Princess Anne: Fast Facts For Every Royal Watcher

Born in 1950, Princess Anne grew up in the harsh glare of the spotlight. Entering public life at the tender age of 18, the second child and only daughter of the late Queen Elizabeth II has proved to be one of the hardest-working — if not the hardest-working — royal in The Firm. While she's still generally referred to as Princess Anne, in 1987 she received an additional title from her mother, resulting in her new moniker of Anne, Princess Royal. Customarily awarded to the eldest daughter of a British monarch, the title will likely next be held by Princess Charlotte.

Anne has also proven herself to be among the coolest of royals, simultaneously rebellious and steadfast, always following her own path while performing her royal duties with aplomb. Has she experienced scandals? Heck, she wouldn't be a royal if she hadn't, and on occasion has been the source of some pretty salacious Fleet Street headlines. Yet through it all, Anne has emerged as perhaps the most solid member of the Windsor clan, a steady presence within the most scrutinized family in the world. 

Despite being one of the most famous people on the planet, the Princess Royal in recent years has become overshadowed by other members of the royal family, particularly in the midst of the family feud that's pitted Prince Harry against brother Prince William, yet she remains a fascinating figure. Read on for more fast facts that every royal watcher should know about Princess Anne.

Half a billion people watched her get married

Royal weddings have been major television events for decades, racking up huge ratings as momentous media events for the masses. That was true even before they were televised; as the Royal Collection Trust pointed out, the 1947 wedding of the future Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip was broadcast to a radio audience of 200 million. 

For the British monarchy, occasions such as weddings and funerals are marked with ritualistic pomp and pageantry dating back a thousand years. Given that Princess Anne's 1973 wedding to Captain Mark Phillips was the first royal wedding of the television era, it shouldn't be surprising that her big day garnered some pretty substantial media attention. In fact, a story in The Guardian published ahead of the wedding mocked the intensity of the media scrutiny, noting that the BBC was blocking off an eight-hour programming block to cover the nuptials. That proved to be a savvy decision, given that Yahoo! News reminded readers that the wedding attracted a staggering 500 million viewers. 

As People noted, the highlights from the wedding ceremony included Anne's Tudor-style dress with seven-foot train, then-nine-year-old Prince Edward rocking a kilt, and a wedding band made from gold mined in Wales. Meanwhile, per Yahoo! News, the reception dinner — which featured a rich meal of partridge and lobster followed by peppermint ice cream — was topped off with a wedding cake that shared Princess Anne's precise height, standing at an impressive 5'6".

Princess Anne was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize

When royals begin undertaking public duties on behalf of The Firm, it's become expected that each will adopt a charitable cause or two that they'll bring attention to throughout their lives as working royals. For Princess Anne, that led her to a long association with Save the Children, serving as the organization's president since 1970 before transitioning to patron in 2017.

In 1990, the princess' extensive worldwide travels and work with feeding starving children in impoverished nations led her to be nominated for the esteemed Nobel Peace Prize. As the Deseret News reported at the time, Princess Anne was nominated by President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, who recognized her long history with Save the Children while speaking with the BBC: "She loves people. She has extended that love to working for helpless children in many parts of the world. That is love in action."

Despite all that good work, Princess Anne was up against some pretty stiff competition that year. The Nobel Peace Prize for 1990 ultimately went to former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev, who was responsible for the fall of the Berlin Wall, ending the Cold War and putting an end to the entity known as the Soviet Union.

She has a criminal record — thanks to her dog

Princess Anne has distinguished herself in many ways, one of which has been landing on the wrong side of the law. As The Guardian recounted, it all started in 2002 when Anne took her dogs for a walk in Windsor Great Park, a public park not far from Windsor Castle. She'd let the dogs run loose, resulting in her three-year-old English bull terrier named Dotty attacking and biting two children who were playing in the park. She was hit with criminal charges stemming from losing control of her pet while in a public place. 

She pled guilty, reported The Washington Post, appearing in court to receive her punishment: a fine of £500 for the attack, an additional £250 in compensation paid to the children's parents, and £148 in court costs (adding up to a little over $1,000 USD). In addition, while the judge thankfully deemed that Dotty not be destroyed, she would not be allowed off her leash in a public space ever again and would also have to be trained.

The parents of the two injured children were not impressed with the sentence and complained that the princess wasn't adequately punished for the incident — particularly considering that the maximum sentence was a significantly higher fine and a maximum of six months in the slammer. "We do not think justice has been done," the girls' parents said in a statement. "The dog is still free and is a danger to society."

Princess Anne's also been nabbed for speeding

Dog attacks have not been the only thing that have seen Princess Anne run afoul of the law. In 2000, she was busted by local cops in Gloucestershire, England for speeding. According to ABC News, the lead-footed royal was clocked at more than 90 mph in a 70-mph zone. Once again, the princess entered a guilty plea. However, a Buckingham Palace spokesperson insisted that the real culprit was her breakneck schedule of royal events. "The princess was keeping to a tight schedule ... she has admitted that she was speeding at the time and she accepts that she is subject to the normal rule of the law and will be paying the fine," the spokesperson said in a statement. Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Bench Graham Sacker also issued a statement, noting, "We have taken into account Her Royal Highness' immediate guilty plea. This was an offense of average seriousness by a person of high means."

Princess Anne's propensity for speeding is apparently a habit she passed down to her daughter, Zara Tindall. 20 years after her mom's brush with the law, BBC News reported that Tindall was nabbed by cops for the exact same offense, on the same stretch of road in Gloucestershire, driving at more than 90 mph in a zone where the maximum speed was 70 mph. Tindall, however, had already racked up multiple driving infractions and received a more severe penalty: banned from driving for a six-month period.

She was a world-class equestrian

From an early age, Princess Anne shared her mother's well-documented fascination with horses. Learning to ride at a young age, noted Biography, she began competing in equestrian events when she was just 11 years old. While attending the Benenden School, she continued to engage in her passion for equestrian events, participating in choreographed riding performances and competing in show-jumping events. 

This was no mere hobby, however, which Princess Anne proved in 1971, when she nabbed fourth place the Rushall Horse Trials. Anne then took the No. 1 spot at the Badminton Trials later that year before coming in first at the 1971 European Eventing Championships. This win made her the first British royal to earn the European gold medal. Her equestrian career peaked in 1976 when she competed in the Montreal Olympic games, where she took a nasty spill that derailed her chances of winning a medal; as Hello! reported, the princess remounted her horse swiftly but had unwittingly gotten a concussion, and to this day recalls nothing of the accident.  

Like her propensity for speeding, a passion for equestrian competitions is something that she passed on to her daughter, Zara Tindall. Following in her mother's footsteps, noted Town & Country, Tindall won a silver medal while competing with the Great Britain equestrian eventing team at the 2012 Olympics in London.

Princess Anne's had a long association with the Olympics

While Olympic glory may have eluded Princess Anne when she competed at the Montreal games in 1976, that didn't stop her from maintaining a long personal history with the Olympics. According to the royal family's official website, she serves as a member of the International Olympic Committee and is also the British Olympic Association's president. In both those capacities, she played an instrumental role in ensuring London would host the 2012 games. In fact, she travelled to Athens to accept the Olympic flame and bring it back to London. "When the flame arrives and the torch relay starts to get under way, that is a physical moment in terms of the process towards the Games," she told BBC News of the significance of the torch and the symbolism it represents.

For the following summer games, held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, she paid a special visit to Team Great Britain in her capacity as president of the British Olympic Association. Anne was unable to attend the 2020 games in Tokyo — which, due to a pandemic-related delay, were actually held in 2021 — but shared a video on social media encouraging the British athletes who'd be competing. "Although I am sad not to be there in person, I and the whole nation will be cheering for you, and proudly supporting you from home," she said.

She survived an armed kidnapping attempt

About a month following their 1974 wedding, Princess Anne and husband Mark Phillips were driving home from a charity event when a car cut off their Rolls Royce and blocked it. As the Independent reported, armed gunman Ian Ball soon opened fire, shooting Anne's head of security, her chauffeur, and a tabloid journalist who was on the scene. Ball planned to kidnap Anne and demand millions in ransom, but his plan was foiled when he ordered her to exit her car; in true badass fashion, she reportedly responded, "Not bloody likely." As Anne calmly spoke with Ball, the incident came to an end when a nearby good Samaritan brought Ball down with a couple punches to the head, and he was taken into custody by authorities.

Recalling the botched kidnapping attempt many years later, Princess Anne admitted kidnapping was something she'd considered. "Strangely, I had thought about it before that, 'What would you do if?'" she said while interviewed for the ITV television documentary "Anne: The Princess Royal at 70" (via the Mirror). She credited her equestrian training for helping her keep a cool head in the midst of a fraught situation. "One thing about horses and sport is you have to prepare for the unexpected," she explained. "And you've got to think your way through the problems that are likely to occur. I suppose that was the discipline which I suppose to some extent colored my thought processes."

Her second marriage was tinged with scandal

They may have had a fairytale wedding, but happily-ever-after was not in the cards for Princess Anne and Mark Phillips. As Express reported, both grew increasingly unhappy in the marriage and each reportedly had affairs: Anne was said to have supposedly dallied with her bodyguard, Peter Cross, while Phillips admittedly fathered a child with New Zealand teacher Heather Tonkin, something that wasn't revealed until a few years later, and became the tipping point in their 1992 divorce

Prior to that in 1989, reported People, Princess Anne became embroiled in her biggest scandal when intimate love letters written to Anne from Commander Timothy Laurence, one of the queen's equerries, were obtained by the press. As a friend of Laurence's told the outlet, Laurence and the princess had become close. "Tim never stopped thinking about Princess Anne from soon after their first meeting," said the friend. "... But most of all, he cares for her in the way her husband does not."

With the divorce finalized, Princess Anne and Commander Laurence were free to marry — just not in England. As the Los Angeles Times reported, that was because the Church of England — of whom her mother was the head — didn't allow remarriage after divorce. As a result, the couple wed in Scotland, with Hello! noting that just 30 guests attended the modest ceremony. Princess Anne did, however, make history as the first senior royal to remarry after divorce since King Henry VIII.

Princess Anne didn't give her children royal titles

Princess Anne is the mother of two, Zara Tindall and Peter Phillips, both fathered by her ex-husband, Mark Phillips. While all of their cousins have fancy titles — Princes William and Harry (the Prince of Wales and Duke of Sussex, respectively), Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, and Lady Louise Windsor and her brother James, Viscount Severn — neither of the Princess Royal's children hold royal titles. Part of this, noted Express, is that Phillips (a commoner) was offered an earldom upon his marriage to Anne, but apparently turned it down — and thus had no title to pass on to his heirs.

However, that's not the only reason that the siblings don't have royal titles. In a 2020 interview with Vanity Fair, Princess Anne revealed that was a deliberate decision on her part. "I think it was probably easier for them, and I think most people would argue that there are downsides to having titles," she explained. "So I think that was probably the right thing to do."

This royal is a big believer in boarding school

As anyone who watched Netflix's "The Crown" may recall, King Charles III had a lonely, miserable time when he was sent away to Gordonstoun in Scotland. "Bullying was virtually institutionalized and very rough," one of Charles' former classmates claimed to Vanity Fair of the boarding school they'd attended.

Unlike her older brother, however, Princess Anne actually had a very different experience when she was sent off to Kent's Benenden School. "My case was slightly different to my senior brother's," she told Vanity Fair, explaining that she was itching to broaden her social horizons after being cooped up in palaces. "I was ready to go to school," Anne explained. "I had a governess and two friends, and that was never going to be enough, really, so I was only too pleased to be sent off somewhere else."

While admitting the boarding school experience may not be for everyone, Princess Anne was adamant that the experience was a highly positive one in her case. "I think boarding school has been demonized by some when in fact it's a very important aspect to have available and many children actually thrive in it," she declared.

Her favorite recipe is not for the faint of stomach

In 2020, Princess Anne undertook a new role unlike anything she'd ever done before: serving as guest editor for the July issue of venerable British magazine Country Life. In that very special issue, Anne, Princess Royal took readers inside her Gloucestershire home, discussed the significance of her favorite painting, and shared an article written by husband Timothy Laurence about a week in his life (which consisted of planting trees, clearing paths with a lawnmower, and building stone walls).

She also shared one of her favorite recipes for deviled pheasant. The executive chef at The Ritz in London, John Williams, demonstrated how to make the dish — which definitely appears to be something of an acquired taste. "It's a very simple recipe," Willams told the magazine. "Basically, a couple of whole pheasants are poached, then taken off the bone, shredded and kept warm in the poaching juices. You just add freshly whipped cream, left in the fridge for an hour to stiffen, mixed with a good amount of Green Label mango chutney." As for that latter ingredient, Williams was adamant that no substitutions would suffice. "It has to be Sharwood's Green Label, nothing else," he explained. "I went out and found that specially!"

Why she wore a military uniform to the queen's funeral

After the death of Queen Elizabeth II was announced on September 8, 2022, the world witnessed a funeral like no other, imbued with ancient rituals and traditions dating back more than a thousand years. 

During the funeral processions — one in Edinburgh, then another in London — Princess Anne accompanied her brothers in walking behind their mother's casket, and then attended the state funeral at Westminster Abbey, with the ceremony broadcast on television to a worldwide audience. Those viewers likely noticed that Anne was wearing a military outfit, and there was a good reason for that. As Associated Press explained (via ABC 10), the queen's only daughter was wearing a ceremonial Royal Navy uniform. While she never served in the Royal Navy, or in any other branch of her country's military, she does hold several military titles, including Admiral in the Royal Navy. In addition, she's also a General in the British Army, and an Air Chief Marshal in the Royal Air Force, among her other various titles.

"There was something very powerful about seeing a royal woman wearing uniform so proudly during the mourning period," royal expert Bethan Holt told People of the princess's Royal Navy uniform. "It reminded me of those images of the Queen in her military attire during Trooping the Colour parades earlier in her reign."

Princess Anne's been called the hardest-working royal

Princess Anne officially became a working royal when she turned 18, noted her official website, and has spent much of the ensuing years participating in official engagements and royal visits, along with her involvement in more than 300 different charities. In 2017, The Times reported that of all the various royals, Princess Anne had been that year's busiest, appearing at 455 official royal engagements — plus 85 that took place abroad. During that year, in fact, Anne could boast more royal engagements than Prince Philip, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry combined.

"If I'm going to be in London, I don't want to be hanging about," she later explained in a 2020 interview with Vanity Fair. Considering she tends to attend a handful of engagements in a single day, Anne noted that sprinting from one charity luncheon to another meant that she never had to worry about meals. "I think during the day, eating's not really an issue," she quipped.

Despite being in her 70s, the Princess Royal has indicated no desire to step on the brakes, at least for the time being. She pointed to her parents — who continued undertaking royal engagements well into their 90s — as her inspiration. "I have to admit they continued being there for a lot longer than I had in mind, but we'll see," Princess Anne said.