A Near-Kidnapping and Olympic Glory: All About the Queen's No-Frills Daughter, Princess Anne
The Queen's only daughter is a fascinating figure — who is a lot more low maintenance than you'd expect
Today Princess Anne — the only daughter and second of four children born to Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip — turns 68. It has been an eventful seven decades for the Princess Royal (her official title — read on for why), from an Olympic equestrian career to a harrowing kidnapping attempt. Here’s what you need to know about the frugal, hard-working, tough-as-nails royal.
1. She’s low maintenance.
She may be a princess, but Anne’s life has never been about tiaras and glamour. In fact, Prince Philip once said of his daughter, “If it doesn’t fart or eat hay, she isn’t interested.” Dad may have a point: Anne is most comfortable outdoors, as an experienced equestrian, and hosts the Festival of British Eventing on the grounds of her home, Gatcombe Park, ever year.
She’s relaxed when it comes to wardrobe, too: In 2015, Anne wore a 35-year-old blouse and coat outfit to Royal Ascot that she was previously seen wearing on the balcony of Buckingham Palace all the way back in 1980!
2. The Queen gave her a special title.
Her mother gave Anne the title of Princess Royal in 1987. It has only given to the eldest daughter of a monarch, and it must be awarded. (In other words, it’s not a guarantee.) Only one living woman can be called the Princess Royal, which is why Queen Elizabeth never had the title herself: Her aunt, Princess Mary, possessed the title until her death in 1965.
Her children, Zara Tindall and Peter Phillips, however, don’t have titles. This was a deliberate choice made by Anne and her first husband, Mark Phillips. Though the Queen offered Mark an earldom, per royal tradition, when he and Anne married in 1973, he turned it down. That meant that Zara and Peter didn’t get titles, either, something that they’ve both expressed gratitude for as adults.
Who is next in line to be Princess Royal? Well, that’s up to the monarch. But as Prince Charles has no daughters, the next potential Princess Royal is 2-year-old Princess Charlotte. That, of course, is a long way off, as Prince William would need to be king, and Princess Anne would need to no longer be alive for Charlotte to be named Princess Royal.
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3. She was nearly kidnapped at age 23.
Less than a year after her wedding to Mark Phillips, Anne was the subject of a kidnapping attempt from her car in the center of London on her way to Buckingham Palace. Ian Ball, a man from north London, forced Anne’s car to pull over. Her bodyguard left the car to meet Ball, not thinking he had any ill intentions. But Ball was holding two handguns, and shot him. At one point, Ball was able to grab a hold of Anne’s arm, while her husband held her waist in an attempt to keep her in the car. In a rather fierce move, Anne responded, “Not bloody likely!” to one of Ball’s demands that she get out of the car.
Eventually, police arrived on the scene, and an observer named Ronald Russell — a former boxer —was able to hit Ball in the back of the head, allowing Anne to leave the car. While Ball was distracted by her exit, Russell hit him in the face, allowing more police officers the chance to approach the scene. Ball ran off, but a police officer caught him on the run through St. James’s Park and made an arrest.
Later, a ransom note — demanding £2 million in the form of £5 notes — as well as handcuffs and valium were found in the back of Ball’s car. He was eventually sentenced to life in a mental health hospital.
4. She’s an Olympic athlete.
The longtime equestrian competed professionally in her early twenties. She won a title at the European Eventing Championship in 1971, and competed on the team for five more years following. She was even voted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. In 1976, she competed at the Olympics in Montreal, riding Goodwill, one of the Queen’s horses.
Her daughter Zara followed in her footsteps, competing in the 2012 London Olympics, where she won a silver medal for Team Eventing.
Like William and Charles, Anne is a regimental colonel in the British Army and therefore rides on horseback in the annual Trooping the Colour parade to honor the Queen’s birthday.
5. She’s one of the hardest-working members of the royal family.
Every year, Anne is neck-and-neck with her older brother Prince Charles for the accolade of busiest royal. In 2016, she was the second most active royal, with 509 official engagements, but in 2015, she was the most active, with 544 events on her calendar. To put that number in perspective, Prince William, Princess Kate, and Prince Harry carried out 292 events combined in 2015.