Nine quotes that show Princess Anne has never been a traditional royal as she turns 70

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·6-min read
TAUNTON, ENGLAND - APRIL 25:  Princess Anne, Princess Royal officially opens the UK Hydrographic Office headquarters on April 25, 2019 in Taunton, England. As the UKHO enters its next chapter and continues to be an important, data-led geospatial organisation for the UK, the new headquarters will provide a creative working environment for its 850 staff. The state-of-the-art and environmentally friendly building replaces the existing buildings on the site in Admiralty Way, Taunton. (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)
Princess Anne, pictured in 2019, is celebrating her 70th birthday this weekend. (Getty Images)

Princess Anne turns 70 on Saturday as she marks another decade firmly placed as one of the hardest working royals.

A trailblazer of trailblazers, there aren’t many places royals go where she hasn’t been before.

She even appears to have predicted some of the problems of the 2020 era, notably cautious about social media and the “celebrity culture” around the family.

Look back at some of the moments that showed she is a royal who isn’t anyone’s princess.

On celebrity culture and problems of more access to the royals

In an interview with the Princess Royal ahead of her 60th birthday in 2010, The Daily Telegraph reported: “Though guarded, she plainly hates the cult of celebrity and any invasion of personal privacy.”

Anne said: “The attitude to people’s lives is quite extraordinary,” admitting she has reservations about whether the royal family’s greater accessibility, though inevitable, was a “good way to go”.

“[Celebrity culture] is probably not helpful to anybody’s lives and can cause quite a lot of problems along the line.”

Read more: Seven stunning throwback photos of Princess Anne as she turns 70

File photo dated 21/04/68 of Queen Elizabeth II, the Prince of Wales, the Earl of Wessex, the Duke of York and the Princess Royal listening to the Duke of Edinburgh on a bridge in the grounds of Frogmore, Windsor. Anne celebrates her 70th birthday on Saturday.
Anne with the Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Earl of Wessex, the Duke of York and the Duke of Edinburgh on a bridge in the grounds of Frogmore, Windsor in 1968. (PA)

On doing things the old way

Speaking to Vanity Fair, Anne made comments which could have been interpreted as something of a swipe against the younger royals, released as Harry and Meghan were starting their new life.

Anne called herself “the boring old fuddy-duddy at the back saying: ‘Don’t forget the basics’.”

She added: “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.’”

She did not directly reference anyone in the interview.

On social media pressures

Speaking to ITV for a documentary to mark her birthday, she spoke about younger royals and social media, saying: “The pressure that is applied to the younger members of the family is always worse, because that’s what the media is interested in and that’s, you know, hard sometimes to deal with.

“But there was no social media in my day. So it probably has made it more difficult.”

Anne added: “I know what Twitter is but I wouldn’t go anywhere near it if you paid me frankly. But that’s a slightly different issue.”

On not giving her children titles

While it was seen as a coup for Harry and Meghan to refuse a title for their son Archie, she had already done the same for her children in the 1970s.

Speaking in 2020 to Women’s Weekly about the decision, she said: “I think even then it was easy to see that it was a very mixed blessing to have a title.”

She added: “To be honest, having children of parents who both achieved at a fairly high level in sport and they've both achieved their own levels in their own sports, is fantastic. But they've also created their own careers away from that, using that experience – they've done incredibly well.”

Read more: Princess Anne's birthday plans 'scaled back' as royal plans sailing trip

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - MARCH 17: HRH Princess Anne, The Princess Royal poses with guards during a visit to see the 1st Battalion Irish Guards doing a St Patrick's Day Parade at their new home, Victoria Barracks, on March 17, 2009 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage)
Anne, pictured here in 2009, has been one of the more outspoken members of the family. (WireImage)

On experiencing sexism

Describing an early life experience on a royal tour in Australia, she discussed what could look like sexism at an evening event.

“Of course, the Queen is the Queen and it's a different relationship, but I still got the feeling that there were women at that end of the room and men at this end of the room. I didn't go for that, so I just annoyed the men at the other end.

“To be honest, I think they were gratified in Queensland that I was the least bit interested in the livestock or the land. They were quite happy to talk.”

On getting through royal engagements quickly

Princess Anne gave an interview to Terry Wogan back in 1985, and he asked her how she managed to ask people different questions at events like film screenings.

She responded: “It’s rather like market research, you can ask literally everybody the same questions, like you have three questions for that afternoon and you ask everybody the same questions.

“And with any luck it shortens the time involved because, if the person who's standing next to the one you're talking to is paying any attention, they’ll have the answers ready for you.”

On a kidnapping attempt

In 1974, Anne and her then-husband, Captain Mark Phillips, were driving up the Mall in London when another car overtook them.

A man, Ian Ball, got out of the car with a gun and fired at the royals’ car before they were defended by an armed police officer.

Recalling the event about a decade later, the unflappable Anne said the would-be kidnapper tried to tell her to go with him, and she was “unscrupulously polite”.

She said: “I thought it was silly to be too rude at that stage.

“We had a fairly low key discussion about the fact that I wasn’t going to go anywhere and wouldn’t it be better if he just went away and we all forget about it.”

She also told of how one man had come along from one side of the Mall, peered through the window and said “Hmm, so it is” before turning around and leaving.

She said her dress was split apart at the back at one stage in the proceedings, adding: “That was his most dangerous moment. I lost my rag at that stage.”

Responding to one of Ball’s attempts to persuade her to go with him, she said “not bloody likely”.

PRINCESS ANNE AND CAPTAIN MARK PHILLIPS LEAVING THE WEST DOOR OF WESTMINSTER ABBEY IN LONDON AFTER THEIR WEDDING CEREMONY
Anne, here at her marriage to Captain Mark Phillips in 1973, has survived an attempted kidnapping. (Getty Images)

On not being a typical princess

She once said: “As a young princess I was a huge disappointment to everyone concerned.

“It’s impractical to go around in life dressed in a long white dress and a crown.”

On the press

She is alleged to have once told photographers who spotted her taking a ducking from her mount at the Badminton Horse Trials to “naff off”.

And despite her public role, she has not been a fan of stories about her.

In an interview in 1985, she called it “really irritating” when the press “misinterpreted” what she says.

Asked about a story suggesting she and Diana were not getting on, she added: “It was one of their better fairy stories.”

She said: “Usually it’s not worth saying anything, because the fact that it was just a story in the first place, they’ll take anything you say and it’ll come out on their side.”