Every year since her death this date, the 31st August, has been emotive for me, having spent the greater part of my twenties and thirties photographing the Princess of Wales around the world and having had my pictures published in every major magazine publication globally.
Diana in Washington, picture by Lionel Cherruault
Now, 20 years on and the hoo-ha that surrounds such an anniversary has made me revisit my library of pictures and my publication cuttings of the British Royal Family.
I had so many good times travelling the world to 70 countries that to suddenly come across the order of service for Princess Diana's funeral caused me to reflect on what could have been had she not died, it really did take the wind out of me and transported me back to the service at Westminster Abbey where I was positioned just inside on the right as you would enter through the Western door. A scaffolding photographic position had been erected and camouflaged so it blended in.
We were allowed to stake our position very early the night before, I marked the floor with a square of white tape and wrote my name inside it with a fat black marker pen on the temporary marine board floor. On arrival, very early, the following day, besuited and wearing a black tie, I took up my position alongside two other photographers.
It felt like so many other big state occasions I had covered over the years, but of course it wasn't, I confess my heart was heavy, though I don't pretend to have known her though I met her many times, I did spend almost 20 years as a Buckingham Palace accredited photographer following almost her every move around the globe and we were both about a year apart in age, so it always felt as though we had sort of grown up together, though with very different lives!
So here I was, expected to be the consummate professional and produce images that were sharp, composed and undoubtedly emotive for the world's magazines, they were waiting for my pictures, they were holding their deadlines, a lot depended on this moment. This was to be the very last Diana job I would cover, I never ever expected it to be her funeral, nor did any of us.
So today I came across this double page spread in Time magazine with my picture of the coffin astride the Welsh Guards pallbearer's shoulders, Prince Philip, Prince William, Earl Spencer, Prince Harry and the Prince of Wales standing and pausing behind the coffin after having entered the Abbey.
There is much talk of the media being responsible for her death, but spare a thought for those of us that were not paparazzi, just jobbing photographers that happened to specialise in photographing the British Royal family, it was a very very sad time for me and marked the end of my career as a Royal photographer. Lionel Cherruault