Tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales

Eric Hayes posing with a photographer from the Royal Yacht BritanniaONE OF THE BEST ASSIGNMENTS of my 40-year photojournalism career was documenting the royal tour of Atlantic Canada by Charles & Diana, the Prince & Princess of Wales, in June of 1983 for Halifax’s Atlantic Insight magazine.

The magazine’s photography director, David Nichols, asked me and fellow photographer, Albert Lee, to accompany him on a two-week odyssey to all four Maritime provinces.

Our photographs first appeared in The Royal Visit – An Atlantic Canada Album, a special supplement available only to Atlantic Insight subscribers.

Then, following the death of Diana in August of 1997, Formac Publishing of Halifax decided to publish a 74-page tribute to the princess, a photo book, using the photographs that Dave Nichols and I had shot 14 years earlier. It was entitled, Remembering Diana – The Royal Visit to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island.

Now, I have decided that it’s time to offer up my own Tribute to Diana.

Viewers of the Netflix TV series ‘The Crown’ would have seen a dramatization of the beginnings of “Diana-mania” during the couple’s visit to Australia in March of 1983, which apparently caused Charles to become jealous of her success and popularity. This visit to Atlantic Canada just 3 months later saw Diana’s popularity edge even higher.

We now know that the couple were struggling with their marriage, while all the time fulfilling their royal duties and putting on a happy face for their fans in Atlantic Canada.

Throughout the 3,880 colour slides I shot during those 2 weeks, Diana’s smile lights up the crowd. You can see that she has a genuine interest in the people she encounters on the daily walkabouts. For example, In St. John’s, Newfoundland, a woman loses the metal faceplate of her small camera right in front of the princess and Diana bends down and picks it up off the street for her.

Charles, too, leans in to carefully hear what his admirers are saying and smiles and jokes with them. But of course, he puts on a much more grim face when inspecting the troops. And all the while, they are welcomed by the adoring people of Atlantic Canada.

These are the scenes that we photographed every day during the tour. But while going through my slides, I found myself looking for moments I had captured that have not been noticed before. I found myself looking for signs of connection between the prince and princess, or disconnection, perhaps – a photo or two that I might reveal the feelings they had for each other.

Here are two contrasting examples: While going ashore in Shelburne, NS, to start their day touring that historic loyalist town, Diana pauses on the Britannia’s gangway to look back at a rather grim-faced Charles. She’s giving him “the look” and he’s giving it right back. But then at the very end of the tour, in Charlottetown, while walking across the tarmac to board their plane home, Diana flashes him a big smile. Perhaps she’s saying “We did it, Charles.”

So who are these people, these royals? Maybe you, too, will find a photo or two here that will give you some insights. We might need to recall that Diana was only 21 (a couple of weeks short of her 22nd birthday) and Charles was 34.

Click on any one of the photos below, then use your left or right arrows to scroll through the collection.