Helicopter and superyacht activity reached a peak in Monaco last week. International media attention was heavily focused on the principality’s upcoming royal wedding. However, despite much event-related promotion of Monaco as a desirable South of France tourist destination, the principality, known for a heavy-handed approach to photographers and for protecting its VIPs, was true to form in not making life easy for those who were sent by agencies and publications across the world to capture images of the Monaco royal wedding, and Prince Albert and Charlene’s glamorous jet-set guests.
The email I had received from palace officials beforehand with confirmation of my accreditation had already set the tone. The strict dress code requirement ‘For women photographers: cocktail dress only’ irritated me on a number of counts. On the day, I donned trousers, prepared to battle out questions of practicality and the inappropriatness of Louis XIV-era attitudes to male-female equality in 2011 with Monégasque officials.
A long list of DON’Ts
However, points of tension weren’t limited to dress code on Saturday’s wedding day. Each photographer was escorted to their named positions in the Place du Palais at 1 pm, from which exact points we were not allowed to move until 7 pm. And during that time, bien entendu, no ladders or stools were allowed. There would be no eating. No smoking. Nor wearing of ‘casual’ sun hats. Had we not been in what felt like a 50º heat in direct shadeless sunshine, this might not have caused more than a mild grumble. But as it was, tempers frayed. One Danish photographer asked officials politely where he could find his ladder that had been confiscated. I felt awkward on overhearing Monaco officials confirming in French that it had been thrown in the bin.
When the dignitaries started to arrive in front of the photographers, the impossibility of our mission became apparent. The majority of royal and VIP guests got out of cars, posed for the onlookers in front of the palace, and pottered straight off up the red carpet, their backs towards us throughout.
Photographers shouted out their names and some guests turned around with gleaming smiles, but this wasn’t the Cannes Film Festival. It didn’t take long for a high-ranking Monaco madame with a voice of icy steel to intervene. She eyeballed as many of us as possible and told us that the next photographers to utter a sound would immediately be escorted out. Of Monaco, I presume. In any case, remarkably, the press pack behaved like primary school children after a terrifying visit from the headmistress and shut up. I could do little but helplessly watch the backs of many of the key guests that my agency had asked me to capture ambled off up the aisle. Tant pis.
After the ceremony, each photographer’s hopes that the exit of guests back towards us would rescue the situation were dashed by the numerous black people-carriers double-parked in between the press and the VIPs, with the red-tassel-helmeted Monaco carabinieri forming an effective human shield in any gaps visible between cars. The few journalists who threw their toys out of the pram at this point and tried to leave in protest were stopped by special force policemen.
Delightful souvenir gift
So when the photographers finally got back to the press room, exhausted, frustrated and with clothes and hair sticking to bodies in a matted mess, you can imagine the delight when press liaison officers greeted us with sparkling smiles and a memorial gift of the event. If you see a photographer with a lens cap displaying ‘Mariage Princier, Monaco‘ in glittering lettering, you know what they went through to get it.