Former royal snapper living in Normandy tells of gnome gift to Charles

The Queen’s death brought back a wave of memories for a former Daily Mail photographer, now based in Normandy, who followed the royals between 1985 and 2000.

One of Michael Forster’s fondest memories was the time he gave the new king a garden gnome.

He had whiled the time during a royal visit with one of Charles’ private secretaries, who jokingly asked what he would get the then-Prince for his birthday.

“I replied that the prince was one of the richest people in the world. What could I possibly offer – a garden gnome?

Buckingham Palace said the gnome idea was “good!”

“It was a good laugh, but a few weeks later I got a call from Buckingham Palace and they said the garden gnome idea was a good one!”

The idea of ​​getting a cheap gnome from a garden center was not in vogue, so Mr. Forster contacted the special effects designers at Shepperton Film Studios, who were keen to make a special gnome – with a camera.

Herr Forster could give it to Charles in a light-hearted encounter. “Years later, one of the royal protection officers told me that of all the fabulous gifts the prince received from kings like the Sultan of Brunei, the gnome was the greatest trouble.

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“Charles and Camilla liked to have it placed in different spots in the garden so they could see who spotted it first…”

A copy of the fiberglass dwarf was gifted to Charles and a second was made from the mold for Mr Forster.

Speaking of the Queen’s death, Mr Forster said: “The Queen has played such a big part in British life for so many years and so many people have seen her and spoken to her that it’s no wonder feelings have been so strong around her death.”

As part of the accredited royal press pool, Mr Forster had access to dedicated photographer areas and was able to walk through cordons during tours and other events to get closer to the royals.

Toured the world with the Queen

He traveled the world when the Queen made foreign visits, often going out a few days before the royal party arrived to settle in, tell stories of the set-up and prepare to get the pictures of their arrival.

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Read more: King Charles could travel to France for the first state visit as a monarch

“It was a privileged position, but also very nerve-wracking,” he said. “You had to constantly focus on getting the best possible picture while hundreds of other photographers were all trying to get a better shot. It was a big responsibility.” Face-to-face interactions with the royals have been limited. “They saw us as a necessary evil,” he said.

“They were polite and kind and smiled and were kind on the few occasions we were together without cameras or crowds, but it didn’t go beyond that.”

Of the thousands of pictures he took of the royals, some stuck in his memory, including one of Princess Diana in Angola, where she had gone to support the work of the Halo Trust, which cleared mines left behind by wars were left.

“They had just cleared a path through a minefield and she had the guts to walk down it for the cameras,” he said.

Another, which won awards, he took on Christmas Day, as the royal family left the church at Sandringham, just as a violent gust of wind hit and the Queen clutched her hat.

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Move to France

Mr Forster and his wife Tansy moved to Normandy in 2001. “I turned 50 and thought it was time for something different,” he said. Tansy felt the same way. “We are very happy here.”

He only takes a few photos.

“I enjoy going out without a camera and experiencing things without worrying about the picture,” he said.

He is surprised at the interest shown by the French in the royal family. “However, President Macron’s speech in English showed the importance the Queen played in international relations.”

Read more: French President Emmanuel Macron pays tribute to the Queen in a speech: ‘We all feel an emptiness’

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