Tragic Details About Princess Anne

Princess Anne is one of the most recognizable women in the world, having spent her entire life under the harsh glare of the royal media spotlight. Once saddled with a reputation for being dismissive and aloof, in her later years, she has come to be seen as a symbol of stability within the British monarchy. These days, in fact, the Princess Royal – a title bestowed upon her by her mother, Queen Elizabeth II, back in 1987 — is better known for her work with various charities and her relentless schedule of public appearances, more than any other member of her family.

Growing up in palaces and being attended to by servants is certainly not without its perks. Yet life hasn't always been the proverbial bed of roses for this redoubtable royal; there's no denying that she has experienced her share of sadness, disappointment, and loss during the course of her seven decades of life. To find out more about the sorrowful aspects of her life, read on to discover some tragic details about Princess Anne.

Princess Anne was separated from her family at boarding school

The second child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Anne, was born in 1950. The little royal was less than 18 months old when her mother ascended to the throne of England. The princess's care was entrusted to nannies, while her education came from tutors behind castle walls.

While that may seem to be a distant relationship between parents and their child, it mirrored the childhood experienced by the queen, who viewed that arrangement as totally normal. "She had been brought up in that style herself, after all, with her parents leaving her at home and entrusting her entire schooling to a governess and home tutors," royal biographer Robert Lacey explained to Town & Country. At age 13, Anne was sent to Benenden School, a posh boarding school in Kent, outside of London.

While the queen has been characterized as a somewhat distant mother, often unavailable for her children, Anne has refuted that. While she conceded that she recognized that time with her mother would be limited, Anne didn't believe that made her a poor parent. "I simply don't believe there is any evidence whatsoever to suggest that she wasn't caring," the Princess Royal stated in a 2002 interview for the British documentary series, "Queen and Country," as reported by BBC News. "I don't believe any of us for a second thought she didn't care for us in exactly the same way as any other mother did."

She never enjoyed growing up as a royal

Princess Anne may have grown up with all the trappings of royalty, but that didn't necessarily mean that she found it all to be particularly enjoyable. While she's generally regarded as the hardest-working member of the royal family, there was a time when she seemingly felt resentful of the duties that she was expected to undertake. As Great British Life reported, she once told an interviewer, "I didn't ask to be born a princess!"

This was particularly true when she was a teenager and was forced to accompany her family on royal walkabouts, in which the royals would hit the streets to mingle with regular folks. At the time, those walkabouts were a new phenomenon, introduced during the 1970s in hopes of making the royal family more popular with the British public.

Interviewed for the BBC documentary, "The Queen: Her Commonwealth Story," Anne revealed that the dreaded walkabout quickly became the least favorite royal duty for both her and her older brother, King Charles III, who has also experienced his share of tragedy. "We hated them, can you imagine as teenagers? Hardly the sort of thing you would volunteer to do," Anne recalled, as reported by Hello! "It gets easier but can you imagine? How many people enjoy walking into a room full of people you've never met before and then try a street."

She was the victim of an armed kidnapping attempt

Easily the most harrowing event in Princess Anne's extraordinary life occurred in 1974, when she and her first husband, Captain Mark Phillips, were being driven back to Buckingham Palace, and a car blocked their path. That car's driver, Ian Ball, was armed with a pistol, intending to kidnap the princess. Immediately, Ball fired, hitting the princess's chauffeur, and also shooting Jim Beaton, her security officer. A journalist who tried to intervene also took a bullet. Ball, still brandishing his weapon, ordered Anne to exit her car. She responded with the steely grit that would become her hallmark, uttering the now-iconic words, "Not bloody likely."

The kidnapping attempt was foiled by sheer coincidence. Ronnie Russell, a boxer, happened to be walking by at that moment, saw the chaos unfolding, and punched Ball in the back of the head. While the hero attended to Princess Anne, Ball approached Russell, but the boxer knocked the would-be kidnapper to the ground with an expertly thrown punch to the jaw. "He was flat on the floor face down. I jumped on his back for good measure. I could have died, yeah, but I knew what I was doing," Russell told The Mirror. "The only person I did not want to get shot was Princess Anne."

Ultimately, Anne emerged unscathed, and the men who were shot all survived. Not only did Russell receive a medal from Queen Elizabeth herself, the monarch also paid off his mortgage.

Her contentious relationship with the press led to the nickname, 'Her Royal Rudeness'

Princess Anne didn't have the greatest reputation for civility in her younger years, something that was particularly true in her dealings with the British press. As royal expert Sally Bedell Smith wrote in her book, "Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch," Anne had a tendency to be brusque and dismissive with journalists. "When she began taking on more royal duties in the 1970s she had appeared supercilious and short-tempered, particularly with journalists, whom she couldn't abide," Smith wrote, noting how Anne had told members of the press to "Naff off!" while competing in an equestrian event.

The press responded by creating a nasty nickname, referring to Anne in newspapers as "Her Royal Rudeness." As the voiceover narrative declared in the 2002 documentary "The Real Princess Anne" (via Express), "The Princess Royal is often in trouble. Unlike the kidnap attempt, it's usually trouble of her own making. She has been accused of being rude, sulky and, difficult."

That attitude wasn't just reserved for the British press. When Anne paid a visit to Washington, D.C., she extended the same treatment to American journalists. "She was very bad-tempered, very sulky, she really didn't want to be there, that was the impression one had," journalist Joy Billington recalled for the documentary. According to Billington, when one member of the press asked for her thoughts about the Washington Monument, instead of answering she stated that she didn't do interviews.

Her Olympic dreams were nearly ruined by a freak accident

One of the best-known facts about Princess Anne is that she inherited a lifelong love of horses from her mother. Over the years, Anne has proven herself to be a skilled equestrian — so much so, in fact, that she competed on the British equestrian team at the 1976 Olympic games in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Prior to making the games, however, she suffered an accident that placed her Olympic dreams in doubt. While training, Anne's horse accidentally fell and wound up rolling over the princess. That left her with bruises, a concussion, and a hairline fracture on a vertebra. Her concussion, however, had left her with no memory of the accident. "It was going very well and then I don't remember anything else," she said at the time, as reported by Tatler. "Nothing at all."

She wound up spending four days in a hospital, with doctors predicting she would be able to resume riding in a few weeks. That prediction came to pass, and she did make the Olympic team. Ultimately, she competed in Montreal, but didn't earn a place on the podium.

Princess Anne was compared negatively to Princess Diana

While Princess Anne eventually rehabilitated her image — transforming over the years from the snarkiest royal to the hardest-working one — the introduction of royal rebel Princess Diana into the family certainly didn't assist that transition. During the years prior to Diana's divorce from King Charles III, the media's often-fawning coverage of the "people's princess" contrasted sharply with that of "Her Royal Rudeness." Nowhere was that contrast more apparent than in the respective behavior that the sisters-in-law displayed toward children, with Diana praised for her empathetic ability to connect with youngsters, while Anne appeared terse and formal.

While Diana and Anne were hardly besties, they were at least cordial with each other. "We get on incredibly well, but in our own way," Diana told Andrew Morton for his book "Diana: Her True Story — in Her Own Words," as excerpted in Vanity Fair. "I wouldn't ring her up if I had a problem, nor would I go and have lunch with her, but when I see her it's very nice to see her," Diana added, insisting she had immense respect for Anne. "Her mind stimulates me, she fascinates me, she's very independent and she's gone her own way."

Her first marriage ended in a scandalous divorce

Princess Anne married Captain Mark Phillips in 1973, tying the knot within the gothic splendor of Westminster Abbey. By the time they separated in 1989, the marriage had become engulfed in scandal, with both spouses having allegedly been unfaithful.

Both British and international newspapers had been bursting with gossip about the two, who were reportedly not particularly discreet with their respective dalliances. As the Chicago Tribune noted at the time of the split, "Phillips had semi-public affairs with a British television anchorwoman, a Canadian public relations executive, and even with an Indian call girl, Pamella Bordes." Publications also mentioned Anne's reported affairs with actor Anthony Andrews, her bodyguard, and the queen's equerry, Commander Timothy Laurence (the latter would go on to become her second and current husband).

It wasn't until years after their divorce that an even-more scandalous secret emerged: Phillips had fathered a child during a one-night dalliance with Heather Tonkin, a New Zealand art teacher, while he and Anne were still married. Eventually, Phillips was forced to take a DNA test, which proved he was indeed the child's father.

Princess Anne was convicted after her dog attacked some children

Princess Anne wrapped up 2023 by maintaining her status as the hardest-working member of Britain's royal family, conducting 457 engagements within that year. Interestingly, she holds another royal record, albeit a far less distinguished one: the only member of her family with a criminal record.

Back in 2002, Anne was walking her three bull terriers when disaster struck. As she was putting them in her vehicle, two boys rode by on bicycles. One of the dogs, named Dotty, suddenly ran away, speeding after the lads and knocking them both off their bikes. Anne was charged with losing control of her dog and entered a guilty plea. The judge in the case decided not to put Dotty down, but instead ordered that the royal pooch undergo training and be better supervised in the future. Anne was ordered to pay a $790 fine, in addition to $395 to the boys, plus another $234 in court costs.

According to historians, the last royal that was convicted of a crime was King Charles I, who was found guilty of treason way back in the 17th century. Anne got off easy compared to Charles I, who wasn't fined, but beheaded.

She has experienced some issues with her health

While Princess Anne has gained a reputation for her vigor, she hasn't always had an easy go of it when it's come to her health. Not surprisingly, several of these health issues have been injuries suffered while riding horses. The first of these took place when she was just 14, while she was attending boarding school in Kent. She was treated at a nearby hospital when she cracked a bone in her pinky finger after accidentally catching it in her horse's rein.

Another horse-related injury occurred in 2008, when Anne was seen using a walking stick to help her get around. "I understand she was kicked by a horse while at home at Gatcombe Park at the weekend," A Buckingham Palace source told the Daily Mail. The source assured that her injury was minor and she wouldn't require the walking stick for much longer.

In 2016, Anne was hospitalized with a chest infection while in Scotland. "She was in Russia last week and had a stinking cold which has now developed into a chest infection," a royal spokesperson told the Mail, adding that she was cancelling several engagements that had been scheduled. "She did go to hospital for tests but is back at home at Balmoral with the Queen now," the spokesperson noted. Her recovery took longer than anticipated, and she was also forced to cancel a trip to Africa, but she ultimately prevailed.

Princess Anne appeared 'frail' and 'sad' in video message, claimed a body language expert

In 2021, the X, formerly known as Twitter, account of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering posted a video featuring Princess Anne, in her capacity as a patron of the organization.

While the content of the video isn't particularly striking — the princess shared her respect and appreciation for engineers during the difficult months of the pandemic — Anne's appearance captured the attention of Judi James, an author and expert in body language. As James hypothesized to Express, she found Anne's appearance to be somewhat alarming. "If it weren't for her stoic and optimistic words and the air of determination in her body language here, Princess Anne might have caused worry by looking uncharacteristically frail," James said.

Ultimately, James assumed that Anne was merely run down, and had perhaps been overworking herself. "Her eyes appear red, with a sad expression and her voice is hoarse," James added, "all of which could be symptoms of her famously busy workload." All of that on top of the pandemic was surely tiresome for the princess.

She lost both her parents within a short span of time

Losing one's parents is never, ever easy, and that painful experience was one that Princess Anne and her siblings experienced over the course of a period spanning less than a year-and-a-half. In April 2021, her father, Prince Philip, died at age 99. Then, in September 2022, her mother, Queen Elizbeth II, passed away at 96. In both cases, the deaths were ascribed to old age.

While Anne was understandably grief-stricken by the deaths of both her parents, she proved to be a source of steady stability for her older brother upon their mother's death as he made the transition from heir to the throne to Britain's new king. "One of the king's first decisions was to ask Princess Anne to take charge of the house party now rapidly expanding at Balmoral Castle," author Robert Hardman wrote in his 2024 book, "Charles III: New King. New Court. The Inside Story," via an excerpt published by the Daily Mail. "The Princess Royal would prove indispensable over the next few days. She was there when Prince Harry eventually arrived."

According to Hardman's account, King Charles III and eldest son William, Prince of Wales, had already left the residence when the Duke of Sussex arrived. Anne greeted her red-headed nephew with a hug, and escorted him to the queen's bedroom so Harry could have a few moments alone with his late grandmother.

Princess Anne was hospitalized at 73 after suffering a concussion

In June 2024, Princess Anne made headlines when Buckingham Palace announced that she had been hospitalized. "The Princess Royal has sustained minor injuries and concussion following an incident on the Gatcombe Park estate yesterday evening," read the statement, adding that she was expected to make a full recovery. While the cause of her injuries wasn't revealed, it was widely reported that they were inflicted by one of her horses.

While horse-related injuries had become something of a habit for the Princess Royal, The Telegraph reported that her concussion was severe enough that she had experienced memory loss due to the accident; Physicians, however, believed that would be temporary. She ultimately spent five nights in the hospital before being discharged. Meanwhile, all of her scheduled engagements were postponed, including a trip to Canada. While she was expected to make a full recovery, brain injury therapist Natalie McKenzie noted at the time that the princess wasn't out of the woods yet. "Concussions are always potentially dangerous in terms of long-term symptoms if they become more severe," McKenzie explained to The Independent.

Meanwhile, Michael Cole — the BBC's former royal correspondent — told the outlet that he didn't expect to see the famously hard-working princess resuming her duties anytime soon. "What is known is that the princess will not be returning to royal duties, which she is a very keen pursuer of such, for the foreseeable future," Cole said.