The Queen's grandson divorces: Who is Autumn Phillips?

Rebecca Taylor
Royal Correspondent

Peter Phillips and Autumn Phillips at Royal Ascot. (Getty Images)

Peter Phillips, the Queen’s eldest grandchild, has confirmed he and his wife Autumn Phillips, will divorce after 12 years of marriage.

Phillips, 42, is the elder child of Princess Anne and her first husband Captain Mark Phillips. He met Autumn, 41, when they were both working on Formula One Grand Prix in Montreal.

Together, the couple have two young children who they’ve promised to “co-parent”: Isla, seven, and Savannah, nine.

Autumn and Peter Phillips and their children Savannah (left) and Isla (right) at Trooping the Colour in 2019. (Getty Images)

Who is Autumn Phillips?

Autumn was born in Montreal in 1978 to parents Kathleen McCarthy and Brian Kelly.

She has a twin brother named Chris, who is now a bricklayer. Autumn also has an other brother, Kevin, and two half-siblings from her father’s second marriage.

Autumn watches Zara Phillips with Zara's now-husband Mike Tindall in 2005. (Getty Images)

Her parents divorced when she was young. Her mother is a hairdresser, and her father worked as an executive for an electricity company.

Her nickname at school was Princess Autumn, perhaps alluding to her future royal connections.

She was baptised into the Roman Catholic Church, but converted to the Church of England before she married Peter, so that he would not lose his place in line to the throne.

Autumn was invited on a tour of the Western Isles with the royals. (Getty Images)

She holds a degree in East Asian studies from McGill University.

Autumn has held a wide range of jobs, including being a model, working for Williams F1, which is how she met Peter, and as Sir Michael Parkinson’s personal assistant.

She was once offered a job with the Canadian Intelligence Services but changed career direction and never took it.

How did she meet Peter?

According to the Daily Telegraph, Peter was smitten when he first laid eyes on Autumn in her hometown of Montreal, at the Grand Prix.

He refused to let official business distract him, and sought her out, getting her phone number and email address the first day he met her, as well as inviting her and her friends to a post-race party.

Peter and Autumn Phillips' wedding in 2008

Somewhat conveniently, Autumn had already been planning to move to England. She had accepted a job with a computer firm who wanted her in their UK offices.

Autumn confessed to Hello! magazine that it was love at first sight for her too, saying: “When Peter smiled at me I thought Okayyyy! I’ll definitely meet you at the party.”

But, it was weeks before she realised who she was.

It wasn’t until she was watching television and spotted her new boyfriend standing next to Prince William at his 21st birthday party that she realised who she was dating.

Her mother is said to have replied: “Oh Autumn, what have you got yourself into?”

When did they get married?

The couple married in 2008 at Windsor Castle.

Peter originally planned to propose during a champagne hot air balloon ride, but the weather was bad and they had to cancel.

So instead, he proposed in heavy rain while they walked the dog.

They married in St George's Chapel in Windsor. (Getty Images)
On their wedding day with their families at Frogmore House. (Getty Images)

She told the Telegraph: “I certainly didn’t see the question coming. I looked horrible in my wellies with wet hair. I said yes straight away though.”

Peter had also travelled to Ontario to get permission from her father before popping the question.

The couple sold their wedding photos to Hello! magazine, which divided opinion. But, as Peter was never given a title and is not a working royal, they have had to make their own money as they do not get anything from the crown estate.

After their ceremony at the chapel at Windsor Castle, the couple had a reception at Frogmore House.

Is Peter Phillips really the Queen’s favourite?

As the Queen’s first grandchild, Peter is likely to hold a special place in her heart. It’s natural she would have taken to his partner, too.

The Queen has shown some particular favour to Autumn. The couple is always invited to join the rest of the Royal Family at events like Trooping the Colour, and Ascot, with Autumn sitting next to the Queen in her carriage at Ascot.

Queen Elizabeth II with Autumn Phillips going to church near Balmoral. (Getty Images)
Autumn and Peter at the Braemar Games with the Queen and Prince Charles. (Getty Images)

And while she was simply Autumn Kelly, she was invited to be part of the Queen’s nine-week tour in the Scottish Western Isles.

She was also at an intimate party at The Ritz for the Queen’s 80th birthday.

Autumn is also widely regarded as down-to-earth, a quality the Queen admires and the ease with which she stepped into the family and took it all in her stride is sure to have impressed Her Majesty.

Queen Elizabeth and Autumn Phillips at Royal Ascot. (Getty Images)

Will she move back to Canada?

Rumours are swirling that Autumn is seeking divorce so she can head back to her native Canada.

With the couple’s daughters having dual citizenship, there’s word it could be an easy move for them to make.

Savannah and Isla are close with their royal cousins. (Getty Images)

But, their statement made it clear they won’t be heading in the same direction as Harry and Meghan anytime soon.

They said: “Both Peter and Autumn have remained in Gloucestershire to bring up their two children where they have been settled for a number of years.”

The couple didn’t quite stretch to talk of conscious uncoupling, but the use of the phrase “co-parent” is not one often associated with the royals.

Autumn and Peter are often seen at country events with Peter’s sister Zara, and Savannah and Isla are close with their cousins.

Savannah and Prince George are often seen giggling and whispering together, so the family are sure to want to stay close by for their children.

Autumn and Peter Phillips take a seflie at Prince Harry's concert for Sentebale. (Getty Images)

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