Kiss Me Hardy by George Phillips, 27th March 1981, Daily Mirror

By Alan Sparrow

 “May I kiss the hand of my future Queen?” Cheltenham schoolboy Nicholas Hardy asked Lady Diana Spencer on March 27th, 1981, a few months before her marriage to the Prince of Wales at St Pauls Cathedral on 29th July, when she visited The Dean Close School, Cheltenham, accompanied by the then Prince of Wales.

A surprised Diana, replied, “I don’t know about that,” adding “You will never live this down”.

This was one of the first official royal engagements for Lady Diana, her first being a charity ball at Goldsmith Hall days earlier where she was introduced to Princess Grace of Monaco, and over the years many comparisons were made of the lives of the two.

The man who captured this moment was photographer George Phillips (1934-2018) an “area man” working originally for The Sun, The People and then the Daily Mirror. Phillips plied his trade in the west country for almost 50 years, and achieved fame early when he won the Britannica News Picture of the Year for a photo he took on 8th October 1952, when he was 18.

Phillips was working for Planet News and heard on the radio of a crash at Harrow and Wealdstone station. The overnight express train from Perth collided with the stationary commuter train from Tring on the platform at Harrow and Wealdstone, and the wreckage of the two trains blocked the upline to the Euston to Manchester express which piled into the wreckage, leaving 112 people dead and 340 injured.

His father Cecil Phillips was a London based staff photographer for the New York Times whose advice to his son was, ''Don’t follow the crowds, find the crux of the crash and go from there '', advice young George followed to scoop his rivals. He had only one glass plate left and he wasn’t sure if it had already been used, but he got a picture that has stood the test of time. Memorably, it showed the local vicar, the Rev John Richards, standing on top of a mountain of mangled wreckage.

The obituary for George in the Daily Mirror said big stories were George’s meat and drink. He covered many, such as the murder conspiracy case against Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, the Hungerford massacre and the Fred and Rose West murder trial.

And did Nick ever live it down his moment of royal gallantry? It seems he did.  He became a music scholar, actor, and violinist, and teaches at the Ballyhoo Dance and Theatre School in Stroud.

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