Advertisement

What happened to Jim Beaton and was Princess Anne really almost kidnapped? Former protection officer speaks out 50 years on

 Composite of Jim Beaton in 2015 before being presented a Specially Commissioned commemorative coin set and Princess Anne at Cheltenham 2024.
Composite of Jim Beaton in 2015 before being presented a Specially Commissioned commemorative coin set and Princess Anne at Cheltenham 2024.

Wondering what happened to Jim Beaton and if Princess Anne was really almost kidnapped? You’re probably not alone as the former protection officer speaks out on the 50th anniversary of a shocking royal moment.

The Royal Family are often seen accompanied by their security officers, although not all of them are entitled to public-funded protection. For those wondering if Princess Anne has security, the answer is yes, but now only when she’s undertaking official royal work. Her security officers have an important job given her senior role and Jim Beaton was her protection officer for five years in the 1970s. In 1974 he went above and beyond in the line of duty to help foil a plan surrounding the Princess Royal. Jim has now reflected upon these intense events on the 50th anniversary of the incident and we have all the details about whether Princess Anne was really at the centre of a kidnap plot and what happened to her protection officer.

Princess Anne talks to volunteers during her visit to 'Off The Streets' on February 16, 2024
Princess Anne talks to volunteers during her visit to 'Off The Streets' on February 16, 2024

Was Princess Anne almost kidnapped?

On 20th March 1974 Princess Anne was almost kidnapped by Ian Ball on her way back to Buckingham Palace from an event and Jim Beaton took three bullets as he helped to prevent this from happening. The protection officer and Princess Royal were in a car and had got about three quarters of the way up the Mall, according to Jim, before the shocking events unfolded. Speaking to the BBC on the 50th anniversary of this incident, Jim explained that a white car pulled in front of the car he and the Princess were travelling in.

Princess Anne's car (back left) parked near Buckingham Palace in London, after an attempt was made to kidnap her the day before
Princess Anne's car (back left) parked near Buckingham Palace in London, after an attempt was made to kidnap her the day before

“This chap, Ian Ball, the driver of the white car, came back towards the royal car. I got out of my seat, came up out behind the car and it went “bang, bang” and he shot me in the chest,” Jim recalled, before explaining that he’d tried to fire back at Ball.

He said, “I missed the first shot and then the gun jammed. Ball was pointing his gun at Princess Anne and he said, ‘drop your gun or I’ll shoot’ or something to that effect. He fired at the same time as my hand went up and the bullet went into my hand.”

The already dangerous situation then took another turn for the terrifying when they kicked the back door open and found Ball standing there. Jim recounted that he shot him in the abdomen and after being injured by this third bullet he “struggled out of the car, half-dazed” and went around the front of the car where he “laid down on the pavement”.

Ian Ball's white Ford Escort is parked blocking the path of the Princess Royal's car in 1974
Ian Ball's white Ford Escort is parked blocking the path of the Princess Royal's car in 1974

Despite his injuries, Jim Beaton managed to prevent Ball from kidnapping Princess Anne long enough for reinforcements to arrive. Princess Anne’s protection officer wasn’t the only one who was shot, as her chauffeur and a journalist nearby who’d tried to help were also injured, as was a police officer who arrived on the scene and called for back-up.

Ian Ball reportedly explained that he’d intended to kidnap the Princess Royal and ask for £2 million. He is also said to have asked her to get out of the car, with her responding in a typically no-nonsense way with, “Not bloody likely”. Former boxer Ron Russell ended up helping to bring the shocking events to an end when he walked past.

Realising what was happening, Ron punched Ball and helped Princess Anne, before he was arrested by police. When it comes to what happened to Ian Ball, he pleaded guilty and is currently at Broadmoor, a high-security psychiatric hospital.

Jim Beaton attends a Service at St Martin-in-the-Fields for the VC & GC Association on May 10, 2016
Jim Beaton attends a Service at St Martin-in-the-Fields for the VC & GC Association on May 10, 2016

Jim Beaton has recounted very clearly the events of that night and Princess Anne herself previously revealed in the Anne: The Princess Royal at 70 documentary, that she remembers things almost like “individual snapshots”.

“What is interesting is what you remember and how you remember it, because although I thought I remembered everything that happened I would never have been able to swear I could remember in the right order,” she said. “Because they were like photos, individual snapshots.”

She added that her experience as an equestrian taught her to “prepare for the unexpected” and that “that was the discipline which to some extent coloured [her] thought processes”.

What happened to Jim Beaton?

Jim Beaton was visited in hospital by Princess Anne as he recovered from his injuries and on the 50th anniversary of the kidnap attempt he revealed that he’d not been persuaded to “cover up” his wounds when she came to see him.

“It was quite funny because the staff said, ‘Come on you must put something [on] to cover up your chest and all the wounds and things. And I said, ‘Oh stuff it’. We just said, it's, you know, pleased that we’re all sort of alive and kicking, so to speak,” he said.

Princess Anne visiting her bodyguard, Inspector James Beaton, at Westminster Hospital
Princess Anne visiting her bodyguard, Inspector James Beaton, at Westminster Hospital

Jim was awarded the George’s Cross for Outstanding Bravery for all he did to help protect Princess Anne and this is the highest civilian honour for gallantry. He has also reflected that since that frightening incident “royal protection changed drastically”.

“Slightly better guns, better ammunition, more courses, more training, more people, suddenly all appeared literally within days,” he said. “It really is a different world altogether. Very different from when I started.”

Queen Elizabeth The II And Her Police Bodyguard Jim Beaton
Queen Elizabeth The II And Her Police Bodyguard Jim Beaton

Jim Beaton was Princess Anne’s protection officer for five years until 1979 and then in 1982 he became The Queen’s Police Officer. He later retired from the police force in 1992 and according to the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association, he worked as Head of Security with Elf Oil in Aberdeen before retiring in 2000. He still has a piece of bullet lodged in his hand from the day he helped to foil Ball’s attempted kidnap of Princess Anne.