The Look of Regals

updated 11/04/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/04/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

SHE SELDOM RIDES, AND HER FEAR OF horses is legendary. Yet here was Princess Diana in jodhpurs and boots, posing with Prince Charles and sons William, 9, and Harry, 7, for a family portrait. Only Tango, Harry's pony, seemed at ease.

Forget Ralph Lauren's ersatz version of English manor living—this pastoral scene was the genuine article, captured by the palace's favorite photographer, Princess Margaret's ex, Lord Snowdon, at the royal estate, Highgrove, in Gloucestershire. Released to coincide with the Waleses' October visit to Canada—yes, the kids were scheduled to go along—the photograph represents the couple's most recent effort to buff up the image of the marriage after a summer filled with separations and innuendo.

To most royal watchers, the cozy scene was as artificial as an exhibit at Madame Tussaud's. "It would be difficult to find anything less like a relaxed, happy family snap than this one," observed feature writer Sandra Parsons in the Daily Mail. "The star of the shot is Princess Diana, who is well aware that riding clothes allow one to combine eminent respectability with sizzling sexiness."

While blaming the stiff setup photo on Diana and her penchant for such style-obsessed magazines as British Vogue and Taller, Parsons didn't spare Charles. "Which looks the more uncomfortable—Charles, Wills or the garden seat?" she asked. "On balance, it is probably Charles...."

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