Why first photograph of Princess Diana as Charles’ girlfriend was almost never published

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PRINCESS DIANA became a global sensation when she joined the Royal Family in 1981 – but the first photograph taken of her as Prince Charles’ potential girlfriend was almost never released, according to royal photographer Arthur Edwards.

Diana and Charles first started dating in the summer of 1980, when she was 19 years old. The Prince of Wales had a string of girlfriends throughout his bachelor years, including Diana’s older sister Sarah, but struggled to find a woman willing to be a royal wife. As a result, The Sun’s royal photographer Arthur Edwards was dubious when he first saw Diana with Charles, almost forty years ago.

Back in 2017, the photographer told News Corp: “Prince Charles had made a speech about how he thought 30 was a good time to get married.

“[So] the editor said to me, ‘find out who his girlfriend is’.”

Mr Edwards said that a contact had phoned him to inform him the heir was at a polo match — with someone called Lady Diana Spencer — at Cowdray Park, Midhurst, West Sussex, on July 29, 1980.

He found her watching the game from the sidelines, and only identified her through her necklace.

Princess Diana pictured before her wedding (R) and in 1997 (L)

Princess Diana pictured before her wedding (R) and in 1997 (L) (Image: Getty)

Diana took some time to adjust to life in the public eye -- pictured after she stalled her car in front of photographers in 1980

Diana took some time to adjust to life in the public eye — pictured after she stalled her car in front of photographers in 1980 (Image: Getty)

He explained: “No one seemed to know what she looked like.

“Looking around, I saw a pretty girl sitting among the crowds wearing a necklace with the letter D on it.”

She posed for a photograph, but Mr Edwards later “filed this one in a drawer” after discovering she had only just celebrated her 19th birthday and was the youngest daughter of Earl Spencer, too.

Mr Edwards told News Corp: “I thought he (Charles) isn’t running around with teenagers.

Edwards traced Diana down to the nursery where she worked in London (pictured, wearing her 'D' necklace')

Edwards traced Diana down to the nursery where she worked in London (pictured, wearing her ‘D’ necklace’) (Image: Getty)

Diana was Charles' surprising choice as bride, as he was nearly 32 when she was just 19

Diana was Charles’ surprising choice as bride, as he was nearly 32 when she was just 19 (Image: Getty)

“He was 28, he’d been going out with girls in their mid-20s.

“I told the editor, ‘don’t syndicate it, just file it’.”

The photograph shows Diana resting her face on her hand in a casual stance, as she sits and stares directly at the camera.

She is surrounded by onlookers and seems relaxed.

Diana in the first year of her life in the spotlight, before becoming the Princess of Wales

Diana in the first year of her life in the spotlight, before becoming the Princess of Wales (Image: Mirrorpix/Getty)

However, the striking image was not published until Mr Edwards was able to confirm the relationship.

It was not until he was driving near Balmoral, past River Dee, a month later that Mr Edwards felt certain she was the one Charles wanted to marry.

He explained: “I saw Prince Charles fishing with an unusual-looking ghillie.

“It was Diana dressed as a man.

“I stopped the car and tore across the field, while Diana ran away, hid behind a tree and used a mirror to look over her shoulder to see where i was.”

The following day, he tracked her down at the London nursery where she worked.

Diana and Charles during their official engagement photo call

Diana and Charles during their official engagement photo call (Image: Getty)

It was here that Mr Edwards managed to take the infamous snaps of Diana in a translucent skirt, shortly after it was revealed she was Prince Charles’ girlfriend.

Diana became a national sensation in the months before her wedding.

Another photograph of Diana was taken in September 1980 by the Sunday Mirror’s Carl Bruin, after she explained how the photographs with her translucent skirt taught her to handle her new media profile.

Mr Edwards went on to photograph Diana for the rest of her life and he said they developed a close bond.

On the 20th anniversary of her death, he wrote in The Sun: “Those first, early meetings with Diana — then a shy teenager — remain burned into my memory nearly 40 years on.”

Source: EXPRESS CO UK