Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Ray Bellisario?

London’s first proper paparazzo was undoubtedly Mr Ray Bellisario. He is said to have disliked the Queen’s family. This may or may not be true. What is certain is that they disliked him with a vengeance, particularly so Prince Philip. Deeply frustrated, Philip pleaded with the Queen, ‘Can’t we make an exception? Can’t we send him to the Tower?’
She shook her head, ‘Not any longer, dear.’
Ray used to go for long walks down the Mall, pushing a pram, and keeping his eyes peeled for any royal who may have strayed out of the palace or a royal nanny wheeling a push chair. Like a boy scout, he was always prepared. For inside the pram he was pushing was not a wee baby but a wee old fashioned 35mm camera with a long lens.
One of Bellisario’s big early scoops was at Windsor Great Park. He got a tip off that Prince Charles and Princess Margaret used to go water-skiing at Virginia Water on summer weekends. So one night Ray climbed up a tree and sat and waited. His patience paid off. He got a sensational series of shots of Charles clowning around on the water, one hand gripping the ski rope and the other holding a chair behind him, giving the impression he was skiing sitting down.
And then there was Princess Margaret, skiing in a wet suit, the sort of pictures never before seen of the royal family. They were sensational and were splashed across the pages of Paris Match and other foreign magazines. Bellisario is also said to have taken a picture of a topless princess frolicking on honeymoon on the lawns of Balmoral Castle.
He drove Prince Philip potty. In fact the Duke of Edinburgh became really paranoid about Bellisario and started checking out all the suits of armour in the various palaces. He wouldn’t pass a suit of armour without flipping open the visor to see if Bellisario was lurking inside. At the time Philip went around growling, ‘I’ve got a reputation for being nasty to photographers – bloody nasty if they poke a long lens through a keyhole into my private life. I don’t mind photographers doing their job as long as they stick to their designated place.’

Unfortunately I failed to find anything more on Ray or even the infamous Princess Margaret water-skiing picture (on the interweb). The pictures were shown on FIVE last night... so foolishly I thought they would be easy to Google.

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