EXCLUSIVE | Sitting down with Bill Straus, Queen Elizabeth II’s private Lexington photographer

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) — Queen Elizabeth II was a friend of the bluegrass, visiting Kentucky five times, and was known for her affinity for horses. It just so happens that one Lexington man was her private photographer for many of her visits. We sat down with him in this ABC 36 exclusive.

“She’s very, very personable. Delightful. Pretty blue eyes. Nice warm, pretty smile,” said Bill Straus.

Straus recalled the warmth and generosity surrounding Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Known as one of the world’s most avid equestrians, the queen traveled to the bluegrass to visit several horse farms, take in races at Keeneland and even attend the Kentucky Derby in 2007.

“She was very, very knowledgable about thoroughbreds and bloodlines. People still talk about that today. She would see these stallions and she knew who was who,” said Straus.

Straus, now 73 years old, photographed the queen five times during her visits to Kentucky, including an opportunity to be her personal photographer to capture her intimate visits to Lane’s End Farm — never to be released.

“They said that the pictures that I did were private and they wanted to keep it that way because she has to put on a different persona in a public situation,” he added.

His favorite photograph? (see video above)

“Probably this headshot. I made that one and saw it and thought it really had her personality in the picture. That would probably be my favorite one,” he said.

One of Straus’ most prized possessions, ironically: a photograph.

A gift from the queen herself.

“She said ‘It seems quite odd giving a photograph to a photographer’ but she gave it to me. I went straight to a framing store to have them frame it and they called me the next day and said ‘It’s ready.’ I said ‘What do you mean it’s ready?’ I was thinking three, four, five days. Fred Johnson, who owned it, said ‘I didn’t want this thing laying around here too long,'” said Straus.

But, more importantly, the opportunity to capture the queen in the most intimate of settings.

“I think it’s safe to say she was probably the world’s most famous woman. And to be around that, you feel first of all validated in what you’re doing yourself, and enjoy the opportunity to observe in a very close position somebody like that,” he said.

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