Princess Anne, the under-the-radar royal
The royal family isn’t just known for the priceless jewels in its collection, the palaces scattered around the United Kingdom or the long-lasting love story of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip (nearly eight decades!). Before Queen Elizabeth’s death, she reigned for over 70 years and did her best to pass on a strong work ethic to her children. Although her sons may get most of the attention, England’s hardest-working member of the royal family tree is actually the princess royal, Princess Anne. Despite being the queen’s only daughter and second-eldest child (she’s just two years behind King Charles), Princess Anne has stayed out of the spotlight for most of her life.
Most recently seen at Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, walking in the procession in a neat Royal Navy ceremonial uniform, the princess royal’s wish for privacy is well-known. She’s so reserved that Princess Anne doesn’t shake hands with the public – although handshakes have apparently dropped off in pandemic times, so perhaps she was simply ahead of the curve. But behind that stiff upper lip, the princess royal is hiding some fascinating facts. Here are the most interesting things you never knew about Princess Anne.
She’s an accomplished horsewoman – and an Olympian!
The royal family has a long tradition of enjoying equestrian sports, from hunting and polo to eventing and racing. But Princess Anne takes ‘horse girl’ to a whole new level. In 1976, she became the first member of the royal family to compete in the Olympic Games, taking the queen’s horse Goodwill to Montreal for the three-day equestrian event. “She completed her round after sustaining a concussion during a bad fall,” says royal expert and historian Nicoletta Gullace, a professor at the University of New Hampshire. If that’s not bravery worthy of a fairy-tale princess, we don’t know what is.
The princess royal was appointed to the International Olympic Committee in 1988, and her daughter – Zara Phillips, one of Queen Elizabeth’s lesser-known grandchildren – went on to compete in the same three-day event at the 2012 Olympics in London. The Great Britain equestrian team won silver, and Princess Anne had the honour of presenting the medals.
She has been married twice
The world loves a royal wedding, and the one that took place on November 13, 1973, was historic. Princess Anne married army officer Captain Mark Phillips at Westminster Abbey in a televised event that about 500 million people worldwide tuned in to watch. It was only the second time in 200 years that a royal had married a commoner.
The princess royal met Phillips through a shared love of equestrian sports – they competed on the same European eventing team in 1971. They had two children together, Peter and Zara, before divorcing after nearly 20 years of marriage in April 1992.
In December of that same year, Princess Anne married Timothy Laurence, a naval officer (now a vice admiral) and one of Queen Elizabeth’s former aides. There was a hint of royal scandal surrounding her second wedding, and not only because it came so soon after her divorce. In 1989, The Sun apparently obtained personal letters from Laurence to Princess Anne, and although the tabloid never published them, there has been considerable speculation about their contents over the years. After three decades of marriage, however, the couple is still rock solid. In fact, Princess Anne’s husband was most recently seen alongside Princess Anne and Prince William in Queen Elizabeth’s funeral procession.