Princess Anne’s Country Life guest edit: The inside story of putting together a magazine with The Princess Royal

Country Life magazine's Managing Editor Paula Lester worked closely with HRH The Princess Royal to put together the Princess's guest-edited issue of July 29.

If you aren’t able to get to a shop to pick up this week’s special issue of Country Life, you can buy a single issue here if you’re in the UK or here if you’re overseas.

Paula was the Co-ordinating Editor of the special issue, which was guest-edited by The Princess to mark her forthcoming 70th birthday — a 172-page edition of the magazine highlighting The Princess’s deep love for and thorough understanding of the countryside and those who live and work in it.

‘Working with a small team from The Princess’s office at Buckingham Palace, we overcame the challenges of working from home across the country due to the Coronavirus pandemic to pull together an eclectic edition that truly reflects the issues and the country people that The Princess holds dear,’ says Paula, who compiled the magazine from her kitchen table in Dorset.

‘Working to a list of features supplied by The Princess in February, we quickly marshalled our best writers and photographers to write about and photograph all the subjects requested, while adhering to social distancing rules,’ Paula continues.

‘This involved commissioning one of the very best Scotland-based gardens photographers to illustrate a beautiful, but far-flung garden, surrounding the Ruuval lighthouse on Islay, plus our Picture Editor, Lucy Ford, organising lots of individual open air photo shoots with The Princess’s nominated champions of the countryside.’

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The magazine’s Deputy Editor Kate Green and freelance photographer Sarah Farnsworth were also delighted to be invited to The Princess’s home at Gatcombe Park in Gloucestershire, to illustrate her dedication to organic farming and rare breeds.

Once all the words and pictures were ready, the work of putting together the pages could began.

‘Once we’d gathered all articles and images, our talented design team — led by our Art Editor, Emma Earnshaw — set to work creating a series of eye-catching layouts, which were then expertly fitted by our Chief Sub-Editor, Octavia Pollock’ Paula continues. ‘It was a massive effort on behalf of the entire team, including our Photographic Library Manager, Melanie Bryan, who met me just off the A303 to hand over the page proofs ahead of our meeting with The Princess.

‘Having sent nigh on 1,000 emails and made countless telephone calls, we are really proud of the edition and the way it reflects The Princess’s commitment to the countryside and more than 300 patronages,’ enthuses Paula, who, along with Country Life’s Editor-in-Chief Mark Hedges met The Princess at Gatcombe in mid-July to go through the final page proofs.

The issue also includes a 2,000-word leader article, which The Princess wrote on her own iPad, in which she credits her parents for instilling her appreciation of Nature — ‘Both my parents had a love and understanding of the natural world through their own experiences’ — and explains how fortunate she feels to have spent ‘most of my life in the countryside’.

Mark Hedges concludes: ‘It was an absolute delight to have The Princess Royal as our guest editor. Her passion for the countryside shines through with every feature, combined with her concerns that the right action is taken to safeguard the rural way of life for future generations, from providing affordable housing to dealing with fly tipping. We do hope our special edition makes a very fitting 70th birthday present.’