Queen Elizabeth's only daughter, who turns 70 this summer, jokingly described herself as "the boring old fuddy-duddy at the back"

By Stephanie Petit
April 15, 2020 11:23 AM
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Princess Anne has a message for the next generation of royals: Don’t reinvent the wheel.

Queen Elizabeth‘s only daughter — who turns 70 this August — sat down for a rare interview with Vanity Fair for their May cover, giving her take on some of the younger royals’ desire to experiment with their approach to charitable causes.

Without naming anyone, Princess Anne said, “I don’t think this younger generation probably understands what I was doing in the past and it’s often true, isn’t it? You don’t necessarily look at the previous generation and say, ‘Oh, you did that?’ Or, ‘You went there?’ Nowadays, they’re much more looking for, ‘Oh let’s do it a new way.’ And I’m already at the stage, ‘Please do not reinvent that particular wheel. We’ve been there, done that. Some of these things don’t work. You may need to go back to basics.’ ”

The Princess Royal also poked fun at herself, saying she was the “boring old fuddy-duddy at the back saying, ‘Don’t forget the basics.”

Princess Anne

Princess Anne has never been afraid to do things differently. She made a name for herself on the equestrian scene, competing in the 1976 Olympics, and is widely known as the “hardest-working royal” thanks to her packed schedules. (“I make their lives more difficult in terms of the logistics, I’m afraid,” she jokes of her staff’s jobs.)

She even opted to give her two children — Peter and Zara Phillips — a fairly normal childhood, breaking tradition by deciding against giving them royal titles when they were born.

“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.” (The interview took place before Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announced they would not use their “His/Her Royal Highness” titles after stepping back from their roles as senior members of the family.)

Peter Phillips, Zara Phillips and Princess Anne in 1985
Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty Images

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Princess Anne is also a hands-on grandmother to her four granddaughters — son Peter and Autumn’s two girls — Savannah, 9, and Isla, 8—and Zara and Mike Tindall’s daughters Mia, 6, and Lena, 1. In addition to passing on her love of horses to the children, she loves to spend time with them outdoors.

“I find it very difficult to understand why anybody gets sucked into screens and devices. Life’s too short, frankly. There’s more entertaining things to be done,” she said. “I suppose that puts me in the real dinosaur range.”