Quiet and understated, Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence has always let his wife take centre-stage.
The former navy officer, 68, is regularly by Princess Anne’s side at engagements and events, including the Coronation, and has supported her through family crises – most recently the death of her mother The Queen last September.
After serving as Her Late Majesty’s Equerry in the 1980s, Sir Tim made the leap from royal servant to royal spouse and has now been at heart of the world’s most famous family for more than 30 years.
Sir Tim and Anne tied the knot in 1992, after he survived the crisis of the emergence of letters he had penned to the Princess when she was still married to first husband Captain Mark Phillips.
Sir Tim and Anne tied the knot at Crathie Kirk Church near Balmoral Castle in December 1992
Quiet and understated, Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence has always let his wife take centre-stage. Above: The pair attend an event in Port Moresby on April 12, 2022, during her trip to Papua New Guinea in celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee
Sir Timothy, rear left, joins the rest of the Royal Family on the Buckingham Palace balcony following the Coronation. Princess Anne can be seen standing two place to the right
Now, he is widely respected for his own glittering navy career – which came to an end in 2010 – and subsequent charity work.
The Vice Admiral was born in Edenbridge, Kent, in 1955 to Commander Guy Stewart Laurence and his wife Barbara.
He was the youngest of two, with his older brother Jonathan arriving in 1952.
When he was 11, Sir Tim was sent off to the prestigious Sevenoaks School, where he was remembered by a fellow former student as ‘definitely’ not a ‘heart-throb with the girls’.
‘They used to call him Tiny Tim and left him pretty much alone,’ they added in the Daily Mail in 1990.
Sir Tim’s academic results – A-levels in geography, maths and physics – were not good enough to grant him entry to Oxford or Cambridge, even if he had wanted to go.
Instead, he entered Dartmouth Naval College – where the Queen famously had one of her early meetings with Prince Philip when he was a student there and she was a young princess – in 1973.
He went on to enter Durham University on a naval scholarship, studying Geography. There, he edited the university newspaper, Palatinate.
Almost prophetically, one of his articles was a review of a novel by Norwegian writer Knut Hamsen, about a man who falls in love with the wife of his employer, a woman who is far above his social station.
Sir Tim commended the work’s ‘deep understanding of human nature’.
During his time in charge of the paper, he gained the nickname ‘Tiger Tim’, which was apparently a reflection of his pursuit of contributors when they were late in filing articles.
The student was also known for always dressing very smartly, in a jacket with shirt and tie, even as his fellow students’ dress reflected the anti-establishment spirit of the age.
In 1975, Sir Tim graduated from his Geography degree with a good 2:1 – a grade that was then much harder to achieve than it is now.
Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence arrives at the Coronation with Princess Anne
Sir Tim is seen behind the Queen as she laughs while putting up an umbrella during a visit to a Gurkha regiment in 1989
Sir Tim stands behind the Queen during an official visit to Madrid in 1988
Four years later, he was appointed to the Royal Yacht as a junior ‘Season’ officer, who were defined by the fact that they had to do all the worst jobs and lived in a tiny area of the ship known as ‘The Ghetto’.
Sir Tim’s role included arranging for luggage to come on board and setting up visits for household officials and staff.
It was on the Royal Yacht that Sir Tim first became acquainted with senior royals, including the Queen, Prince Philip and Princess Anne.
After his role on the vessel came to an end, he won his first command in 1982, when he was put in charge of the supply boat HMS Cygnet, which was helping to intercept IRA arms supply routes.
That was after he had served as navigation officer on the destroyer HMS Sheffield, which went on to be sank during the 1982 Falklands War when it hit by an Argentine Exocet missile, leaving 20 sailors dead.
Speaking in an interview with the Daily Mail’s Robert Hardman in 2019, Sir Tim said: ‘I vividly remember watching the news.
‘My first thoughts were of friends. Several officers were killed, all of whom I knew.’
After being summoned to Northern Ireland to lead a patrol against IRA gun-runners, he was mentioned in dispatches.
Exactly what heroics he performed to get the honour remain shrouded in secrecy.
Sir Tim then made it to the heart of royal life followed in 1986, when he was appointed as the Queen’s Equerry.
Sir Tim and Princess Anne pose together with their dog Eglantyne on their first wedding anniversary
Sir Timothy is seen with Princess Anne and her daughter Zara as they walk to a Christmas Day church service at Sandringham in 1992, shortly after their wedding
He replaced Major Hugh Lindsay, who had been killed in an avalanche during a skiing holiday with Prince Charles.
As well as accompanying the Queen at engagements, Sir Tim also escorted other royals, such as Princess Diana and the Duchess of York to venues and events.
His competence saw him quickly become indispensable to the Royal Family, with the Queen, Prince Philip and Princess Anne – albeit secretly – being firm admirers.
Anne’s biographer Brian Hoey described Sir Tim as having a ‘chameleon-like’ quality that enabled him to assimilate into the Royal Family ‘without causing a ripple.’
Writing in his 1997 book, Anne: The Private Princess Revealed, Hoey said Sir Tim had, after entering the Royal Family, ‘quickly taken on an air of assumed aristocracy, dressing, talking and behaving just like any other Royal’.
In 1988, Anne invited him to become a trustee of her charity, The Princess Royal’s Charity Trust, and rumours of their friendship then started to become public knowledge.
By then, her relationship with her husband was on the rocks, and the situation worsened when the existence of a series of letters written by Sir Tim to Anne became public knowledge.
The letters had been stolen from Anne’s briefcase and delivered to The Sun. Rather than publishing them, the newspaper handed them on to the police.
Sir Tim’s notoriety then skyrocketed when Buckingham Palace acknowledged him as the author of the letters in a public statement.
It read: ‘The stolen letters were addressed to the Princess Royal by Commander Timothy Laurence, the Queen’s Equerry.
‘We have nothing to say about the contents of personal letters sent to Her Royal Highness by a friend which were stolen and which are the subject of a police investigation.’
He went from being an unknown member of the Queen’s staff to a potential love interest of the married Princess Royal.
Approached by the press outside his modest home in Winchester shortly after the ‘warm and intimate’ letters emerged, Sir Tim said: ‘I do not think it is very helpful to make any comment.
‘I have considered the options open to me and have decided the best thing is to say nothing.’
The navy officer did however believe that the saga would put an end to his career.
It had, after all, been less than four decades since King George VI’s married Equerry, Peter Townsend, had seen his own career come to a virtual halt when it emerged he was in love with Princess Margaret.
But instead, within days of the letters’ existence emerging, the Queen showed her support for Sir Tim by having him by her side at public engagements.
He also shared in a picnic during the family’s annual summer holiday and took Captain Philipps’ place in a shooting party.
Prince Philip however had been less forgiving and is said to have been angry that a servant of the Queen had acted in such a way with his married daughter.
But that did not stop Sir Tim’s romance with Anne from blossoming, as her marriage to Phillips petered out.
The pair announced their separation at the end of August in 1989 and in April 1992 the Palace announced that Anne had filed for divorce.
Anne and Sir Tim went public with their romance in May 1992, a fortnight after her divorce was finalised.
The couple took to the floor together at the Royal Caledonian Ball in London for a series of dances.
They then tied the knot in December 1992, although their wedding had to take place in the Scottish Presbyterian Church rather than the Church of England because of the fact that Anne had already been married.
Their wedding provided a happy ending to what the Queen had described as her ‘annus horribilis’.
As well as Anne’s divorce, there had been the Windsor Castle fire, the separation of Prince Andrew from Sarah Ferguson and the publication of a tell-all book about Princess Diana.
And, just days before the ceremony, Diana and Prince Charles had announced their own separation.
Anne’s second wedding took place in the small Crathie Kirk church, near the Queen’s beloved Balmoral in the Scottish Highlands.
Although it had never hosted a royal wedding, the church did have the stamp of royalty.
Queen Victoria laid its foundation stone in 1893 and generations of royalty had worshipped there.
Timothy Laurence (centre) with Princess Anne and Andrew Parker Bowles, former husband of Queen Camilla. Pictured at Ascot 2014
Sir Tim is seen in May 2016 holding granddaughter Mia Tindall upside down at the Badminton Horse Trials. Then daughter-in-law Autumn Phillips joins in the fun
Sir Tim is seen with Princess Anne and Camilla, then Duchess of Cornwall. They are watching an Eventing Competition at the 2012 London Olympics
Sir Tim is seen with Kate Middleton as they walk through the Commonwealth War Grave Commission’s Tyne Cot Cemetery in Ypres in July 2017
Princess Anne and her husband in jolly mood at Epsom race course in June last year
Sir Tim is seen with Mia Tindall – daughter to step-daughter Zara – during the Whatley Manor Horse Trials at Gatcombe Park in September 2018
It was an understated affair that was far removed from Anne’s first wedding, which took place in front of 1,600 guests inside the historic surroundings of Westminster Abbey, as millions watched on TV.
Rather than a formal wedding dress, Anne opted for an ivory two-piece woolen suit, and Sir Tim wore his navy uniform.
His best man was Charles Barker-Wyatt, an old friend from his university days.
The guests numbered around just 30, foremost among them being the Queen, the Queen Mother, Prince Charles and Prince Philip.
In tying the knot again, Anne had become the first member of the Royal Family to remarry after a divorce since Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn in 1533.
Because the Princess had wanted it to be as low-key an affair as possible, Palace officials had parked two vehicles across the entrance to Crathie Church to try to stop anyone seeing the arrivals.
However, only a few hundred ordinary well-wishers flocked to see them, a much smaller number than the 4,000 that the local police had expected.
The royal couple spent their wedding night at Craigowan, a six-bedroom house on the Balmoral estate.
The property was also where Anne and Phillips had announced their engagement.
Whilst there was some speculation that Anne might have a child together, the rumours never amounted to anything.
Instead, Sir Tim was a popular stepfather to Anne’s son Peter and daughter Zara, who were 15 and 11 respectively when their mother re-married.
Sir Tim even enjoyed an amicable relationship with Phillips, with the pair sometimes meeting to shoot together.
Shortly before his wedding, Sir Tim temporarily left seafaring to take up a desk role as a military assistant to the then Defence Secretary Malcolm Rifkind.
He spent nearly three years in Whitehall before returning to sea when he was promoted to the rank of Captain in 1995 and given command of Type-22 frigate HMS Cumberland.
When back in London, he would spend time with Anne in a flat he rented in Dolphin Square, Pimlico, rather than the pair seeing each other in the Princess’s suite of rooms in Buckingham Palace.
The living arrangement was a cosy affair and there was no space for staff and only a small room for their duty protection officer.
It was also a far cry from Anne’s sprawling main home, Gatcombe Park in Gloucestershire, which had been bought by the Queen for her and Phillips in 1976.
Sir Tim’s command of HMS Cumberland came to an end in 1996 and he went on to be appointed commanding officer of HMS Montrose and also taking charge of the flotilla that was protecting the Falkland Islands.
Promotions continued for the royal officer and he was promoted to Commodore in 1998, after returning to the Ministry of Defence.
He would always find time however to accompany Princess Anne on engagements when he was back in the UK, a fact that highlighted his commitment to his wife as well as his career.
Sir Tim’s ascent in the Royal Navy hierarchy continued after the turn of the century, when he was promoted to rear admiral in July 2004 and then vice admiral in 2007.
His formal navy career finally came to an end in 2010, when he retired.
Since then, Sir Tim has been a near-constant presence by Anne’s side, accompanying her at numerous engagements – even though he is officially a non-working royal.
He was by her side during the upheaval of her son’s divorce from his wife Autumn in 2021, as well as the negative publicity generated by revelations that Peter had used his royal status to front milk adverts for a Chinese company.
Sir Tim was also chairman of conservation body English Heritage from 2015 until the end of last year, after previously serving as vice chairman of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Speaking in an ITV documentary in July 2020 ahead of Anne’s 70th birthday, he admitted to having been ‘surprised’ to discover when he married into the Royal Family that it was ‘full of laughter’.
Having attended many family occasions at the Balmoral, Sandringham and Windsor Castle estates, Sir Tim said he was shocked by the amount of amusement shared at the events.
He added that whilst the similarities between Princess Anne and her father had been ‘much talked about’, ‘what is less spoken about is the similarities with her mother, the Queen… the common theme is humour, fun.’
Sir Tim also opened up on the relationship with his wife, saying: ‘We are both map and chart people. We like to know where we are and see where we are going.’
‘We both follow, with great enthusiasm, the Scottish rugby team… as you may have noticed they don’t always win.’
But he also confessed that he does not share his wife’s love of horse riding, saying.
He said: ‘She grew up with horses, horses have been part of her life, it’s not something I share with her. Sadly I’ve never been bitten by the horse bug.’
Talking about Anne’s first marriage, he added: ‘It’s quite amusing that she married first an army officer and then a naval officer.
‘So there must be something about the military that attracts her.’
In a sign of the affection in which he is held, Sir Tim had a place by Anne’s side on the Buckingham Palace balcony during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations last year.
Sir Timothy Laurence and Princess Anne in Naval uniform to welcome the Norwegian Royal Family to Buckingham Palace in 2005
Sir Tim is seen on Buckingham Palace balcony with his wife and the Queen and other senior royals during Her Late Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee last year
Sir Tim (third from right) is seen with his wife, King Charles, the Queen Consort, Prince Andrew and Prince William during the procession for the Queen’s Lying-in-State last September
Sir Tim is seen in Prince Philip’s funeral procession with other senior Royals as the Land Rover carrying his coffin makes its way to Windsor Castle’s St George’s Chapel
Sir Tim and Anne are followed by her daughters Zara and Peter as they greet well-wishers outside Balmoral after the Queen’s death last September
Sir Tim walks a few feet behind his wife as she chats to her brother Prince Andrew at this year’s Easter Matins service at St George’s Chapel, Windsor
That was despite the fact that other non-working royals, including Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, were excluded.
Sir Tim was also there at the Queen’s funeral last September, again providing much-needed support to his wife, who had been with Her Late Majesty in Balmoral when she died.
His most recent appearance came over Easter, when he joined other members of the Royal Family as they attended the Easter Matins Service at St George’s Chapel.
In a sign of the way he has always shunned the limelight, Sir Tim walked several paces behind his wife, allowing her to talk to her brother, Prince Andrew.