Blog: Remembering HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

The entire Great British Radio team were very saddened to hear of the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh. Remembering HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Kent Gavin, award-winning photojournalist, shared stories of his time as a royal photographer and memories of the duke with Sam Kane.

I spent a lot of my career travelling with the duke. You got what you saw with him and you have to admire him for that. I spent a lot of time with him before the new wave of younger royals came on the scene but back in the day he was quite a rascal!

I first met him during a trip to Ethiopia and Sudan with the Queen. It was as a result of that trip that I got my job with The Mirror and that’s how my story began. I have some fond memories and here are some of my favourite stories.

The Queen and Prince Philip visited the Daily Mirror offices many years ago and he came onto the editorial floor and a few of us were selected to be there to greet him. The first thing he said to me was, “did you wear that tie for a joke?!”. The ice was immediately broken for everyone and we all had a bit of a laugh. 

The royal family all get to know the royal correspondents very well because we spend so much time with them, particularly when we cover tours and visits. The focus was always on the Queen, rather than Philip, but during the course of the tour of the Mirror’s office, he wanted to go and visit the archive and library. In those days, before the digital age, it was all hard copies and he wanted to see the files on himself and the Queen, which equated to thousands of images. So the library people were digging out certain pictures and there were some that were taken when he was a bit of a ‘Jack the Lad’ in nightclubs and he was asking us “where did you get these from?” He was so interested in how the media operates. He was curious and wanted to know how the photos had been taken, when they were taken and they ended up spending more time in the library reminiscing than they did touring the entire office.

We would be invited to media receptions around the country and be greeted by the Queen and then Philip would come and have a good old chat. He wanted to find out what we were up to, what equipment we were using and what the interest and angle was going to be for the piece. He was genuinely interested. He loved the banter too. 

He was very much a forward thinker, pushing for the Queen’s coronation to be televised is just one example. He realised that the coverage and insight into the royal family had to be changed. People were curious about what went on inside the bubble and so he wanted to open that up.

The duke was a brilliant carriage driver at the Horse Trials and he won many awards for it all. I was sent down to cover it and he wanted to know what we were doing there on his private land. So we pointed out that we were actually on the public footpath and so we got a short, sharp “f*** off” and off he went, galloping away. Then about half an hour later, he comes out zooming around on a mini motorbike, laughing his head off and found the whole thing hilarious!

On the 50th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, we wanted to get a shot of the Queen amongst all the gravestones to show the sheer impact of the number of losses. It was a dreadful rainy day and we asked the PR team if this would be possible but it wasn’t agreed. But we circumnavigated this when I asked the duke to just take one step back and he laughed and said “I’m always one step back!’. But he was excellent at understanding what we wanted and needed from the photo opportunities.

We had mutual respect for each other and I think he liked that I would quite often be cheeky back to him. For Prince William’s christening, there was a set routine of pictures that we had to take and we were told not to chat to anyone, it had to run like clockwork. But I realised we were missing a vital photograph – it was the Queen Mother’s birthday and we didn’t have a shot of the oldest member of the family holding the youngest. So I approached the Queen, even though I was told not to, and explained how it was such a historic occasion and would be a missed opportunity. The Queen said, “Oh goodness me mother how did we miss this one out!” and the duke was roaring with laughter.

He was a brilliant cricketer and wanted to get to 100 innings. He unfortunately just fell short of that but he will be missed. I had great respect for him and he’ll be remembered for many things but he was there as the rock of the family and for the Queen. He was a great man and a great character.

We thank Kent Gavin for allowing us to use his photograph and of the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles as well as sharing his tribute to an incredible man.

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