Princess Anne: The Hardest Working Royal Sure Has Changed A Lot Over The Years

When it comes to the British royals, the list of family members seems to never end. Among the senior members of the family is Princess Anne. Born Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise in August 1950, she is the second child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. Unlike her three brothers, Princess Anne was welcomed into the world at Clarence House, not Buckingham Palace. At the time, the palace was in the middle of a major renovation, so it wasn't exactly the ideal location for a royal birth.

Per Express, after Anne arrived, her father reportedly said, "It's the sweetest girl." He then celebrated with his staff and called the king to tell him about the birth of his granddaughter. Princess Anne is 16th in the line of succession to the throne; her brother King Charles became the monarch after their mother died in September 2022.

She has been undertaking royal duties her entire adult years and has become the hardest working royal. She has competed in the Olympics, set birthing trends, and been a devoted daughter, sister, mother, and grandmother. "Growing up when she did, Anne appreciated that the monarchy could only survive if it could justify its existence," historian Edward Owens once told The New York Times. "She's always recognized that the family can only enjoy the privileges of royal life if they work hard."

She has been close to King Charles since infancy

Princess Anne is one of four children, Queen Elizabeth's only daughter and second eldest. Her brother King Charles arrived 21 months before Princess Anne, and both were born before Elizabeth became queen. Elizabeth and Philip's two eldest were very close from the start and their dynamic has stood out to the public for years.

In 2022, Hello! shared a slideshow of photos to highlight some of the siblings' major life moments, including a snapshot of the two driving to Charles' investiture together. In a number of the images, the two are seen smiling and seem to be sharing a laugh. 

After Charles officially became king in late 2022, he named his sister and his brother Prince Edward counsellors of state, meaning they are able to make decisions and carry duties in the case that King Charles is abroad or unwell. Princess Anne's new title shouldn't come as a surprise for those who follow royal family matters. As author Tina Brown wrote in "The Palace Papers," "[T]here are plenty in palace circles who believe she is the best king we will never have."

Princess Anne has always been a fashionista

The eyes of the world have always been on the royal family, judging everything they do, say, and wear. Princess Anne never escaped public scrutiny, and her fashion choices have gotten a lot of attention over the years — and for the most part, the good kind of attention.

As Miranda Holder told Express, Princess Anne has never been afraid of using fashion to express herself and give the world a peek behind the curtain at who she is. "She certainly has never paid any attention to trends, and in later life has adopted a more frugal approach to her wardrobe than other members of the Royal Family," Holder explained. "She often rewears old pieces time and time again, but it's through this irreverence that she has become and unexpected style icon."

Princess Anne's style is both timeless and unique, and whenever she revisits one of her classic pieces, it's sure to make a splash. And it sounds like her mother helped shape her sartorial sense. She once told Australian Women's Weekly (via Newsweek), "The queen and I had a discussion the other day about the difference between fashion and style. I think maybe that's relevant in the sense that she didn't do fashion but she certainly does style, and style tends to last longer." 

She was close to her paternal grandmother

Princess Anne's second middle name, Alice, comes from her paternal grandmother, Princess Alice of Battenberg. As fans of "The Crown" know, Princess Alice became a nun later in life. While the scripted series got some of the details about her life correct, there are some pieces that do not line up with Alice's actual story. Historian Hugh Vickers told The Telegraph that contrary to what the show might lead viewers to believe, Prince Philip did want his mother to move in with them. What's more, she was given a comfortable and desirable room at Buckingham Palace, not banished to some uninviting chamber. And as for that interview with Princess Alice depicted on "The Crown"? According to Vickers, that couldn't have happened because Princess Alice was a very private person who would refuse to speak with the press.

It was during this stay, her final two years, at Buckingham Palace that Princess Alice became close to her granddaughter. "It is true that she was close to Princess Anne, with whom she developed a very personal relationship," Vickers explained, per The Times. Completely opposite to her granddaughter's fashion taste, she only left three dresses behind when she passed away.

Robert Lacey, who consulted on "The Crown," told People, "Anne called Alice Yaya, the Greek word for grandmother. She loved sitting and hearing the stories that her grandmother would tell about Victoria being present at Alice's birth." 

Princess Anne's high-profile romances

As private as Princess Anne may want to keep her life, details of her romantic relationships have come to light. And three of her relationships caused something of a stir. The first one was with Andrew Parker Bowles — yes, as in the first husband of King Charles' second wife. Though things didn't work out between Anne and Camilla Parker Bowles' ex-husband, it sounds like there really wasn't that much drama. "Anne and Andrew have remained friends to this day, and he is a godfather of Anne and Mark's daughter Zara, born in 1981," Sally Bedell Smith told Elle

The second relationship that got tails wagging? Why, that would be her fling with Peter Cross, a royal bodyguard who became her lover while her first husband, Mark Phillips, traveled. Per The Sun, Cross apparently confirmed the romance years later to royal reporter Harry Arnold. According to Arnold, Cross said, "When you wrote that story I was still married and I couldn't admit it, but yes it was true."

Last but not least, she reportedly exchanged love letters with her current husband, Timothy Laurence, before her marriage to Phillips was over. Per Express, the scandal hit the fan once The Sun obtained said letters and the world found out about the royal affair.

Her engagement rings sparked a new trend

Twice engaged, Princess Anne wore a sapphire engagement ring both times. The first from Captain Mark Phillips, and the second from Timothy Laurence. Per The New York Times, Anne showed off the ring she and Phillips picked out to reporters. "You see it's pretty simple. A sapphire in the middle and a diamond on each side," she said. 

According to The Court Jeweller, her second ring was a polished sapphire flanked by six diamonds. The stone choice not only broke the tradition of wearing diamond engagement rings, but perhaps held deep significance. Max Stone of Seven Stone told Hello!, "Blue sapphires are often linked to people who are respectful, loyal, hardworking, and honest, which only makes these rings even more special, and this perhaps could have meant something to Princess Anne."

Although hers was an engagement ring, sapphire has been seen in other royal family rings such as the one that belonged to Diana and is now in the hands of Kate Middleton. "A stone which is traditionally believed to attract abundance and blessings," Stone continued. "Historically it has been used to protect against negative energies, as well as calm the mind, strengthen intuition, and invite spiritual clarity, so it's no wonder the royal ladies love them."

Both of Princess Anne's wedding dresses dazzled

Princess Anne married Mark Phillips in November 1973 at Westminster Abbey. Her wedding gown was designed by Maureen Baker who was the chief designer at Susan Small. According to Express, Princess Anne herself oversaw the design of her dress. The end result was nothing short of stunning. The gown featured a high neck, dramatic sleeves, and rows of pearls. The train wasn't nearly as long as Princess Diana's epic train, but at 7 feet, it still made a statement. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the fashion star of the royal family wowed with her style choices on both of her big days. For her first wedding, she wore Queen Mary's Fringe Tiara, a dazzling headpiece that her mom wore on her own wedding day. For her second trip down the aisle, Anne took a more understated route. 

As many heads as her first gown turned, Anne's second wedding dress was simple, albeit classic. This time around, she wore a lovely knee-length sheath dress, black pumps, and flowers in her hair. And it seemed to suit the princess just fine. Per The Scotsman, she was once quoted as saying, "It's impractical to go around in life dressed in a long white dress and a crown."

She competed in the Olympics

In 1976, Princess Anne became the first member of the royal family to compete in the Olympics in Montreal. When asked by BBC Radio to break down exactly what the equestrian three-day event entails, she stated, "It is the skill of horse and rider spread over a dressage test, a cross-country test, and a show jumping test." A huge part of this event was the fact that Princess Anne was riding Queen Elizabeth II's horse, Goodwill. "He was a bit of an enthusiast. Trying to contain his enthusiasm was a bit of struggle," she said of the horse.

Unfortunately, Princess Anne experienced a fall and a concussion during one of the tests. Fellow rider Jane Holderness-Roddham recalled in the documentary "Anne: The Princess Royal at 70" (via Express), "What I didn't know at the time was she had this awful fall, but she got back on and competed. She was that concussed that she couldn't remember — and still to this day I believe can't remember — the rest of the course."

Even though Princess Anne didn't take home the gold, her participation was memorable and of course people still talk about it to this day. After being a competitor, she was president of the International Equestrian Federation for six years, and later became Honorary President of the British Olympic.

Princess Anne changed tradition yet again

In 1977, Princess Anne gave birth to Queen Elizabeth II's first grandchild. Although now he is known as Peter Phillips, The New York Times reported he went without a name for many weeks. The birth was first announced when the queen arrived late to an investiture and said, "I apologize for being late, but I have just had a message from the hospital. My daughter has just given birth to a son."

Four years later, she gave birth to her daughter Zara Tindall (née Phillips). "The baby made a rather sudden and positive arrival and my brother thought Zara was an appropriate name," Princess Anne said about King Charles's influence on her baby's name, per People.

With these two births, without knowing what the future would bring, Princess Anne set a trend. According to Hello!, she was the first royal to give birth to her children in the Lindo Wing of London's Saint Mary's Hospital. Lady Diana and Kate Middleton followed in her steps when giving birth to their children.

She has always been a devoted mother

Princess Anne tried to lead a private life from an early age, and that became all the more true when her children arrived. As hard-working as she is in her royal duties, she is even more dedicated when it comes to her role as mother. And by all accounts, Anne's daughter sure seems to cherish her upbringing. "I definitely remember having a lot of fun and being able to experience a lot of things," Zara Tindall shared in a video for Musto. "I'm very lucky that my parents were able to do that for us or whatever they were involved in, whether it was the horses or the sailing or traveling."

Neither Tindall nor her brother, Peter Phillips, were given titles, per their mother's request. As Princess Anne told Vanity Fair, "I think it was probably easier for them, and I think most people would argue that there are downsides to having titles. So I think that was probably the right thing to do."

Regarding Tindall and Anne's dynamic, a body language expert told Express that they seem to have one of the more positive relationships within the royal family. "There are obviously many loving parental blends among the royals but with Anne and Zara there seems to be a meeting of minds at every level," the expert said.

The scandal surrounding Princess Anne's divorce

After nearly two decades, Princess Anne divorced Mark Phillips in 1992. A few years before the divorce was official, Buckingham Palace announced their separation in a statement. As The New York Times reported, following the announcement of the separation, Queen Elizabeth II was saddened by the choice but understood her daughter's decision to move forward.

The entirety of their marriage was surrounded by marital problems and rumors between different lovers showing on the scene and the couple traveling alone multiple times. Per Town and Country, Phillips had a child with another woman while still married to Princess Anne. The year she divorced Phillips, Princess Anne married Timothy Laurence. As previously noted, Anne and Laurence struck up their romance while Anne was still married to Phillips. 

Not only was Princess Anne's divorce frowned upon by the royal family, but her decision to marry for the second time ruffled feathers. But all these years later, it looks like she and ex-husband Phillips are very cordial with each other and continue to get together for certain events involving their children.

Princess Anne's second wedding was a modest affair

The love affair between Princess Anne and Timothy Laurence became public when their passionate letters were swiped and given to The Sun. Per People, Buckingham Palace said in a statement at the time, "The stolen letters were addressed to the Princess Royal by Commander Timothy Laurence, the Queen's Equerry. We have nothing to say about the contents of personal letters sent to Her Royal Highness by a friend which were stolen and which are the subject of a police investigation." 

After her divorce, Princess Anne's relationship with Laurence became more clear, and the couple decided to get married. To circumvent the Church of England's rule against remarrying, the princess and Timothy Laurence tied the knot in Scotland in a small ceremony. While her first wedding was a massive event, only 30 people attended her second — and it sounds like she welcomed the more relaxed affair. As a body language expert told Express, "Anne had done her Disney Princess wedding to Mark Phillips and this second marriage was kept deliberately quiet, in a small chilly church with only a handful of bystanders waiting outside."

She's had issues with her dogs

The royal family is known for their love of dogs — who didn't adore Queen Elizabeth's affinity for corgis? While Princess Anne inherited a love of dogs, her own pooches have had some serious issues over the years. 

Princess Anne's bull terriers have made headlines after attacking other dogs and humans. As The Guardian reported, after one of Anne's dogs bit two kids in 2002, she not only had to pay a fine but became the first senior royal to have a criminal record. The following year, the same dog, Dotty, was accused of killing one of Queen Elizabeth's corgis; it was later reported that a different dog, Florence, was responsible

In January 2023, The Sun reported one of Princess Anne's dogs attacked another dog during the family's annual Boxing Day shoot. The attacked dog belongs to the event gamekeeper, and fortunately, both dogs survived the brawl. "There was a lot of blood and a lot of screaming and a lot of shouting," a source told The Sun. "Everyone was OK in the end but the atmosphere was extremely tense afterwards for some time."

Princess Anne is a devoted grandmother

It should come as no surprise that Princess Anne is incredibly devoted to her grandchildren. A source close to the family once told the Daily Mail, "Anne is hands-on as a grandmother, and the older they get, the more she will be. Riding lessons, sailing lessons; she'll instruct the girls in these things and more. She admires courage but is not afraid to discipline the girls with a sharp word." This hands-on approach involves playing games with them and encouraging them to be country girls and boys.

This relationship with her grandchildren was explored during the documentary that aired for her 70th birthday. Royal Central pointed out how in the documentary, Zara Tindall shared that she and her brother both drop their kids off at their mom's place on the weekends for good quality time. What's more, Anne would like for her grandchildren to enjoy the outdoorsy experiences she had growing up.

According to body language expert Judi James, there seems to be a lovely dynamic there. As James told Express, "Her behaviour with her grandchildren looks almost as relaxed and fun-loving as her daughter's. Her facial expressions might sometimes suggest she can be a rather stern granny. But it's also clear her playful side is triggered with the young children."

History was made at her mother's funeral

The eyes of the world were on the Royal Family when they attended Queen Elizabeth II's funeral. Princess Anne's outfit caught everyone's attention, but not for the usual reasons behind her unofficial title of fashion icon. This time around, Princess Anne attended wearing her Royal Navy uniform. Although she never served in the navy, she has multiple honorary military titles. Still, that wasn't the reason behind this particular choice. Many caught on immediately by being reminded of her mother wearing her military outfit during Trooping the Colour parades.

"Anne looked empowered and elegant, but I also think she almost carried on that legacy of her mother being a woman in a man's world and rising to the challenges of that. It was such a strong and refreshing alternative to that fairytale princess cliché," Bethan Holt told People.

However, her outfit wasn't the only thing that caught people's attention. According to Today, the princess made history when she became the first woman to participate in a royal coffin vigil. She stood by her brothers King Charles, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward.