Mark Cuthbert: A Royal Photographer…


Over the years, A Love Supreme has been privileged to speak to some of the most weird and wonderful Sunderland fans, with everyone from musicians to politicians being featured in the magazine. That being said, I don’t think we’ve ever spoken to someone who spends his days in Buckingham Palace taking pictures of the Queen — if we have, they were almost certainly lying.

Mark Cuthbert is a veteran photographer who has spent over 20 years capturing some of the most important and iconic moments in the lives of the modern Royal Family. He has travelled the world over, snapping everything from Royal weddings to state funerals, and holds a unique insight into possibly the most famous-yet-private family in the world. Here are some of his tales…

So, Mark, you must have one of the most interesting jobs of any Sunderland fan we’ve encountered. Can you tell us a little bit about what you do day-to-day?

My job generally revolves around going through a diary of Royal engagements, some of which the Palace tells you about, but some not, and then arranging a security pass or access. You can encounter a lot of security issues when entering Army, Navy, and RAF bases, plus of course any Royal residencies.

In the UK you have to deal with three palaces for the main members of the Royal Family. Buckingham Palace for the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, Clarence House for Charles and Camilla, plus Kensington Palace for William and Kate as well as Harry (and potentially Meghan in the future too!) All this also applies to various European Royal Households too, as I cover them as well.

Does the Royal Family still seem larger than life to you, or are you used to it by now?

After photographing them for the best part of 30 years now, I have got a bit used to them, although the Queen is still the Queen and as such is treated differently to the others. Charles and Camilla are very friendly, although it’s still nerve-racking when you meet them at receptions etc.Edward and Sophie are the same, thoroughly pleasant; Sophie and Camilla being from non-royal backgrounds always say hello and if the occasion is right will try to help you get a nice pic.

The younger royals, William, Kate and Harry are also very nice when you meet them, William in particular. When in Bhutan last year at a press reception, William talked to me about football and asked me which team I support. When I said Sunderland, I mentioned his team Villa were probably the only team worse, although in the end SAFC did stay up and Villa went down.

The following day we covered the visit to the Taj Mahal then had a 5/6-hour trip back to New Delhi during which most people on the press bus were talking about the visit and comparisons to Princess Diana when she visited. I, on the other hand, was following the game at Norwich via my Mac connected via my mobile, which we won 3-0 I think!

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge is beauty personified and her wedding day was a thing of fairy tales. Was that the highlight of your career?

William and Kate’s wedding was indeed a huge occasion and was great to be there in a privileged position outside the Abbey. As for a highlight it would certainly be up there but my two lasting memories of the job are a few years ago being inside the Vatican with Charles, Camilla, the Pope and just a handful of other people. Afterwardsthe Pope came over, said hello and shook my hand.

The other great memory is from Pakistan many years ago on a state visit with the Queen and Duke. They were in the private office of Benazir Bhutto and they carried out the formal exchange of gifts. Just me, the two principles, and a couple of aides in a small office; very surreal. One other engagement that sticks in my mind is when Charles and Camilla visited Newcastle in 2006 and during the day they went to St James’ Park. and the Prince took a penalty on the pitch, I had my Sunderland top on underneath my shirt and tie which got a comment or two from some.

Are you mates with the Queen and is she a massive Lads fan? I bet she loves Billy Jones.

Not sure if any royal is a Sunderland fan — I hope for their sake they’re not! Although, Prince Edward’s wife Sophie is the Patron of The Foundation of Light and I believe she has been up once or twice.

You’re a big Sunderland fan — were you born here or do you have blood ties? I’m guessing you didn’t choose to support the Lads!?

I have no ties to the area at all, but I live quite near the Selsdon Park Hotel, which back in the 70s and maybe 80s was one of the traditional FA Cup Final hotels.One year, the team staying there were Sunderland — I thought they were my local team, plus huge underdogs, so I supported them and have done ever since. I was only 5 at the time and didn’t realise they were just about the most un-local team I could have found.

What do you make of the current situation at the club, and are you behind Simon Grayson?

The current mess has to be laid at Ellis Short’s door, he is ultimately responsible for hiring and firing of some of the people responsible for this mess. Some of the contracts seem farcical — whose idea was it to let Defoe go for nothing, who thought the Alvarez deal was a good idea, who thought the Celtic fiasco was a good idea, who thought Pappy Djilobodji was a footballer, how has 10 years of Premiership money and 40,000 gates just gone up in smoke, how can a club the size of Sunderland have a record signing of £13m, what have Stoke, WBA and even Burnley got that we haven’t?

Simon Grayson has his hands tied, how can he do anything with cast offs no one else wants, you won’t win a Grand Prix in a Reliant Robin. I can’t understand how it seemed a good idea last year not to invest a few million into trying to stay up. Surely the club is worth way more as a Premier Leagueteam than one playing in the Championship, or even worse...

Who would you say are SAFC royalty, and will we ever find a new King?

Not sure what constitutes Football royalty! For me, Defoe for his relationship with Bradley as well as being one of the best players we’ve had for a long time will always be fondly remembered. Going back to the Reid years, SuperKev and Discounts will always be special. Obviously from years gone by there is the 73 team and further back Hurley etc.

What was your first Sunderland game, and what is your favourite ever match?

My first game was back in the 70s at Selhurst Park. My first home game, however, was the last year at Roker Park, which was then followed by a season ticket for 6 years at the SOL . Also going to just about every away game for those years too, which from Kent is not a bad effort!

Collecting enough loyalty points for the two 2-1 wins at Newcastle, pouring rain, Shearer on the bench, Super Kev’slob, Tommy’s saved penalty etc.Not to mention Bury away midweek, when 75% of the ground was SAFC. Birmingham away when they were rebuilding and away teams only got a handful of tickets. The aforementioned 2-1 wins up the road were a great time, especially on the army of buses from the SOL. If the Play-Off against Charlton had gone differently then that would’ve been the best.

Mark’ stories of his Royal assignments are crazy, and his dedication to the lads over the years — despite never having any ties to the club other than voluntary choice — is perhaps even more baffling! Either way, we’d like to thank Mark for his time and encourage you to check out his portfolio at www.markcuthbert.com

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