Jack Boskett is a professional photographer who first took pictures of the Royal Family in 2012. Jack, who worked as a railway photographer, was invited to Hereford when Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip arrived on a steam train as part of the Diamond Jubilee tour.
He has been on the royal rota ever since and continues to take photographs at all sorts of royal occasions. This included the Queen's funeral in 2022 when he was part of a select group of photographers who were permitted to attend the procession route.
Sky HISTORY spoke to Jack about his experience working at the historic event, his schedule in the build-up to the funeral and the most poignant photograph he took on the day.
How did photographing funeral of Queen Elizabeth II differ from working at happier royal events, like the Jubilee?
In the past, I’ve photographed everyone in a positive light. Everything’s been happy and everyone’s been there for a positive celebration. But when it came to the funeral, I realised what I was about to experience was a moment in history. It was something I knew was going to happen one day, but it was a strange feeling when it was actually happening.
There is an element of seriousness and you had to be professional. You had to bear in mind that a family was going through grief and they were upset. I had to respect what I was about to witness and photograph.
For example, when I went to Westminster Hall to photograph the Lying-in-State, I was given an hour to photograph the scene in there from two positions. But about 45 minutes in, I had got enough photographs and actually put the camera down. I just stood in silence and paid my respects that way.
What other events did you photograph leading up to the funeral?
I couldn’t believe that the happy lady I’d photographed at all those events over the years was in that room, but no longer with us
On the day of the announcement I was working in Essex and I’m based in Gloucestershire. On the way back I had the radio on all the way and they made the announcement just as I got home. I knew immediately that this was a moment I had to document for historical purposes, so I cleared my diary for the following fortnight. I wasn’t really sure where I was going to end up or what was going to happen, so I had to adapt.
My partner lived in Wiltshire at the time, so I resided at her place for the full fortnight as it was an hour’s commute to London. The following morning, I was in London by 7am to photograph the scenes outside Buckingham Palace, the announcement on the gates and the general public laying flowers. There was a stillness in the air. A lot of people were silent and just stood there in disbelief. Later on that day, King Charles was at Buckingham Palace to have a look at all the floral tributes and I was there for that.
I went to Piccadilly Circus and photographed a lot of people looking up at the screens of the announcement. There were pictures of the Queen all over the place and I just photographed the lot. I’ve got these London scenes that just document that day of mourning.
Then the days all blur into one. I didn’t go to Scotland, but I did go to Cardiff to photograph Queen Camilla and the King when they went to the Senedd. Then I was back in London again for the procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall. I was opposite Horse Guards Parade from 7am and didn’t photograph the procession until 2:50pm. That was quite moving when the coffin came around the corner and I got my first glimpse of it.
I was in Westminster Hall the night before the funeral. At 11pm there was the last lot of the queue, the never-ending queue that went on for miles, coming through. You didn’t hear a thing in there, except for the ‘tap, tap, tap’ of the sword on the stone to announce the changing of the guards, which I witnessed four times.
It was just so moving and I couldn’t believe that the happy lady I’d photographed at all those events over the years was in that room, but no longer with us.
What was your timeline on the day of the funeral?
You’ve got to remember everybody is human at the end of the day and they are going through grief and mourning.
I had stayed overnight in London and was awake at 5am. I then went to my position down The Mall at the front with two other photographers. We were given a bit of space to roam if we wanted which was quite nice. I could hear people talking about their memories and experiences with the Queen. They were all positive and some people were even having a bit of a laugh about the anecdotes. It was nice listening to some of those.
Then I heard over the speakers that the procession was on the way and I just photographed the parade of personnel passing by. One moment that stands out for me is just after the coffin passed, it was followed by several royal limousines and the procession stopped dead opposite me for about 15 seconds. The Princess of Wales, as she is now, was in the car and her window was right opposite me. She looked straight at me, down the barrel of the lens and it’s a photograph that just speaks a thousand words. For me, it’s one of my favourites of the whole fortnight because it’s one of those images that just tells the whole story. It’s so moving and evocative.
It was a really long day but it went quite quickly and it took me a while to process what I had just documented. It’s probably one of the most important things I’ve ever photographed and I appreciate everyone behind the scenes who helped me get into those positions.
What precautions did you take to make sure you stayed respectful to the occasion while also doing your job?
The biggest thing for me is how you dress and first impressions go a long way. I wore a three-piece suit and black tie because you have to dress for the occasion you go to.
The other point to make is when I had that moment with the Princess of Wales, I knew I had the photograph, so I just put the camera down. I realised she was looking at me and I had to just bow my head. It was one of those moments where I felt like I was invading her privacy and I didn’t like that.
You’ve got to remember everybody is human at the end of the day and they are going through grief and mourning. I was quite happy with that one shot and it was a case of making sure I didn’t overstep the mark.
What are some of the other moments from the day that will stay with you for a long time?
The procession was something else. To see how many people turned out for that was amazing and I take my hat off to everybody who attended. When you watch the procession go past you’ve got to think about what they are all thinking. What are they all going through? What are their emotions?
Just the size and the scale of the whole day, it was just immense. The procession was just never-ending. It was an honour to be able to photograph the funeral and I hope that my photographs reflect positively on the events that took place.
If you would like to find out more about Jack Boskett and his work, check out his website for his full portfolio of photographs.