The Royal Family is constantly in the spotlight. But would you believe one of the most important royals manages to always avoid that spotlight?
The royal in question is Princess Anne. As the second child and only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, Anne has been close to the center of power in the U.K. since she was born. Nonetheless, few people outside the U.K. really know much about Anne.
That’s where we come in. What happens when we finally shine a spotlight on Princess Anne? You may be surprised by what you discover as you keep reading!
Princess Anne is an accomplished equestrian
Princess Anne is 72 years old now, and horses have been part of Anne’s life from the very beginning. After all, her father, Prince Philip, was an accomplished polo player, and Elizabeth loved to breed horses. But even in such a horse-loving family, Anne quickly stood out with her equestrian skills.
As Biography reports, Anne was competing in equestrian events by age 11 and became the European Eventing Champion at 21. In 1976, she became the first royal to compete in the Olympics, and she did so despite having a fractured vertebra. During this competition, she fell off her horse and suffered a concussion that left her unable to remember the back half of the event that she somehow found the strength to complete.
The princess eventually switched from eventing to racing, and she even became the president of the Fédération Équestre Internationale between the years 1986 to 1994. And while she may not be a competitive equestrian these days, Anne’s love of horses never went away.
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Anne was once almost kidnapped
Typically, royals are kept far from violence and violent acts. But as the BBC reports, 26-year-old burglar Ian Ball ran Anne’s limo off the road and began firing a gun. He ended up wounding a journalist, Anne’s driver, and two policemen before confronting the princess directly.
According to the Age, Ball leveled his gun at Anne and told her exactly what he wanted. “I want you to come with me for a day or two because I want £2 million. Will you come?” Anne quickly responded, “Not bloody likely — and I haven’t got £2 million.”
Remarkably, Anne was able to escape on her own via the other side of her limo, and Ball got caught when trying to pursue her. To this day, Anne standing up to her attacker is one of the more inspiring stories of royal resilience.
Anne has the honorary title Princess Royal
Most British royal titles are hereditary, but there are some exceptions. For example, Princess Anne’s title is an honorary one!
Her actual title is “Princess Royal,” and this title was created by Charles I back in 1642. He created the title for his daughter Mary, but the habit of awarding the title to a monarch’s eldest daughter didn’t really become regular until about a century later with George II offering the title to his own daughter.
These honorary titles must be awarded (they are not automatic like hereditary titles) by the reigning monarch and the awarded keep the title for life. Princess Anne will never lose her title, and Princess Charlotte will eventually get this title (presumably) when William becomes king.
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Anne once dated Camilla’s first husband Andrew Parker Bowles
The Crown is a television show that dramatizes various events throughout the lives of the Royal Family. Pretty much all of the events in this show are dramatically heightened but still based in reality. And that includes the rather insane plot where Princess Anne once dated the first husband of Camilla Parker Bowles, who now serves as the Queen Consort of England.
Fortunately, the whole thing isn’t as weirdly incestuous as it sounds. As Town & Country reports, Anne once had a quick fling with Andrew Parker Bowles in 1970, three years before he married Camilla. The reason it was quick was due to Bowles’ Catholic faith. As a royal in the line of succession, Anne would have had to surrender any claim to the throne if she married a Catholic (a law that finally changed in 2013).
Some rumor-mongers over the years have tried to claim that Anne and Andrew had an affair when their marriages were failing, but there is no real proof of that. The two have remained close friends, though, with Andrew serving as godfather to Anne’s daughter Zara.
Princess Anne has had a few run-ins with the law
You don’t always think about royals having to drive themselves around. However, Princess Anne isn’t afraid of stepping behind the wheel. Once she’s driving, though, everyone else in the road should be afraid!
That’s because the princess has something of a lead foot. The BBC reports that she got a speeding fine for traveling 93 miles per hour on her way to an event in Hartpury. When a cop turned on his lights and began trailing her, Anne thought he was an official escort, and she was quite surprised to get a ticket.
And according to the Latin Times, she got two speeding fines back in 1990 that required her to go a month without driving. She also got tickets a few more times in the 1970s and proved that even royalty isn’t above giving that classic line to the police: “I was running late.”
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Anne made history by visiting the Soviet Union
Princess Anne typically isn’t on the front lines of royal diplomacy. However, that all changed in 1990 when she received an invitation to visit the Soviet Union. The invitation came from Mikhail Gorbachev himself, and he was apparently very impressed by Anne when she previously visited the Soviet Union in 1973 for the European Equestrian Championships.
The trip in 1990 was a big deal because she was the first British royal to receive an official invitation to visit the Soviet Union since the Russian Revolution of 1917. There were hopes that Anne could smooth things over enough for the Queen herself to visit, but the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union made that impossible.
Anne signed Queen Elizabeth’s death certificate
Princess Anne has faced many challenges in her life. But perhaps her biggest challenge was witnessing the recent death of Queen Elizabeth II.
As Town & Country reports, Anne signed the Queen’s death certificate confirming that Elizabeth died of old age. She was the official witness and also said a few words afterward about watching her beloved mother pass away. “I was fortunate to share the last 24 hours of my dearest Mother’s life,” she said.
“It has been an honour and a privilege to accompany her on her final journeys. Witnessing the love and respect shown by so many on these journeys has been both humbling and uplifting.”
Of course, “humbling and uplifting” is how we would describe the life and career of Princess Anne. So it seems the royal apple didn’t fall far from the tree!
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Princess Anne is 16th in line to the throne
As for where Anne stands in the line of succession, despite being Queen Elizabeth’s second child, she is currently 16th in line for the throne. This is because the law that let male heirs skip ahead of their sisters in line wasn’t changed until The Succession to the Crown Act in 2013.
Since then, royal daughters like Princess Charlotte get to keep their place in line. But in Anne’s case, her younger brothers Prince Andrew and Prince Edward and their children are ahead of her.
But lest you feel too bad for Anne, she seems to be very down-to-earth as far as the royal life is concerned. In fact, she chose not to have her children receive His/Her Royal Highness titles in order to allow them a more normal life.
“I think it was probably easier for them, and I think most people would argue that there are downsides to having titles,” she told Vanity Fair in 2020. “So I think that was probably the right thing to do.”
Her decision seems to have worked out well. Her son Peter Phillips is a businessman and her daughter Zara Tindall is an Olympic equestrian.
Her children were born from her first marriage to Mark Phillips, an army captain and gold medal-winning Olympic equestrian. They divorced in 1992, and Anne has been married to Sir Timothy Lawrence, a Royal Navy commander, ever since. She has five grandchildren with her first husband.