He chronicled British society, from its highest echelons to its most brilliant performers, and yesterday British society came out to say ‘thank you’.
Led by the Queen hundreds of mourners packed into St Margaret’s Church, at Westminster Abbey, to pay tribute to Lord Snowdon, the photographer and former husband of her sister, Princess Margaret.
Some of the country’s most notable figures were among the 600-strong congregation, including included the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince William, Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent and Lady Sarah Chatto; Lord Snowdon and Princess Margaret's daughter.
Prince Charles was represented by William in what was one of the largest gatherings of Royals, Peers and members of London society in years.
But also prominent among the congregation were several of Lord Snowdon's friends from the world of art and entertainment, many of whom had known him since the Sixties, when as a young man he began carving out a career as a photographer capturing the glamour of ‘Swinging London’.
They included the playwright Tom Stoppard, the composer and lyricist Sir Tim Rice, playwright Alan Bennett and Jools Holland, the musician and TV presenter.
They all remembered Lord Snowdon’s work, from his portraits of Diana, Princess of Wales; Elizabeth Taylor and David Bowie to his his work capturing the world’s great stylists for Vogue and Vanity Fair
Indeed some of them had been his subjects.
As he left the service Bennett told The Telegraph of one memorable occasion he sat for Lord Snowdon, who died in January at the age of 86.
“He took a photo of me with a meat cleaver,” he said. “I thought that was really good. He was a lovely man.”
Stoppard said: “It’s exactly 50 years ago since first I met him. He gave me a ride in his Aston Martin, took my picture for a magazine and then dropped me off home. We always kept in touch after that.”
Alexander Shulman, the editor of Vogue magazine, in whose pages Snowdon’s work appeared over the the past 60 years, said the secret of his success was his interest in people and what lay beneath their surface appearance.
“He was a fantastic portrait photographer and unlike a lot of portrait photographers, who just shoot what’s in front of them, he did manage to get inside his subjects,” she said.
“He was a very strong character himself, but his personality never overrode his subjects because he was so interested in people.”
Lord Snowdon remained close to the monarchy, following his divorce from Princess Margaret in 1978, after 18 years of marriage, and we was the only photographer to have had sittings with the Queen throughout her reign.
Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, said: “The fact the Queen and the Royal Family attended this service is a real tribute to the man and his career.”
The proceedings had got off to a shaky start when the Queen stumbled heavily as she arrived at the service.
Her Majesty appeared to slip as she was greeted at the side door to St Margaret's Church and was forced to thrust out her hand to steady herself on its wrought iron railings.
She then levered herself up the step to the 15th Century church, without requiring assistance, before entering the building.
Fifty minutes later the Queen emerged into bright sunshine at the end of the service, as the bells of Westminster Abbey pealed across Parliament Square, followed by the rest of the congregation.
She walked slowly but with a steady step to her car, accompanied by a senior clergyman from the Abbey.
The congregation had earlier heard tributes to Lord Snowdon not just as an artist, but also a husband, a family man and a steadfast friend.
The Second Earl of Snowdon said his father liked to call himself a failure, but he was far from that in the eyes of others.
David Armstrong-Jones said Lord Snowdon "was a rebel, but never the sort of rebel to do what one might expect rebels to do ..."who thought of himself as a failure. In my eyes too, he was a failure - as a failure, that is."
He pointed out that not only had his father created a "sensitive" body of photographic work , but had also coxed the Cambridge University crew to victory in the 1950 boat race, water-skied across the English Channel and campaigned "tirelessly for the disabled".
"It is said one should never meet one's heroes, for fear that they might disappoint,” said the Earl. “I had the privilege of living with my hero - my only great disappointment now is that I can never any more spend any time with him."
Patrick Kinmonth, the opera director, designer and writer, read a tribute to Lord Snowdon, describing him as a man who "never quite played by the rules", but was a "delightful friend and kindred spirit".
The Reverend Jane Sinclair, Canon of Westminster and Rector of St Margaret’s Church, told the congregation that the life of Lord Snowdon had been marked by "humour, style, compassion, and wonderful visual craftsmanship."
Rev Sinclair added: "Lord Snowdon’s passion for visual creativity, and for promoting the rights of those with disability, lay at the heart of his life.
"He is celebrated for his support of the creative arts and artists. Yet it is also for his championship of those who live with disability that he will be remembered by many."