, what devotion to crown and country, and what a husband to our beloved Queen.

We will never see the like of him again and I, for one, will miss him.


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