Famously, when Anne was born on August 15, 1950, the Duke of Edinburgh announced to waiting courtiers, “It’s the sweetest girl”. Now, 70 years on, Anne is famed for her hard work, no-nonsense personality and low-key but dedicated approach to carrying out her duties.
Despite talks about birthday celebrations, it’s very likely Anne would prefer the day pass without fuss.
“Well, it would be nice if it were just another year passed,” she said in an interview with Vanity Fair earlier this year, “but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
The famously modest Princess Royal – who does her own makeup, chooses her own outfits and has even been known to take public transport – will be honoured at Buckingham Palace.
It’s thought representatives from the many charities and organisations she’s supported over her 50-year career as a working royal will be in attendance to honour her. But, explains Phil Dampier, it will be a moment for many royal fans to reflect on how Anne’s talents have been wasted.
“If Anne had been first in line to the throne she would have made a good queen. Her outlook is similar to her father’s, who she is closest to: ‘Just get on with it’.
“She doesn’t tend to get involved in politics or controversial issues like Charles, and so might have been better suited to be a monarch.”
But despite her popularity and status as right-hand woman to the Queen, Anne wasn’t always a natural-born public speaker.
She entered public life at 18, and her first royal tour was two years later, in 1970, when she visited Australia alongside the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles.
A decade on she told talk show host Michael Parkinson that while at the time everyone around her assumed she knew what to do, she found the trip a challenge, explaining, “there isn’t a school for royal touring”.
She joked that she attempted to “stay out of trouble” but that she was often scolded by the press for not “looking the right way or saying the right thing”.
The same year, Anne and Charles visited the US, where the princess was frequently criticised for not smiling and appearing bored. It was the beginning of a combative relationship with the press that even led her to reportedly once tell a royal photographer to “naff off”, although it was later revealed that she actually said something far ruder.
“I didn’t fit the image that the media thought I ought to have,” she told Michael Parkinson. “I think, princesses how they come in a fairy story – that’s what they are and somehow I didn’t quite fit. Still don’t!”
By 1971, Princess Anne was concentrating on her equestrian career. Her love of horses was renowned.
She joked in 1977, “When I appear in public people expect me to neigh, grind my teeth, paw the ground and swish my tail – none of which is easy”.
For five years she competed with the British eventing team, taking part in the Montreal Olympics in 1976.
“I thought if I was going to do anything outside of the royal family, horses was likely to be the best way of doing it,” she told Vanity Fair earlier this year. “But I always knew it was going to be limited time.”
In 1973 she married fellow Olympic equestrian Captain Mark Phillips in Westminster Abbey, with an estimated TV audience of 100 million. A year later, they were involved in a terrifying kidnapping attempt, when the couple’s limousine was shot at as they were returning to Buckingham Palace. Famously, when would-be kidnapper Ian Ball demanded Anne get out of the car during the ensuing tussle, she reportedly responded: “Not bloody likely!”
Having experienced the challenges of growing up as a high-profile public figure, Anne made sure her children Zara and Peter had different lives.
Because Mark had turned down the Queen’s offer of an earldom on marrying Anne, Zara and Peter don’t have HRH titles.
“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 recently. “So I think that was probably the right thing to do.”
As Anne brought up her children, she continued to work steadily for more than 200 charities and organisations, including Save The Children and her own initiative, The Princess Royal Trust for Carers.
She travels across the world as the Queen’s representative three times a year.
Closer to home, she breeds horses and had close ties to horse racing for many years. In 1987, she even became the first member of the royal family to appear as a contestant on a TV quiz show, competing on A Question of Sport.
Over the decades Anne has won the accolade of being the royal family’s hardest-working member, attending more than 500 engagements a year.
“Anne has done it beneath the radar,” explains Phil Dampier. “She has played the role of a solid, reliable workhorse, a safe pair of hands. She is always travelling somewhere and seems to thrive on hard work. It’s not always appreciated but the organisations she supports adore her.”
Kevin S. MacLeod, former Canadian secretary to the Queen, echoed this sentiment.
“Her credo is, ‘Keep me busy. I’m here to work. I’m here to do good things. I’m here to meet as many people as possible,’” he revealed.
Like her parents, Anne has given no indication that she will ever retire from her public duties and life. If anything, she will probably take on more of a public role when her parents pass away and her brother becomes king.
In an apparent response to Prince Harry and Meghan stepping down as senior royals, Anne has also made it clear she is supportive of royal traditions and doesn’t believe in trying to change the monarchy.
She told Vanity Fair: “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 [of] ‘Please do not reinvent that particular wheel … Some of these things don’t work. You may need to go back to basics.’”
For more, pick up the latest issue of New Idea Royals. Out now!