Express & Star

The Princess Royal: A woman known for her no-nonsense approach

The princess has been dubbed the King’s ‘right-hand woman.

The Princess Royal wears uniform during the Coronation Procession

The Princess Royal is known for her no-nonsense and practical approach to life.

The only daughter of the late Queen Elizabeth II and Duke of Edinburgh survived a kidnapping attempt, competed in the Olympics and raised a family.

She spent decades supporting her mother and is now a vital part of her brother, the King’s, slimmed-down working monarchy.

The King and the Princess Royal wearing brown coats walking to church
The King and the Princess Royal at a church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk in January (Joe Giddens/PA)

She has been dubbed the King’s “right-hand woman”, thanks to her support in the wake of Charles’s cancer diagnosis, and for her reputation as one of the most hard-working members of the royal family.

In the BBC’s documentary Charles III: The Coronation Year, Anne was seen greeting him affectionately with the words “Hello, old bean”, to Charles’s delight.

Princess Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise was born at Clarence House on August 15 1950, two years after her brother Charles.

She is an expert equestrian and her love of horses began at an early age.

She is the mother of silver medal-winning Olympic horsewoman Zara Tindall and businessman Peter Phillips.

Anne once remarked: “As a young princess I was a huge disappointment to everyone concerned. It’s impractical to go around in life dressed in a long white dress and a crown.”

Her hairstyle, swept up on the top of her head, has remained unchanged over the decades and she is uninterested in being judged on what she wears.

But the princess has been described as an accidental and sustainable fashion icon for re-wearing dresses 40 years later, and sticking to the same style.

She  is known for her take-no-prisoners approach, just like her father, Philip.

The Princess Royal wearing a large cap and leaning on a walking stick
The Princess Royal watching cross-country at the Gatcombe Horse Trials (Steve Parsons/PA)

Author Lady Colin Campbell once wrote: “The key to the princess is that she is Prince Philip in skirts.”

Anne was born third in line to the throne, but was leapfrogged by her younger brothers Andrew and Edward when they were born, and she is now 17th in line.

A skilled horsewoman, the princess won the individual championship at Burghley in 1971 and later that year was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

Five years later she won a place in the 1976 Montreal Olympics as a three-day eventer in the British equestrian team.

 Anne stands in the water behind her horse after falling off at a jump
Anne took a tumble at the 20th fence in the cross country section of the Burghley Horse Trials in 1981 (PA)

Anne became a British member of the International Olympic Committee and took part in London’s successful bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games, and was a member of the organising committee.

She married her first husband, fellow horseman Captain Mark Phillips, in 1973.

The couple survived a kidnapping attempt the following year.

Gunman Ian Ball tried to abduct Anne and Captain Phillips as they were driven along The Mall to Buckingham Palace.

Anne and Captain Mark Phillips on their wedding day
Anne and Captain Mark Phillips on their wedding day (PA)

The princess kept her cool and when the gunman told her to “come with me for a day or two” because he wanted £2 million, she replied not “bloody likely, and I haven’t got £2 million”.

The princess said she was “furious at this man who was having a tug of war with me” and for ripping her favourite blue velvet dress.

Her father later quipped: “If the man had succeeded in abducting Anne, she would have given him a hell of a time in captivity.”

Anne visiting journalist Brian McConnell in hospital after he was shot during her attempted kidnapping in 1974
Anne visiting journalist Brian McConnell in hospital after he was shot during her attempted kidnapping in 1974 (PA)

Anne and Captain Phillips had two children, Peter, born in 1977, and, four years later, Zara.

Peter and Zara were not entitled to royal titles, and Anne decided to keep it that way, offering them a more normal upbringing without the pressure of being a prince or a princess.

In November 1977 the couple moved to their 18th-century country house, Gatcombe Park, near Stroud, Gloucestershire, a present from the Queen, complete with 730 acres of land, large stables and a trout lake.

Head shots of the late Queen and Anne laughing together
Queen Elizabeth II and Anne during the Braemar Gathering Highland Games in 2009 (Danny Lawson/PA)

Ten years later she was honoured by the Queen with the title of Princess Royal, which is traditionally, but not automatically, given by the sovereign to their eldest daughter.

Anne appeared on BBC’s Question of Sport, the first member of the royal family to do so, in 1987.

She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by president Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia in 1990 for her work as president of the charity Save The Children.

Zara Tindall, wearing a riding hat, with Anne, wearing a yellow coat
Zara Tindall with her mother the Princess Royal at the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe Park in 2006 (Barry Batchelor/PA)

Anne is involved with more than 300 charities, organisations and military regiments.

Her first marriage ended in divorce after 19 years. The couple separated in 1989 and divorced in the late Queen’s annus horribilis year of 1992.

The princess married her second husband, former equerry to the late Queen, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, in a low-key ceremony later the same year.

Anne and Timothy Laurence in the front seats of a car
The then-Commander Tim Laurence and the Princess Royal on their wedding day (PA)

Their relationship came to light in 1989 when personal letters the Royal Navy commander wrote to Anne were stolen from the princess’s briefcase and sent to The Sun newspaper.

In 2002, Anne became the first senior member of the royal family to be convicted of a criminal offence.

She pleaded guilty at East Berkshire Magistrates’ Court in Slough to a charge under the Dangerous Dogs Act, after her pet Dotty bit two children in Windsor Great Park. She was fined £500.

Anne reads from the programme with Peter Phillips at the Platinum Jubilee Pageant
Peter Phillips, the Princess Royal, Savannah Phillips and Sir Tim Laurence during the Platinum Jubilee Pageant (Chris Jackson/PA)

The princess presented her daughter Zara with her team silver Olympic medal at the London 2012 games.

Her son Peter has described how Anne kept them in check when they were younger.

“Whenever we may have got slightly above our station, she would be the first one to bring us back down to earth fairly hard,” he said.

The princess has five grandchildren, Savannah and Isla Phillips and Mia, Lena and Lucas Tindall.

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