The British royal family has fascinated the public since the beginnings of the monarchy itself. The idea of kings, queens, princes, and princesses is captivating; their lives and experiences seem significantly removed from the trials and travails of ordinary life - which sometimes isn't the greatest thing. For example, Queen Elizabeth II, England's longest-reigning queen, has been the subject of numerous conspiracy theories as a result of this intense public scrutiny.
Public fascination with the royal family can lead to outcomes more serious than conspiratorial thinking, such as kidnapping attempts, which is what happened to Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth II's daughter, on March 20, 1974. Ian Ball, a north London laborer who was unemployed at the time, created a plot to kidnap Princess Anne and hold her for a huge ransom, and the story of the botched attempt is as interesting and outlandish as the royal family itself.
On March 20, 1974, Princess Anne and her husband of only four months, Captain Mark Phillips, were on their way home from a charity function when their night took a turn. Unemployed north Londoner Ian Ball, then only 26, ambushed the royal limousine and attempted to kidnap the 23-year-old princess. He blocked the car with his own vehicle and shot several people to make his way to the princess, whom he tried and failed to abduct.
Despite the unsuccessful attempt, Ball was planning an elaborate kidnapping - authorities found handcuffs, tranquilizers, and a ransom note in the trunk of his car.
Part of Ball's plan was to ransom the princess for a reported 3 million pounds, money he had requested to come from the hand of the queen herself. Ball's typed ransom note, which was found in his car, critiqued the royal family and demanded the sum be delivered in five-pound notes. The money had to be contained in 20 individual suitcases and put on a plane to Switzerland.
Ball's note also said that Queen Elizabeth II needed to accompany the suitcases.
One would think tracking down a member of the royal family wouldn't be as easy as simply blocking their limo with your own car, yet Ball managed to learn exactly where to find the princess. Not only had he seen her driving before, labeling her in his mind as an "easy target," but Ball also merely telephoned the Buckingham Palace press office to find out Princess Anne's whereabouts.
The palace also had heavily publicized the fact that Princess Anne was attending the charity event, and her limo had the royal insignia on its side, making it easy for Ball to track her down.
Ball thought of Princess Anne as an "easy target" for numerous reasons. He might have previously seen the princess and her husband in a car and noticed they were assigned only one bodyguard when traveling (at the time, not even Queen Elizabeth II had more than a single bodyguard on unofficial outings).
Princess Anne was also the media darling of the time, with her whereabouts greatly publicized and her life plastered in newspapers and on television after her marriage to a commoner, Captain Mark Phillips.