Most of us have had to help our elderly parents navigate modern technology to keep in touch during lockdown – and the Princess Royal is no exception.
When the 94-year-old Queen took part in her first public video call last month to support the nation’s carers, it was Princess Anne who assisted her mother in getting set up on Webex.
In a sneak preview of an upcoming ITV documentary to mark the royal’s 70th birthday, Anne asks Her Majesty: ‘Can you see everybody? You should have six people on your screen.’
When the Queen replies: ‘Yes, well I can see four anyway,’ the princess is quick to remark: ‘Actually, you don’t need me. You know what I look like!’
The amusing clip, shared on Twitter by ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship this evening, has left royal fans praising Anne for her humorous antics.
When the Queen took part in her first pubic video call last month to support the nation’s carers, it was Princess Anne (pictured) who assisted her mother
In a sneak preview of a new ITV documentary marking the royal’s 70th birthday, Anne asks Her Majesty (pictured): ‘Can you see everybody? You should have six people on your screen.’
One social media user wrote: ‘One is amused. Awesome,’ while another added: ‘Puts a smile to my face!’
A third said: ‘Brilliant. Princess Anne is great and it’s been lovely watching the Queen during lockdown. Can’t wait to watch this.’
At the start of the clip, which took place during National Carers’ Week, Anne is seen waiting for her mother to enter the call from Windsor Castle.
‘It’s Tom here,’ the Queen’s Assistant Private Secretary Tom Laing-Baker says as the pair tune in. ‘I’m just going to introduce Her Majesty The Queen.’
Anne is then heard saying: ‘Ah. Good morning at Windsor,’ before the Queen replies: ‘Good morning. I’m very glad to have been able to join you.’
The amusing clip, shared on Twitter by ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship this evening, has left royal fans praising Anne for her humorous antics
The Queen joined the Princess Royal on the conference call in June with four carers living across the UK who have been responsible for looking after family during the coronavirus crisis.
Speaking from a sitting room at the castle, the monarch spent 20 minutes listening to the women about their experiences and asking questions about the pressures they face.
The new documentary, Princess Royal: Anne at 70, sees the Royal interviewed by the Daily Mail’s Robert Hardman and airs ahead of her milestone birthday in August.
It also sees Anne reveal her views about one of social media’s most popular platforms, Twitter, saying: ‘I wouldn’t go anywhere near it if you paid me frankly.’
The Queen, 94, joined the Princess Royal, 69, on the conference call with four carers living across the UK who have been responsible for looking after family during the coronavirus crisis. Gareth Howells, chief executive of the Carers Trust (left) also took part in the call
The documentary, Princess Royal: Anne at 70, which airs ahead of her milestone birthday in August also sees Anne (pictured) reveal her views about one of social media’s most popular platforms, Twitter , saying ‘I wouldn’t go anywhere near it if you paid me frankly’
Many royals, including Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry all have social media accounts but Princess Anne’s work is shared on the Queen’s Royal Family platforms.
Commenting on social media Anne says: ‘With online technology… being in touch is one thing but it’s not quite the same. The ability to meet people, that’s what makes the difference.
‘I mean, 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.’
Anne was followed for more than a year by film-makers for the documentary, which will feature unseen family footage and conversations with the princess herself, her children and her husband, Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence.
Princess Anne discusses fly-tipping, pigs and small nuclear reactors as she guest edits Country Life to mark her 70th birthday – after Meghan Markle’s ultra-woke ‘Forces for Change’ edition of Vogue
ByHayley Richardson For Mailonlineand Claire Duffin For The Daily Mail
Princess Anne discussed green energy, her irritation with fly-tippers and a deep-rooted passion for the environment that stems from her mother the Queen in a leader article for Country Life magazine this week – almost a year after Meghan Markle guest edited British Vogue.
In a wide-ranging call to arms on how to secure the future of the countryside, the no-nonsense Princess Royal also spoke of her frustration at the lack of affordable rural housing.
Anne guest-edited Country Life magazine this week to mark her 70th birthday on August 15, with her magazine stint fittingly down-to-earth for the famously hard-working royal.
Unlike the Duchess of Sussex, who was not photographed for her Forces For Change September issue of British Vogue last year but did feature in behind-the-scenes videos shared to the publication’s Instagram channel, the Princess Royal is also pictured on her Gatcombe Park home estate.
Meghan’s controversial Vogue issue saw her list 15 women she admired, including celebrities, politicians and activists known for championing issues such as diversity, body positivity, transgender rights and climate change.
However, she was criticised for failing to include the Queen and faced allegations of ‘politicising’ the Royal Family.
Princess Anne had a narrower focus for her own stint as a magazine guest editor, sharing a tour of her 500-acre Gloucestershire estate and farm and highlighting the organic farming methods she uses.
Princess Anne discusses green energy, her irritation with fly-tippers and her deep-rooted passion for the environment that stems from her mother the Queen in a leader article for Country Life magazine. Pictured on her Gatcombe Park estate home tending to a pair of pigs
Princess Anne appears on the cover of the edition of Country Life she has guest-edited left. The Duchess of Sussex was editor of the September Forces For Change issue of British Vogue last year (Pictured right: her chosen cover stars Jacinda Ardern, Salma Hayek Pinault, Laverne Cox, Jameela Jamil, Yara Shahidi and Gemma Chan, Christy Turlington Burns, Adwoa Aboah, Adut Akech, Ramla Ali, Sinead Burke, Francesca Hayward, Jane Fonda, Greta Thunberg and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
She is seen tending to pigs, dogs and horses and a more formal portrait of the royal also appears on the front cover.
The only daughter of the Queen and Prince Philip paid tribute to her parents for instilling her lifelong love of nature, and wrote that she sees herself as a ‘classic Jack of all trades’.
She also criticised solar panels and wind turbines, claiming more imaginative energy sources are required, but controversially suggested that ‘small nuclear reactors could have their place’.
In the special edition of the magazine, which hits shelves today, the Princess Royal gives a tour of the 500-acre Gloucestershire estate and farm where she has spent lockdown.
She discusses the organic farming methods she uses and the rare breeds she keeps. Anne also reveals her favourite recipe: devilled pheasant.
Anne has guest-edited Country Life magazine this week to mark her 70th birthday on August 15. Her magazine stint is fittingly down-to-earth for the hard-working royal
In the special edition of the magazine, which hits shelves today, the Princess Royal gives a tour of the 500-acre Gloucestershire estate and farm where she has spent lockdown. Pictured: one of her dogs greets horses on the estate
In her role as ‘campaigning editor’, Anne sets out her vision for the countryside in a 2,000-word leader column entitled ‘Waste not, want not’, urging everyone to be more careful about waste.
She said failing to dispose of rubbish properly is a ‘major irritation’ to her and insisted we all needed to get better at reducing it.
‘If you want to help the planet, controlling our waste is something everyone can do and it will make a difference,’ she said.
‘We will always produce waste, however efficient we become, so we must get better at reducing it at every stage and dealing with it better at the end.
‘That means making things such as clothes, furniture, vehicles and supermarket trolleys that can be recycled safely and economically and not dumped on someone else’s ground.
The only daughter of the Queen and Prince Philip (pictured in 1999) paid tribute to her parents for instilling her lifelong love of nature, and wrote that she sees herself as a ‘classic Jack of all trades’
The Princess Royal, pictured as a child with her mother the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles on the Balmoral Castle estate in Scotland in 1957
‘Everything about life today seems to be about convenience and waste is seen as inconvenient; we must help make it more convenient to deal with.
‘Raising the profile of the country code might help, especially as the post-coronavirus getaway to the country seems to have resulted in an increase of littering and vandalism.’
The Mail and Keep Britain Tidy is urging the public and businesses to help pick up litter from September 11 to 27 as part of the Great British September Clean. Everyone is encouraged to hit the streets, parks and beaches to fight the scourge of litter.
On green energy, Anne said ‘covering the countryside with solar panels and windmills’ is not the answer.
‘Using water better, using waste from crops, using waste from woodlands and the ability to store energy, possibly as hydrogen, can all help, but will require a more flexible grid and, therefore, the technology to make that work,’ she explained.
Anne’s husband, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, 65, pictured centre beside Anne’s daughter Zara Tindall, has written two pieces for the edition: a light-hearted My Week column on tree-planting and dry-stone walling, plus – in his role as chairman of English Heritage – an in-depth feature on saving country houses
‘Small nuclear reactors could have their place, but perhaps there is not the space to pursue that now.’
She also issued a plea for ‘quality, appropriate housing of the right type and the right numbers in the right places’ – arguing the young, retired and local families too often find themselves priced out in rural villages.
She called for a greater appreciation of small housing developments that are ‘built to last’.
‘All of them could make the difference to having a viable school, shop or pub in the village. Importantly, these housing developments should be small and remain in the control of the local parish council, either for rent or shared ownership,’ Anne said.
The Princess Royal also refers to the instability of her father’s childhood before he was introduced to the ‘wilds of Scotland’ at Gordonstoun School in Moray.
Meghan’s controversial Vogue issue saw her list 15 women she admired, including celebrities, politicians and activists known for championing issues such as diversity, body positivity, transgender rights and climate change
Philip moved between relatives in France and Britain, and rarely saw his parents – with his mother, who suffered from mental illness, being confined to an asylum.
Anne wrote: ‘I was equally fortunate that both my parents had a love and understanding of the natural world through their own experiences.
‘Perhaps even more so for my father when, during his rather disjointed young life, he ended up at school at Gordonstoun and was introduced to the wilds of Scotland, both land and sea.’
She added: ‘Scotland had its influence on my mother, too, as did the big skies of Norfolk, and the huge fields and marshes of the Sandringham Estate. Windsor’s Home Park and Great Park were a constant presence for her, as they were for all of us.’
The Queen and Philip are preparing to head to Scotland soon, to stay at Balmoral in Aberdeenshire for their much-loved annual summer break after spending the last four months of lockdown at Windsor Castle.
When members of the British Royal Family turned journalist for a day
Various members of the British Royal Family including Prince Charles, Prince Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge have collaborated with different media organisations over the past decade.
Anne is not the first member of the Royal Family to contribute to Country Life; her brother Prince Charles has guest-edited two different issues, to commemorate his 65th and 70th birthdays in 2013 and 2018 respectively.
In February 2016 Kate Middleton took the helm at Huffington Post UK for a day to highlight children’s mental health.
Earlier this month the Duchess of Cornwall guest edited her first ever radio show – BBC Radio 5 Live’s The Emma Barnett Show. Prince Harry guest edited the BBC Radio 4 Today programme in 2017.
And Meghan Markle was far from the first member of the royal family to have influenced the pages of British Vogue.
Princess Diana featured on the cover three times, while Princess Anne has also appeared three times: in September 1971, May 1973 and November 1973.
Her sister-in-law the Duchess of Cambridge also adorned the cover of the magazine’s centenary issue in 2016 and occupied a 10-page photo spread.
Meghan is not the first royal to appear in British Vogue, with sister-in-law Kate appearing on the front cover in June 2016 (pictured right) – while Princess Diana (left) featured on there three times
Anne said of Windsor: ‘Windsor was and is a haven of peace, although not so quiet since the growth of air travel – until the lockdown.’
She acknowledged her father was a ‘very hard act to follow’ after she took over from him as president of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, which was set up by Prince Albert.
Anne’s husband, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, 65, has written two pieces for the edition: a light-hearted My Week column on tree-planting and dry-stone walling, plus – in his role as chairman of English Heritage – an in-depth feature on saving country houses.
The magazine’s frontispiece features a set of images of Anne from editions over the years.
Country Life editor Mark Hedges said: ‘It was an absolute delight to have the Princess Royal as our guest editor.
‘Her passion for the countryside shines through with every feature, combined with her concerns that the right action is taken to safeguard the rural way of life for future generations, from providing affordable housing to dealing with fly-tipping. We do hope our special edition makes a very fitting 70th birthday present.’
You have to prepare for the unexpected: That’s the mantra that’s seen her through a kidnap attempt, the Olympics and royal duty. To mark her 70th, Princess Anne talks exclusively to the Mail’s ROBERT HARDMAN for an ITV documentary
by ROBERT HARDMAN for the Daily Mail
After carrying out around 500 public engagements a year for half a century, the Princess Royal has not just become a part of our national landscape. Rather, like her mother, she has acquired a certain timelessness.
So it may come as something of a shock for many people to learn that next month she will be entering her eighth decade. Not that any member of the family will be touching on the delicate subject of her slowing down.
‘Good luck!’ says her daughter, Zara Tindall, when I ask if anyone has raised the question ahead of the princess’s 70th birthday, four weeks from today.
Crash helmet on, I finally broach the subject with the princess herself. ‘Slow down? I thought I had slowed down!’ she says breezily, swerving round the question.
Princess Anne greets her granddaughter Mia Tindall at the Badminton Horse Trials in 2016. The Princess Royal’s life will be the subject of an ITV documentary to be aired tonight at 9pm
‘I think the thing that nags away is that after all this time, you should have learnt something. And I think that’s important – before you become irrelevant.’
Of that there is absolutely no chance. For the past year, I have been part of a tiny film crew which has followed the Queen’s daughter all over the country, and overseas too.
The result is this month’s landmark ITV documentary on the life of a contented, stoical, quick-witted workaholic who usually regards publicity as something to be endured if not avoided altogether.
Yet, at a time when the monarchy has seen the Dukes of Edinburgh and York, plus the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, all withdraw from public duties, the princess is more in demand than ever.
And viewers will soon be reminded why she remains one of the most popular and dependable members of the Royal Family.
Along the way, they will also learn some of the quirks of this royal one-off: the first royal Olympian, the first child of a monarch to reject titles for her children, and the first to face down a kidnapper.
‘You have to prepare for the unexpected,’ she explains with typical understatement.
Born on 15 August, 1950, Princess Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise is only the seventh royal lady in history to receive the accolade of Princess Royal (a title bestowed on her by the Queen in 1987).
Princess Anne is only the seventh royal lady in history to receive the accolade of Princess Royal. Pictured: The Royal full of fun with Mummy and Prince Charles in 1954
Yet, throughout it all, she has shown an unapologetic, almost heroic disdain for those who might want to see a ‘fairytale princess’.
This is a princess who, as often as not, may turn up in trousers and at the wheel of the royal vehicle (she is, after all, the holder of a very un-fairytale HGV licence).
At one point in the film, she reveals the secret behind that magnificent hair arrangement that has become one of her trademarks.
‘It takes me ten or 15 minutes,’ she says. What’s more, she likes to do it herself with no assistance and, preferably, no tiaras. ‘It’s so much quicker.’
She also accepted from an early age that she was destined to be overtaken by her brothers thanks to the (now reformed) laws of male primogeniture.
Princess Anne commanding a tank with the King’s Royal Hussars in 2001
‘As a member of the Royal Family, females tended to be treated as honorary men,’ she says without a scintilla of resentment. ‘So they would become involved in organisations that were otherwise men-only.’
Growing up through the upheavals of the 1960s and 70s, she never saw herself as a standard-bearer for change.
‘One of the oddities about my life is that I never either felt that or was encouraged to be that,’ she says. ‘So no, I’m afraid I was really bad at that role model bit.’
The princess also lets slip how, at royal garden parties, she developed a technique for sniffing out shy, retiring types among the royal flowerbeds.
‘They used to have two lanes, and I would work up the back of the border, which is where the people who didn’t want to be seen went,’ she chuckles.
‘They were almost pretending they weren’t there. They were always looking around – ‘I’m not really here, you know. I don’t really want to talk to anyone’ – which was always quite funny.’
This vignette, perhaps, could almost serve as her philosophy for royal duty. Here is one of the best-known, longest-serving figures in British and international public life.
Yet she is seldom happier than when spending a chilly awayday in the shires, meeting a few unsung stalwarts of society, people who don’t make (or seek) headlines, but who might appreciate a little recognition.
‘The whole point of the exercise is to increase the awareness of the people you go and see,’ the princess explains.
‘They’re the ones that are doing the donkey work, and they’re the ones who make the difference. That’s not me. But you can sometimes help other people get to that point where they can make an even bigger impact than they’re already doing.’
Over the last year, our cameras have seen her with countless examples of these people – from dog-trainers and midwives to charity workers and mud-caked British soldiers on a Baltic exercise near the Russian border (they’re thrilled when the princess hitches a ride in their tank).
Princess Anne married Olympic rider Captain Mark Phillips in 1973, then married Sir Tim in a low-key ceremony in 1993. Pictured: Making a splash at the Montreal OIympics
This is the coalface of royal duty. They may not be engagements that make the news bulletins, but they are a lifetime’s memory for all involved.
And the princess clearly regards them as fundamental to the ‘relevance’ of royalty.
Often described as ‘the hardest-working royal’ – last year’s tally of 506 engagements was pipped only by the Prince of Wales on 521 – she also does this because she finds it enjoyable and fulfilling.
‘She’s not a person that is constantly looking for praise,’ says her husband, Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence.
‘She gets on and does her work regardless because she thinks it’s important.’ Being the centre of attention is simply not the princess’s thing.
As she mutters at one point in our film, only half-joking, ‘I’m like a goldfish in a bowl here.’
On our travels, we have seen her representing the Queen at Buckingham Palace investitures and receptions. And we have seen life both pre- and post-lockdown at her Gatcombe Park home in Gloucestershire.
With her children and grandchildren living on the estate, family life has continued in as far as government distancing rules have permitted. She has also been in frequent contact with her Windsor-based parents by telephone.
HOW SHE FOILED A KIDNAPPER
Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips (pictured) were approached by armed fantasist Ian Ball on 20 March, 1974
On 20 March, 1974, Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips were being driven back to Buckingham Palace after an event when a Ford Escort blocked their Rolls-Royce on the Mall.
Armed fantasist Ian Ball was enacting his plan to kidnap the princess. When her protection officer, Inspector Jim Beaton, got out to intervene, Ball shot him in the shoulder. Insp Beaton’s pistol jammed, but he remained in front of the princess and was shot twice more.
The chauffeur, a policeman patrolling nearby and a passing journalist were shot as they tried to stop Ball dragging the princess out by the arm. But Capt Phillips was holding firm to the other arm, and Princess Anne was refusing to budge.
Princess Anne said her equestrian training prepared her for the unexpected
Now she reveals it was down to her equestrian training.
‘Strangely, I had thought about it before. One of the things about horses and sport is you have to prepare for the unexpected. So to some extent that coloured my thoughts.’
To this day, she can remember it all – sort of. ‘I thought I remembered everything, but I was never able to swear I remember it all in order because they were like snapshots,’ she says.
Ball fled, but was tackled by another policeman. He was sentenced to life in prison. The wounded men were decorated by the Queen.
Insp Beaton received the George Cross and he credits the princess with preventing tragedy: ‘She was so cool, calm and collected, it kept the situation within control.’
Her biographer, Brian Hoey, offers a further reason for her resolve: ‘She said, ‘I was so annoyed he tore the sleeve out of my dress – and it was a good new dress!’
The princess even persuaded the Queen to join her in a video conference with carers, a section of society with whom the princess (founding president of the Carers’ Trust) has a special connection.
It was at the start of last year that I approached Princess Anne’s team with the idea of a film to mark her 70th.
Having interviewed her for previous documentaries on different subjects, I have always enjoyed her astute observations on life. However, this would be a project focusing entirely on her and her work.
Her whole life has been spent in the public eye, from the moment she first appeared on the famous Buckingham Palace balcony as a toddler.
To this day, footage of a teenage Princess Anne helping with the Balmoral barbecue is one of the best-remembered moments in the groundbreaking 1969 film Royal Family; two years later she was being interviewed by Blue Peter’s Valerie Singleton and on the cover of Vogue.
Princess Anne presenting Olympic silver to daughter Zara in 2012
Yet she has always preferred to deflect that spotlight on to others.
Fortunately, though, she saw merit in my idea and granted unique access to our crew from Oxford Films, led by the award-winning director Ian Denyer (fresh from his acclaimed BBC2 portrait of another British institution, author Hilary Mantel).
The result is a 90-minute ITV film as busy and varied as its central subject. It is full of new insights as well as enchanting ciné film from the Duke of Edinburgh’s private collection.
The documentary has no presenter; with this subject, it doesn’t need one. As writer and producer, however, I have interviewed the princess at length about life as a daughter, wife, mother and grandmother.
We have discussed the extraordinary range of her work – from Save The Children and Riding For The Disabled to The Hovercraft Museum. She explains her devotion to her regiments, the King’s Royal Hussars among them.
She is not only by far the longest-serving member of a regiment which made her Colonel-in-Chief at the age of 19, but she has seen regimental children grow up and then join up.
Some of them are now parents themselves. ‘We’re into grandchildren,’ she admits. If proof were needed of the bond between the Forces and the Royal Family, this is it.
Her two children, Zara and her brother Peter Phillips, make a very engaging double act. Their fond reflections on their childhood – as near to normal as can be expected for a monarch’s grandchildren – are eloquent testimony to the princess’s devotion to her family.
The Queen and Prince Philip with children Charles, Anne, Andrew (right) and Edward
They delight in tales of the mother who would return home from a state occasion and head straight for the farm.
‘She’d come home from engagements in exactly what she was wearing, make-up on,’ Zara recalls, ‘put her welly boots on, jacket on, do her chickens and get her eggs.’
There would be no cotton wool for a well-adjusted pair who still regard themselves emphatically as country folk rather than royalty. Dogs and horses are just a way of life.
‘Just because you fall off or you fall over, that doesn’t matter,’ says Peter, recalling the mantra drummed into him by both parents: ‘Get up, carry on, mind your manners.’
Now that she is juggling two young children with her own career, Zara, 39, has come to appreciate all the more how much home life must have meant to a busy princess doing the same.
‘When you are working, you also want to go home and be a mother,’ she reflects. Whatever the demands of royal duty, the Princess Royal was certainly determined to be a hands-on mum.
My hair? It only takes me 15 minutes!
Anne with her famous ‘do’ and (right) Erin in The Crown
During the early 70s the princess was at the cutting edge of cool, appearing on the cover of Vogue three times in as many years.
Now, nearing her 70th birthday, she is back on the pedestal of high fashion once again thanks to the Netflix drama The Crown. Of all the characters, it is the sassy, uncompromising Princess Anne, played by Erin Doherty, who has been the surprise hit of the latest series.
One American critic called her the ‘indisputable standout’. Not that the princess has seen it, as she reveals in our documentary.
‘I don’t watch Netflix and The Crown,’ she tells Frances Segelman, at a sitting for a birthday bust in the sculptor’s studio. But she hints she may have seen the first few episodes.
‘The early ones were quite interesting,’ she notes, ‘but making a series about people who are living is always quite a dangerous thing to do.’
The princess shows amazement at a press interview in which Erin revealed it could take her Netflix hair team two hours to recreate the ‘Anne’ look.
‘I’m thinking, ‘How could you possibly take that long?’,’ scoffs Anne. ‘I mean it, it takes me ten or 15 minutes.’
What’s more, the princess reveals she does her own hair. ‘It’s so much quicker,’ she says. ‘The idea that they’re taking that long. You think I need that every day? I don’t think so!’
‘She was the one taking us out onto the farm, helping with the farm, helping with the lambing, all that sort of stuff,’ says Peter.
The pair remain in awe of the princess’s memory power.
‘She’s like a sponge. The information that’s stored in her brain, it’s incredible,’ marvels Zara, adding, ‘It’s quite annoying as well!’ ‘It is quite annoying,’ Peter chimes in.
We also went to see the princess’s husband. For nearly three decades, she has been loyally supported by Sir Tim, whose post-Royal Navy career has now spanned major organisations including the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and English Heritage (he is its chairman).
After a low-key Scottish wedding in 1992, their marriage has long outlasted the princess’s first, to Olympic rider Captain Mark Phillips.
That 1973 ceremony, the first royal wedding of the colour TV era, was watched by half a billion people worldwide.
Relations remain thoroughly amicable. ‘I was thinking it’s quite amusing that she married first an Army officer and then a Naval officer,’ Sir Tim reflects, ‘so there must be something about the military.’
Peter pays tribute to his stepfather’s steadfast supporting role, saying, ‘He’s been a very, very strong support for her. He’s definitely been a very strong part of her public life.’
The children have absolutely no wish, however, to join their mother and Sir Tim in their favourite holiday pursuit.
‘Our ideal break, if we have a break, is to go up to our boat on the west coast of Scotland and spend a few days sometimes getting wet and cold,’ says Sir Tim.
He adds, tellingly, that once on board their 44-foot yacht, the princess is the better sailor. ‘I navigate. I know how to get from A to B. But she’s a better sailor of the boat, better at setting the sails.’
Peter and Zara both chortle at the thought of these two seadogs tackling the Outer Hebrides. ‘I’m sure she tells the admiral what to do,’ says Zara.
‘She’s also an admiral. In fact she’s slightly more senior than he is,’ Peter chips in (the princess is indeed the Admiral and Commandant of Women in the Royal Navy).
‘I’m sure they tell each other,’ laughs Zara. ‘You wouldn’t go on a boat with them.’
Family aside, I have talked to those who work for the princess and know her well, including some of her ladies-in-waiting, speaking on camera for the first time. Her private office is known for being a lean, highly efficient unit within the royal orbit.
They all know that the princess expects very thorough briefing notes ahead of all her engagements.
Sir Nick Wright, her private secretary for 17 years until his retirement last year (and another ex-Royal Navy officer), laughs at the memory of an early mishap.
‘I remember once, I’ve never forgotten it, she said, ‘Private Secretary, what normally comes after 16?’ And I knew then that page 17 of the brief was missing.’
Old friends – including a childhood playmate and a best friend from school – offer their recollections of her childhood days.
We look at her years as a top-tier international sportswoman, beating a certain George Best to win the 1971 BBC Sports Personality Of The Year – ‘I was just amazed to be included’ – and competing at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
The princess’s campaign ended in near-disaster when she suffered a nasty fall. She insisted on remounting for the sake of the overall team result. It was a gutsy response but there is no point in asking the princess about it.
Princess Anne revealed the pressures on members of the Royal Family is always harder on the young. Pictured: The Princess Royal in 1973
As former Olympian-turned-lady-in-waiting Jane Holderness-Roddam explains, ‘She got back on and competed. She was that concussed that she couldn’t remember and to this day she doesn’t remember the rest of the course.’
I also went to see a pair of very well-known ex-colleagues who worked with her on bringing the 2012 Olympics to London.
Ex-Mayor and now PM Boris Johnson recalls her ‘integral’ part in it all. Games chairman Lord [Sebastian] Coe remains in affectionate awe of a fellow Olympian with whom he has spent years on various grand sporting committees.
LOCKDOWN AT GATCOMBE
Despite being marooned for months in Gloucestershire, the princess and Sir Timothy have been fully occupied during the lockdown. ‘Sitting still really doesn’t happen very much,’ she explains during a rather surreal conversation on the Gatcombe Park estate, her home since 1976.
The interview is conducted in the middle of a field, in order to comply with social distancing rules. A lighting stand blowing over in the breeze is not the only glitch. At one point we end up with some extra (off-camera) company.
As the interview progresses, some of the princess’s horses and cattle wander up to the fence behind her to check us all out. Afterwards, Princess Anne introduces us to some of them, including a magnificent White Park bull and her horse, Cloud Formation.
Pictured: Princess Anne being interviewed on her estate by Robert Hardman (seated), with sound recordist Chris Syner (far left), and director Ian Denyer
The princess greeting nosy Cloud Formation in the grounds of Gatcombe Park
‘There’s always something to do in a place like this. We’ve got a mixture of livestock; there’s fencing and gates; the things that always need mending,’ she says. However, she is the first to recognise her own good fortune.
‘Look around. It’s not hard here,’ she says. ‘The idea of being stuck in a block of flats with small children – I can’t imagine how difficult that would be.’
However, she has heard plenty of first-hand accounts. Never previously a fan of video links, Princess Anne instantly mastered the art of teleconferencing to keep in touch with her charities and military units, more than 300 all told.
This is the longest continuous period of time that she has spent here at Gatcombe. Yet, like everyone else, she misses the human touch.
‘Almost everything that she does in a public way involves people coming together to meet her for some reason or another,’ explains Sir Tim. ‘So that’s been very difficult.’
No sooner had the Government’s stay-at-home edict been loosened than she was on her way (driving herself, of course) to her first postlockdown engagement.
It was a show of support for the Royal Corps of Signals (she is their Colonel-in-Chief) who were on Covid-testing duty in the area. There were no cameras (other than our own) and no fuss.
The princess just wanted them to know that their efforts had been appreciated. Explaining her approach to all of her Forces engagements, she tells me, ‘I think it’s important that they recognise that there is somebody from outside the military who may understand what they’re doing.’
‘As I always reminded our colleagues sitting around the table, while we’ve sauntered into a board meeting at two o’clock, she’s probably opened five hospitals by the time she’s even had lunch,’ says Lord Coe, adding that he has always loved the princess’s bracing approach to the fudge and flannel that are part of committee culture.
The double-gold-winning head of world athletics bursts out laughing as he recalls the meeting at which some blazered windbag was ploughing on with a pointless contribution.
The princess leaned over to Coe, unaware that her microphone was still on, and whispered, ‘I think he is probably the most stupid person in world sport.’
‘This echoed around the room and I couldn’t quite get to the red button while I was listening to the words coming out!’ Coe remembers.
‘She never flinched. It was as though that never happened and we just moved on. But it is probably one of my favourite moments.’
The princess has had her share of tricky moments. After 70 years in the royal frontline, how could she not? Whether you are born royal or join the family like Kate and Meghan, it is never an easy ride.
And it is always harder on the young. Indeed, she is rather glad not to be starting out on the royal career path today.
‘The pressures that you’re seeing at the moment applied to the younger members of the family, it’s always worse because that’s what the media is interested in,’ she tells me.
‘That’s hard sometimes to deal with. Everybody’s been through it, but there was no social media in my day, so it probably has made it more difficult.’
Even so, her approach to the pitfalls of public life is clearly the same as the advice she gave her children all those years ago: ‘Get up, carry on…’
So, given her time all over again, what might she have done differently? A life in the Forces, perhaps?
She smiles. ‘I’m not going to indulge in ‘what if?’,’ she replies. ‘That’s too difficult.’
- Anne: The Princess Royal At 70 will be shown tonight at 9pm on ITV.