The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold: How I snapped the most royal heads in the land

Click to follow
The Independent Online
It is by now well known that Wallace Arnold is not the only name under which I operate. Far from it. To the highbrow print media, I am, of course, Wallace Arnold, award-winning columnist and author of many works of non-fiction including Those Marvellous Mitfords (1978), The Unfairer Sex: Arnold on Women (1965), Pardon My Swahili: Arnold Abroad (1983) and Ever Fowler: The Authorised Biography of Sir Norman Fowler (1993). But in the glamorous world of the glossy magazine, I wear another hat: there, I am best known under the simple yet stylish nom de plume "Wallace", photographer to the aristocracy.

I mention this not simply to blow myself a richly deserved toot-toot on the old trumpet (delicious image!) but also to lend colour to this week's story that the Princess of Wales has "reinvented herself with an entirely modern look" within the pages of Vanity Fair magazine.

My curiosity is mixed, I fear, with disappointment. The Princess eschewed the better class of home-grown photographer - Snowdon, Lichfield, Wallace - preferring to employ a Peruvian(!!!!) snapper who labours under the crudely suggestive name of Mario Testino. Small wonder, then, that the results show not a Royal Princess but a common-or-garden shop girl, her hair distrait, her embonpoint bursting forth like a train from a tunnel, her head entirely without crown (or might she have been hiding one beneath that stack of ill-combed hair?), her come-hither looks better suited to a Spice Girl (dread words!) than to the mother of our future King. I have never trusted the Peruvians - there is something so very South American about them - and this incident has done nothing to improve their standing.

Had the Princess exhibited the good manners and patriotism to approach Wallace for a "makeover", she would have been able to boast a far more appealing portfolio. My record in this field is impeccable. In the late 1960s, I was approached on bended knee by HM the Queen Mother. "Wallace," she begged, "I want something new. New hair, new make-up, new clothes, new image, the lot." I set to work with my assistants. The result? A full- colour eight-page photo-spread in Motorcycle News showing that most gracious of ladies togged up in scarlet-and-maroon leathers with gold-on-black helmet, 1200cc of precision-engineered BMW throbbing between her legs, yet with no loss to her dignity.

The success of this image makeover for one of our most beloved Royals prompted others in the family to follow suit. Needless to say, they all wanted Wallace. Next on the blower was the Duchess of Windsor, livid that she had once again been trumped by her old rival the Queen Mum. "Make it regal, Wallace - but make it glamorous!" she demanded. Her wish was my command: the April 1961 issue of Health and Efficiency magazine carried a magnificent 18-page spread of glamour photos of the Duchess waving with perfect decorum from a horse-drawn carriage parked outside Buckingham Palace, clad in nothing but an exact replica of the Imperial State Crown. The rest is history: as a result of this historic photo-spread, the Duchess secured the role of Princess Dolores Dainty in the acclaimed remake of Carry On Camping, starring opposite Sid James, Terry Scott, Barbara Windsor (a distant relation by marriage), Bernard Bresslaw, Ken Clarke, John Redwood and a host of other top British comedy talents.

On the strength of this, when Princess Margaret wanted a change of image in June 1976, I was the man to whom she turned. At that time she was receiving a fair amount of what one might call "unfortunate" publicity of a louche nature. It was my task, through a series of striking images, to remould her image as the sister of Her Majesty: grand yet caring, deeply thoughtful yet at the same time infinitely gracious. And when my classic photographs first appeared exclusively in Container Monthly Incorporating Trucks International, they caused a major stir, particularly in the influential road haulage industry. Never before had a close relation of a reigning monarch appeared in photographs astride a pantechnicon. With this one series of photographs, I was credited by What Car? magazine with dragging the British monarchy kicking and screaming into the latter half of the 20th century.

What next? Whither Wallace? Strictly between these four walls, I have been approached by HRH Prince Edward. He is after a very 1990s change of image. My assistant has ordered the Noel Gallagher eyebrows and is busily distressing the "denims". Our tattooist is on standby, and Mrs Edwina Currie's daughter Debbie has been booked to appear in her catsuit. Lights! Action! Shoot! The survival of the Monarchy is assured!