Princess Anne is a true stoic – it must be serious for her to countenance a ‘fuss’

Princess Anne has received 'head injuries consistent with a potential impact from a horse's head or legs'
Princess Anne has received 'head injuries consistent with a potential impact from a horse's head or legs' - Sarah Farnsworth/Country Life

The Princess Royal is not a woman given to making a fuss.

When someone tried to kidnap her, she calmly told them “not bloody likely”. When she suffered a fall from a horse at the Olympics which could have killed her, she got back on and finished the course.

This time, after an “incident” with a horse on her estate left her hospitalised with a concussion, it took her less than 24 hours to issue a public apology to those who “may be inconvenienced or disappointed” by the fact she needs to take a few days off work.

In an NHS hospital until later this week, the Princess has been compelled to take a rare sick day after receiving “head injuries consistent with a potential impact from a horse’s head or legs”.

She is awake, in contact with family and her team. A Palace spokesman has said she will make a “full and swift recovery”, although she will be kept in hospital for now just in case.

That the Princess, who will be 74 in August, has for now been persuaded to stay under the watchful eye of medics is a testament to the potentially serious nature of her injuries.

A young Princess Anne during the Royal Windsor Horse Show in Berkshire in May 1961
A young Princess Anne during the Royal Windsor Horse Show in Berkshire in May 1961 - Ray Bellisario/Popperfoto

She had been intending to pack in at least eight jobs before flying to Canada at the weekend: at the 30th Commonwealth Agricultural Conference, some sailing events, a visit to a hospice, and a charity polo day.

“Her Royal Highness sends her apologies to any who may be inconvenienced or disappointed as a result,” said a spokesman, adding that “sadly” she will no longer be able to go to the banquet to celebrate the Japanese state visit on Tuesday night.

Her office will already be busy rearranging a tight-packed diary.

When she returns, there is little doubt she will brush off any concerned questions with her customary briskness.

Princess Anne and Prince Charles ride together in Windsor in May 1969
Princess Anne and Prince Charles horseriding together in Windsor in May 1969 - AFP via Getty Images

When I spent a week on the road with the Princess earlier this year, I did not hear her once mention her feelings, or emote with members of the public as others in her family sometimes do nowadays.

One biographer records how she was once offered a hug by a senior member of staff, shortly after the death of her mother Queen Elizabeth II. With a “wry smile”, it is claimed, the Princess said firmly: “That is the last time that’s going to happen.”

The Princess may now take some persuading to rest.

But she is no fool, and understands well the need to recover from serious injury.

After a serious fall at the Portman Horse Trials in 1976, which left her unconscious with two broken wings of her vertebrae, she wrote: “Concussion is still unpredictable and, if not taken seriously, can lead to difficult complications later in life, sometimes much later.

“I was only too happy to stay in the King Edward VII hospital for a few days and do what came naturally, which was to sleep.”

And after her fall from horse Goodwill at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, she was later bemused by the fact she was allowed to carry on riding - having seen the footage after the “lights went out” and concluding openly that she “did not look right”. Her memory, she said, was “almost non-existent for that day”.

The Princess Royal competing in the 1976 Olympics
The Princess Royal competing in the 1976 Olympics - Colorsport/Shutterstock
After falling from her horse at the Olympics, the Princess said her memory was 'almost non-existent for that day'
After falling from her horse at the Olympics, the Princess said her memory was 'almost non-existent for that day' - AP

Writing in her autobiography Riding Through My Life, she records with no animosity that her brothers Prince Charles, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward teased her: “You went so much better after your fall, we ought to bang you on the head before you start next time!”

All three were immediately made aware of her accident this weekend.

This time, a palace spokesman said the King “joins the whole Royal Family in sending his fondest love and well-wishes to the Princess for a speedy recovery”.

The Princess, reading in her hospital bed, may be quietly pleased by the sentiment. Once she has recovered, she will no doubt be relieved to get back to the no-nonsense brotherly teasing she prefers.

Those who know her predict she will be back in the saddle as soon as she is able. Prince Philip’s crude description of his daughter’s hobbies (“If it doesn’t fart or eat hay, she isn’t interested”) is not entirely accurate, but it is as true now as it was in 1970.

The Princess, who is well-liked by the public for her no-nonsense approach to royalty, will pack her own bags for home and probably carry them herself unless her husband Sir Tim - or her doctors - intervene.

A spokesman says she is “recovering well”, in a “comfortable condition” and is being “kept in hospital as a precautionary measure for further observation”.

She is due home later this week. Woe betide the doctor who suggests staying in an extra night to be on the safe side.