Life is no longer black and white for girls in pearls: Charles Oulton finds 'Country Life' has ruffled feathers by dispensing with engagement photos

A FEW years ago, the daughter of a prominent businessman was desperate to have her engagement photograph in Country Life. Her father tried to oblige: for pounds 4,000 he hired a public relations firm with the brief to provide suitable clothes, make-up and jewellery, and give her the right aura.

It was a disaster. The photographer, Catherine Moubray, said the young woman was so made up that she couldn't see what she looked like. 'She was desperately nervous and she looked dreadful.'

Country Life refused to publish the result and the public relations firm, challenged by the irate father, blamed out-of-focus photographs. So the father got on to Miss Moubray. 'Absolute rubbish,' she said. 'They gave her the wrong image. I can get her in if you let me do it my way.'

So a new set of photographs was planned: the young woman was dressed in polo clothing, and placed, for the first time in her life, on a horse. It was a mare in season, as Miss Moubray, perched on a stallion, was to find. The stallion launched itself at the mare, hurling its rider to the ground, and by the time Miss Moubray had collected her senses she felt able to take only the odd picture of the subject standing beside her mare before beating a retreat to London.

But Country Life liked the photographs and the young woman was soon staring out of the frontispiece at readers, none of whom had the slightest idea about the money, strain and physical hardship that had got her there.

Girls-with-pearls have been a feature of Country Life for most of the century, but times are changing at the glossy magazine, which has a weekly circulation of 46,000. To the consternation of many readers, Jenny Greene, the editor, has dispensed with the old format of black-and-white engagement photographs of pretty young women with bare shoulders, although wedding and engagement photographs in colour do still appear.

Miss Greene now prefers to fill that slot with colour pictures of people that interest her. So on 18 June, readers were introduced to the Earl of Selborne and his golden retriever, for no obvious reason other than his position as chairman of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, and his home at Temple Manor, Selborne; or, in the 27 August issue, Count Umberto Caproni di Taliedo, of Milan, who found his way on to the page by virtue of his membership of the British Falconry Club. He looks splendidin his tweed suit, with a peregrine falcon on his fist, but he isn't a Camilla or a Samantha, and that is bothering some people.

It is certainly bothering Rosalind Mann, a photographer whose name has been synonymous with the frontispiece for 30 years. She made her reputation by scouring society pages and writing to likely candidates to suggest a sitting. When the photographs were taken, she asked the women if they would like to appear in Country Life. Most did. Now her black-and-white portraits go elsewhere.

'Quite a lot of people have been very upset about it,' she said. 'I told Jenny Greene three years ago that fewer people were having engagement photographs, but I was wrong. Girls are more serious- minded now, but they still like an engagement photograph, and many still like the idea of appearing in Country Life.'

Miss Greene, who is leaving in January, said she had wanted to scrap the old format when she took up the editorship five years ago.

'It took me a long time because there were other things to do, but when Rosalind Mann said the engagement photograph was dying out, it coincided with my wish to end them,' she said. 'Instead, I wanted to have photographs of people whose lifestyle the magazine mirrored.'

So out went girls-with-pearls such as Grace Everett, the last to appear on the frontispiece in black and white, and, two weeks later, in came the Duke of Edinburgh on the occasion of his 70th birthday. Despite this, royals make only fleeting appearances, as they have throughout the magazine's 97-year history. A four-year-old child clutching a rabbit, as long as the child is connected, is just as likely to appear on the frontispiece, as happened on 25 June.

Mind you, it still helps to know the right people. In this case, the rabbit was Lopperty, and the woman was Lady Marina Moore, daughter of the Earl and Countess of Drogheda. The photograph was taken by Derry Moore, one of the few photographers trusted by Miss Greene to get people's titles right.

Her confidence is scarcely surprising. When away from the camera, Derry Moore reverts to his real name: the Earl of Drogheda.

(Photographs omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant - Immediate Start - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant - Immediate ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Development Engineer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading manufacturer of fl...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Operative - Oxfordshire / Worcestershire - OTE £30k

£12000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Field Sales Operative is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders