Facts About Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth II’s Overlooked Daughter

Princess Anne, the only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, may not receive as much scrutiny from the general public as her older brother Prince Charles or nephews Prince William and Prince Harry, but she's still had an eventful life. From making the British Olympic team as an equestrian, to nearly being kidnapped just weeks after her wedding, to being nominated for a Nobel Prize, the Princess Royal has packed a lot of living into her years. 

Blunt and often sharp-tongued, and with little use for pretense, she is considered one of the most popular members of the British royal family in the eyes of the general public and has earned the informal title of being the hardest-working royal. And she managed to carry out her royal duties while providing her children with a fairly normal childhood (well, as normal as one can have as a member of the British royal family), keeping them more or less out of the spotlight.

Here is more about the Princess Royal, who, as of this writing, is 14th in line to inherit the British throne.

  • Princess Anne Foiled An Attempt To Kidnap Her

    On March 21, 1974, Princess Anne and her new husband Captain Mark Phillips were returning home from a charity event when their car was blocked by another as it attempted to drive down the Mall towards Buckingham Palace.

    A man, later identified as Ian Ball, jumped out of his car and pulled out a handgun, shooting the princess's chauffeur/security officer Jim Beaton, as well as a reporter who tried to intervene. The wounded Beaton attempted to shoot Ball, but his firearm jammed.

    Ball's plan reportedly was to kidnap the princess and hold her for the ransom of 2 million British pounds. However, when the would-be kidnapper told Princess Anne to get out of the car, she bravely replied, "Not bloody likely."

    In a 1980 interview with British talk show host Michael Parkinson, the princess said that the kidnap attempt lasted at least 10 minutes, during which she and her would-be kidnapper had a calm conversation about where she was supposed to go. 

    "I was scrupulously polite because I thought it was silly to be too rude at that stage," she told Parkinson. The only time she felt like losing her temper was when Ball ripped her dress. "The back of my dress split and that was his most dangerous moment," she quipped. "I lost my rag at that stage."

    Ball ended up shooting four people (none fatally) before a passerby named Ronnie Russell punched him twice in the head, putting an end to the incident. Ball ended up pleading guilty to attempted murder and kidnapping, but was sentenced under the Mental Health Act. As of 2019, he was still detained at Broadmoor Mental Hospital.

  • An Excellent Equestrian, She Was The First Member Of The British Royal Family To Compete In The Olympic Games
    Photo: The Crown / Netflix

    An Excellent Equestrian, She Was The First Member Of The British Royal Family To Compete In The Olympic Games

    Princess Anne has had a lifelong love for horses, and she turned that love into a successful career competing in "eventing," which combines dressage, cross country, and show jumping. The princess won the individual title at the European Eventing Championships when she was just 21 years old. That same year, she was named the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year.

    She became the first member of the British royal family to compete in the Olympics when she competed in the 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal, riding Goodwill, who was Queen Elizabeth II's horse.

    Princess Anne's first husband Mark Phillips was also an Olympian, winning a gold medal as a member of the mixed three-day equestrian eventing team at the 1972 Summer Olympics and a silver medal in the same event at the 1988 Summer Olympics.

    The couple must have passed the love of the sport down to their daughter, as Zara Phillips won individual and team world titles in 2006, and later won a silver medal in the team eventing event at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

  • She Was Nominated For A Nobel Peace Prize

    Princess Anne is well-known for her charity work, having been involved with hundreds of organizations over the years. Reportedly, the first major charity she became involved with was Save the Children. She was named president of that organization in 1970, when she was only 20 years old.

    In 1990, Kenneth Kaunda, the President of Zambia, nominated the Princess Royal for a Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the charity.

    "She loves people,” Kaunda said at the time. “She has extended that love to working for helpless children in many parts of the world. That is love in action."

  • The Media Nicknamed Princess Anne 'Her Royal Rudeness'

    The only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Princess Anne is one of the more popular royals with the general public. But she has had a rocky relationship with the media that covers the activities of the British royal family - so much so that the media tagged her "Her Royal Rudeness," in part due to her dislike of interviews, photo ops, and her refusal to shake hands with the public.

    The Princess Royal explained her policy of not shaking hands in the 2018 documentary, Queen of the World:

    The theory was that you couldn’t shake hands with everybody, so don’t start. So I kind of stick with that, but I noticed others don’t. It's not for me to say that it's wrong, but I think the initial concept was that it was patently absurd to start shaking hands. And it seems to me that it's become a shaking hands exercise rather than a walkabout, if you see what I mean, so that it has changed.

  • Her 'Shrug' In Reaction To Meeting Donald Trump Went Viral On Twitter In 2019

    Did Princess Anne deliberately snub the president of the United States and his wife at an event in December 2019? That's what people on Twitter wanted to know when a video of the princess possibly shrugging off Queen Elizabeth II's request to come greet the couple quickly went viral.

    In the video, US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are seen at a NATO reception in London. They are shown shaking hands with Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, and his wife the Duchess of Cornwall. Princess Anne is not standing with her family members, but rather off to the side. At one point, Queen Elizabeth II gestures to her daughter, who shrugs and smiles, but makes no move to greet the Trumps.

    When the video hit Twitter, speculation quickly grew about whether the Princess Royal had deliberately snubbed the Trumps or whether she had simply been silently asking her mother what she was expected to do. Some chastised her for what they saw as disrespectful behavior, while others cheered her for seemingly not wanting to meet the Trumps.

    Still others defended her and claimed that she was simply telling Queen Elizabeth II that she was done with her duty - that the US president was the last world leader the queen had to greet.

  • Her First Husband Fathered Another Woman's Child While Married To Princess Anne
    Photo: Hans Peters/Anefo / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 NL

    Her First Husband Fathered Another Woman's Child While Married To Princess Anne

    Princess Anne met Captain Mark Phillips in the late 1960s. The couple had a shared love of horses, as both were very accomplished equestrians. When they married on November 14, 1973, it was the first time in 50 years that a member of the British royal family had married a commoner. The wedding was televised, drawing an estimated viewing audience of 500 million.

    The couple had two children - a son, Peter (b. 1977), and a daughter, Zara (b. 1981). But the couple's marriage was rocky, and they reportedly spent little time together in the last few years that it lasted. When their official separation was announced in 1989, it was reported that both Princess Anne and her husband had engaged in numerous affairs during the marriage.

    In fact, Princess Anne is said to have started divorce proceedings after learning that Phillips had had a child with another woman in 1985. At first, Phillips denied being the father of the child (a girl named Felicity), but the mother filed a paternity suit and a DNA test confirmed that he was the child's father.

    Princess Anne and Phillips were officially divorced in 1992.