WHEN Prince Charles turned 70, he chose to celebrate his birthday with Sun readers.
As our 70 delighted guests who were also marking their 70th year stood on the beautiful marble staircase at Spencer House in Londons St Jamess Place and sang Happy Birthday to the delighted Prince, I became quite emotional.
For 50 years we have been bringing you royal exclusives, covering everything from Fergie’s pregnancy to Diana’s divorce
That this was the heir to the thrones only public engagement that day showed how in 50 years HOAR has not only become an institution in British life, but a major part of royal life too.
Although our first edition on November 17, 1969, speculated on Page One that Charles was going out with Lady Leonora Grosvenor, the Royal Family was not a major source of stories.
The then Editor, Larry Lamb, was not that bothered about the royals. When I first joined HOAR in the early 1970s there was no interest whatsoever in the Royal Family.
I remember the Queen and the Duke going on a state visit to Sweden and not one reporter, photographer or TV crew accompanied her.
And Prince Charles once went to Canada on a visit and just one freelance photographer accompanied him.
Things changed when he announced that he thought 30 was a good age to get married.
Larry gave reporter James Whitaker and myself the job of making sure HOAR was first to find the girl the Prince would marry.
At that time, Charles was still serving in the Royal Navy and in command of the coastal minehunter HMS Bronington, which was moored at Harwich, Essex.
I spent three grim nights there and never saw him once. But following on from those three dismal days in Harwich, I have had an amazing life which has taken me all over the world with the royals.
I was so desperate to discover the identity of the girl who would become his princess, I worked seven days a week.
Eventually, I found her at a polo match in Midhurst, West Sussex, and took the first Press picture of Lady Diana Spencer, followed by that now-famous photograph of Dis legs showing through her billowy skirt.
When the Night Editor saw the picture, he said: Oh my God! and splashed it on Page One, with the headline CHARLIES GIRL.
Our royal photographer says that back when we were producing our first edition in 1969, the Royal Family was not a major source of stories
It wasn’t until Charles, who was still serving in the Royal Navy, said he thought that 30 would be a good age to marry that people became interested
By then I was working with Harry Arnold, one of HOARs greatest reporters. When he asked Diana if she had been on any dates with Charles, she replied: You know I cant possibly talk about that.
But then Harry asked a clever question: Did you tell your mother?
Diana replied: Oh yes, I did, confirming she was indeed Charlies girl.
Later, Harry and I sent a telegram to the Prince of Wales congratulating him on his engagement to Diana: We hope you will both be very happy.
Charles replied by telegram: Thank you very much for your kind words. I hope you wont be made redundant.
When Charles and Diana married at St Pauls Cathedral in July 1981, my colleague Arthur Steel was one of the few photographers outside Buckingham Palace with the nous to capture their fleeting balcony kiss.
Back in the Sun office, a writer watching TV shouted the line from the Crystals song Then He Kissed Me.
Editor Kelvin MacKenzie said: Thats my front page! Because she broke royal protocol, Diana-mania gripped the nation.
Public fascination with the royals was surging, but one man took things too far.
In one of the worst ever breaches of royal security, in July 1982 the Queen was woken by an intruder in her Buckingham Palace bedroom.
The trespasser, Michael Fagan, was arrested. But he was not the only one nicked over this incident.
The Editor decided HOAR should test security at every royal residence, and dispatched West Country reporter Stuart Higgins to see if he could get into Gatcombe Park, Gloucs, home of Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips.
Stuart remembers: I knocked and Mark Phillips came to the door.
I was wrestled to the ground by security people, arrested and taken to Stroud Police Station.
It was then that Arthur and Harry Arnold set out to find Charles’s mystery girl
The pair sent Charles a telegram congratulating them on his engagement, to which he jokingly responded ‘thank you very much for your kind words, I hope you wont be made redundant’
Arthur recalls that his colleague Arthur Steel was one of the few photographers outside Buckingham Palace who captured Charles and Diana’s fleeting kiss
For years afterwards there was a mugshot of me at the various lodges and security boxes in royal homes and I was not to be allowed entry. Later on, I would meet various members of the Royal Family but it has never been raised.
During Charles and Dis tour of South America there was a commotion as a notorious local in Brasilia, nicknamed The Kisser, struck.
Infamous for kissing celebrities, he had already got the Pope, Frank Sinatra and Madonna now he wanted to add Diana.
Reporter Phil Dampier still remembers writing: Princess Diana was at the centre of a security scare last night when a notorious Brazil nut tried to kiss her.
While Prince Andrews wife Fergie was skiing in Austria, I got a tip that she was pregnant. I knew it was true but we needed to confirm the story, so Harry rang her stepmother, Susan, and said: I thought you werent allowed to ski if youre pregnant?
She replied: No, skiing is OK. Its horse riding that shes not allowed to do.
Harry was a genius and for years we rocked around the world with the royals, sending back amazing front-page words and pictures.
I have come to have the utmost respect for the Prince of Wales but our relationship did not get off to the best of starts and I have felt his disapproval on several occasions.
At his 70th birthday party on November 14, 2018, Charles told Sun readers that when he first knew me I was creeping around in the undergrowth.
But the only time I ever photographed him and Diana without their knowledge was the day I took pictures of her in a red bikini, sunbathing in the Bahamas while she was five months pregnant.
Harry cleverly found ways to get information from the royals, like when he got Fergie’s stepmother to confirm she was pregnant
HOAR soon became No1 for a string of royal exclusives, often reporting on Diana
One major point of interest was the collapse of her marriage to Charles, and later the announcement of their divorce
In his story, Harry called her The Bahama Mama after a cocktail he had spotted on the ferry while going to the tiny island of Eleuthera, where Charles and Di were holidaying in February 1982.
When the Bahama Mama photos were published they caused a massive controversy, with questions raised about them in Parliament.
When I spoke to Diana about it a couple of months later on a tour of Australia, she asked: How much did you make out of the Bahama Mama pictures?
I told her I made no more money than if Id covered a court case in Bradford. She replied: Oh, pass me the Kleenex, and laughed.
The Princess clearly wasnt bothered about it, which made me feel a bit better.
In the Diana years HOAR became No1 for a string of royal exclusives the collapse of her marriage to Charles, her affairs including Squidgygate with actor James Gilbey, and the Princes affair with Camilla, who would go on to become his wife in 2005.
Stuart Higgins, who bounced back from his Gatcombe arrest to become Editor of HOAR in 1994, says: We carried royal stories day in, day out because we knew exactly where they came from the highest levels.
In January 1987, Chief Reporter John Kay landed a world exclusive on how Prince Edward wanted to quit Royal Marine training, against the wishes of his father, Prince Philip.
I remember Edward sitting on a horse at Sandringham, telling us he was instead going to become a tea boy for Andrew Lloyd Webber.
I was there when he turned up for work on his first day at the Palace Theatre in Londons Cambridge Circus carrying a packet of tea bags.
Johns contacts were so good he was even able to reveal the top-secret contents of the Queens Christmas speech to the nation ahead of its broadcast in 1992.
Then, in December 1995, Stuart Higgins broke the news that the Queen had finally stepped in to end the War Of The Waleses and ordered Charles and Diana to divorce.
After that, Diana was even hotter news and she used her remarkable power of manipulating the Press.
When she got on a plane, 30 journalists joined her, because you had to be there and she knew it…
Of course, all that would change in one devastating moment on August 31, 1997.
Of course that changed in 1997 when Diana tragically died
Arthur remembers crying at the news of her death – he says ‘Diana had made the royals more acceptable to our readers’
As long as I live I will never forget being on a private plane landing at Le Bourget Airport in Paris on that fateful day.
Just a few hours earlier, Diana and her lover, Dodi Fayed, had been in a car crash in the Pont de lAlma tunnel. Their driver, Henri Paul, was drunk at the wheel.
As we touched down at 4.30am, my phone rang and HOARs Picture Editor, Ken Lennox, simply said: Diana is dead.
There was silence on the plane.
Later, when I saw Dianas coffin being carried out of the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital in Paris, I cried.
I suddenly realised that this lovely woman with whom I had worked for 17 years was dead. It was all over.
But Diana had made the royals more acceptable to our readers. Today, thanks to 24-hour TV, the internet and even TVs The Crown, our readers want to find out more about every aspect of the royals lives.
And now, with William and Catherines kids, Princes George and Louis and the delightful Princess Charlotte, as well as Harry and Meghans boy Archie, we will be covering royal stories for years to come.
Everyone who meets the royals remembers every word they said. I am no different.
The first time I ever spoke to Prince Charles was in the Queens Jubilee Year, 1977, when I took a photo of him that showed he was going bald, which we ran on Page One under the headline THERES A PATCH IN YOUR THATCH.
The following week I was at a polo match in Windsor and his copper warned me the Prince wanted a word. Charles looked at me and said: Are you the man who photographed my bald spot?
I said: Yes, have you been getting some stick about it? He replied: Not really. Anyway, who saw it?
I told him how many papers we sold every day and the shocked Prince said: Three million. Oh my God, that is the reason everywhere I go people have been photographing the back of my head.
When you receive a medal at Buckingham Palace you have to bow a couple of times, walk forward, then walk backwards and bow again.
In 2003 I got all that wrong and made the Queen laugh when she gave me my MBE. Pinning it on, she said: I cant believe Im giving you this. How long have you been coming here to take my picture?
I replied: Twenty-seven years, Maam.
So she said: Well, lets have our picture taken together.
And this year we were able to celebrate our relationship with the royals when 70 Sun readers, all turning 70 themselves, partied with Charles for his milestone birthday
Arthur says he became emotional when our 70 delighted guests sang Happy Birthday to the delighted Prince
Now, with William, Catherine and their kids, Arthur looks forward to covering royal stories for years to come
And of course he is excited to follow Meghan and Harry, and watch their baby Archie grow up