The Untold Story of Princess Anne – Britain’s most hardworking royal
Princess Anne: Charles won’t change as King
Princess Anne, 72, is the only daughter of the late Queen Elizabeth II and the former monarch’s second eldest child after King Charles. She is regularly praised for being the busiest member of the Royal Family and has broken ground by being the first member of The Firm to compete at the Olympics and appear as a contestant on a TV quiz show.
Her Royal Highness was born Princess Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise at Clarence House on August 15, 1950, two years before her elder brother. She is the seventh Princess Royal, holding the title traditionally carried by the monarch’s oldest daughter since June 1987.
Anne threw herself into royal life early, starting her first official engagements at the age of 18 when she opened an educational and training centre in Shropshire. Since then Her Royal Highness has been involved with more than 300 charities, organisations, and military regiments in Britain and abroad, including acting as President and now Patron at Save the Children since 1970.
In 2022, Princess Anne was crowned the hardest working member of the Firm after attending more than 200 royal engagements. Such a commitment to the Royal Family may have been the reason behind the Princess Royal’s recent calls to reject a slimmed down monarchy when she told Canada’s CBC News: “Well, I think the ‘slimmed down’ was said in a day when there were a few more people around. It doesn’t sound like a good idea from where I’m standing, I would say. I’m not quite sure what else we can do.”
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The Royal Family at the Olympic Games
In the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games Princess Anne competed as a member of the British Equestrian team, becoming the first member of the Royal Family to take part. Her love of horse riding may have been inspired by her later mother, Queen Elizabeth II, who was known to love riding and racing horses herself.
Before the Games, Princess Anne took part in several European three-day event championships where she won a gold medal in the 1971 individual discipline and silver in both the individual and team disciplines in 1975. Her efforts saw her handed the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in 1971. In the Olympics she rode The Queen’s horse, Goodwill, in the equestrian three-day event but did win a medal.
The Princess Royal continued her association with the Olympic Games following her participation when in 1988 she was appointed as a member of the International Olympic Committee. She also supports the next generation of British athletes in her role as Honorary President of the British Olympic Association.
Just as she was the first royal to compete at the Olympic Games, Princess Anne was also the first member of the Firm to appear on a teleivison quiz show as a contestant. In February 1987 the Princess Royal took part in the BBC panel game A Question of Sport alongside former footballer Emlyn Hughes where she helped answer questions about horse racing and other topics.
Marriage and children
Her Royal Highness married her first husband Mark Phillips, a lieutenant in the 1st Queen’s Dragoon Guards, in November 1973 after meeting him on the equestrian circuit. The couple tied the knot in an event at Westminster Abbey watched by 500 million people around the world. The wedding was held on the same day as the then-Prince Charles’s 25th birthday.
They had two children together, Peter Phillips and Zara Phillips, but because Mark was untitled their children were born without royal titles too. However, their marriage was not to last and in 1992 the couple were divorced, a year which Queen Elizabeth II described as her annus horribilis.
Princess Anne went on to marry Timothy Laurence in the same year. Her second husband was equerry to the Queen from 1986 to 1989, a role concerned with assisting the monarch in their public duties.
Anne now boasts a growing family, with five grandchildren: Savannah and Isla Phillips born to son Peter, and Mia, Lena and Lucas Tindall born to daughter Zara.
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Notable life events
Princess Anne is a household favourite for many due to her direct, no-nonsense nature and there is one story that sticks in the minds of many royal fans – the kidnap attempt in 1974, when the car she was travelling in was shot at from another vehicle.
Her chauffeur and security officer were hit in the ambush, and the Princess Royal was confrtoned with Ian Ball who said he was going to demand a £2million ransom for her release.
Captain Phillips recalled holding on to her waist as Ball grabbed her forearm, saying: “Please, come out, you’ve got to come.” But in her defiant fashion, the Princess responded “not bloody likely.”
As chaos ensued, in which a police officer was shot and a Daily Mail journalist attempted to distract the gunman, Anne made her escape. Grabbing the door handle on the opposite side of the car, she launched herself backwards out of the vehicle forcing Ball to run around towards the Princess, at which point she climbed back into to sit alongside Phillips and shut the door in his face.
Line of succession and other roles
At the time of her birth, Princess Anne was third in line to the throne behind her mother and older brother, now King Charles. Now she is 16th in line to the throne behind a number of her family members including Prince William and Prince Harry along with their children, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward.
Princess Anne holds various other roles such as Grand Master of The Royal Victorian Order, a dynastic order of knighthood founded by Queen Victoria. She is also chancellor at the University of London and the University of Edinburgh, roles she took on from other members of the Firm.
While it is unlikely Princess Anne will ever be crowned Queen of the United Kingdom, her devotion to public life is unquestioned and King Charles may seek support from his younger sister as he steps up to lead the Royal Family.
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