Royal Corner

The Queen We'll Never Have

As a new ITV documentary is set to air on Princess Anne, the Queen's only daughter has proved her worth as a tough, hardworking royal, who many feel would make the perfect Monarch.

JULY 29th, 2020

© Getty Images


he has long been called ‘the Queen we’ll never have’. Through her no-nonsense attitude and admirable work ethic, Princess Anne has become the royal who has consistently navigated the pressurised world of Monarchy with a steely determination to serve no matter what life throws her way. Her outlook has led to comparisons with her father, the Duke of Edinburgh, and whilst some believe she is better equipped to be the Monarch over Prince Charles, there are others who feel her blunt personality would be problematic. Yet, as the Princess Royal heads towards turning seventy in August, the Queen’s only daughter looks to be riding a renewed wave of popularity, one which she is traversing with her signature outlook of humoured bemusement.

“I’ve never understood the need for popularity. I perform engagements across the country and I rarely pay much attention to whether a camera is pointing at me or not,” admitted Anne in an interview in 2010. The feature in Town and Country magazine was to celebrate her sixtieth birthday and ended with the question: where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

In typical Princess Anne fashion, her answer was blunt, to the point and not up for interpretation: “Still breathing – hopefully”.

Princess Anne alongside the Queen for a portrait by Annie Leibovitz - © Annie Leibovitz

If anything, the answer perfectly highlights what many members of the public like about the Princess Royal; she is direct with an occasional injection of humour that can be, in some cases, refreshingly self-deprecating. Take her response when at an official function in 2012 she was accidently introduced as “The Prince of Wales”. With seasoned good-humour and feigning exaggerated shock, the Princess found the slipup deeply amusing and in jest responded later in her speech: “My brother tells a story of having visited an elderly care home in Scotland, and at the time he was in a kilt,” she began. “And he actually heard an old lady say, ‘Is that the Princess Royal?!’

“He thought it was quite funny. And I’m wearing trousers today – well there you go.”

The hilarious interaction was a snapshot into the Anne that is seen behind-the-scenes – the cheeky, good natured Princess who is fiercely loyal. But whilst she is more than happy to showcase her humour, Anne is an extremely hard worker, so much so that palace courtiers have nicknamed her ‘the Iron Workhorse’ due to her unflappable personality and unbreakable stamina.

Princess Anne is mistaken for the Prince of Wales in hilarious video from 2012. - © Caroline Stocks

“She never stops!” says her daughter Zara Tindall in a recent interview. “And throughout the years we’ve stopped trying to make her. It’s remarkable really, how she finds time for everything and everyone.”

Last year, Princess Anne completed 506 engagements, only beaten by her brother Prince Charles on 521. Yet the year before in 2018, the Princess Royal undertook 518 – more than any other royal. 2017 saw 528, again topping the list, and as you look back over the years, Anne’s engagement numbers rarely drop below 500.

Anne pictured with her daughter Zara Tindall at Ascot - © AP

Whilst for her daughter, her workload may be remarkable, for the Princess it is normality. Her unwavering and consistent support for her charities is renowned, but her commitment is rooted deeper than a patronage.

“You have to show you care, not only because one does, but also many of my patronages are small with limited resources, and a friendly face can make a huge difference,” Anne explains. “There’s no point becoming a patron if you can’t be bothered to do the job. And if you can’t be bothered to do the job, make way for someone who can.”

There’s that typical Anne response again. And whilst it leaves you clearly understanding her meaning, for some within palace walls, the Princess’ forthright personality is the antitheses of what a royal should be. As a teenager, one courtier concluded that the young, rebellious Princess was “too much like her father”.

Like Anne, The Duke of Edinburgh is known for his shoot-from-the-hip mentality and uncompromising opinions. He too was also deemed “problematic and a nuisance” as the young handsome Consort to the more assuaged Queen. Yet alongside the fierier temperaments, Anne has also inherited her father’s optimism for forward-thinking.

For many, the younger generations of the Royal family are deemed the changemakers – the ones who have brought the ancient Institution into the 21st century. But long before The Cambridges’, The Sussexes, or even Princess Diana, The Princess Royal was breaking boundaries that would change aspects of the Monarchy from the inside, and their effects are still prevalent today.

A 19-year-old Princess Anne on the Royal Yacht Britannia in New Zealand - © PA

Princess Anne has recently stated, as a youngster, she was battling the innerworkings of the Royal Family, and in particular, the prevalent sexism she felt was overwhelming. Detailing a royal visit to Australia when she was nineteen, Anne watched how her mother was treated differently to the other women in the room, simply by virtue of being The Queen. Frustrated as she observed what she considered double standards; the Princess took matters into her own hands.

“Of course, the Queen is the Queen and it’s a different relationship, but I still got the feeling that there were women at that end of the room and men at this end of the room,” she recently told Australian Women’s Weekly.

“To be honest, I think they were gratified in Queensland that I was the least bit interested in livestock or the land. They were quite happy to talk.”

Anne’s advanced attitude didn’t end here however, she continued with her own children, purposely deciding that they would be raised with no official royal titles. Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall have therefore grown up as non-working members of the Royal Family, and yet to Anne and their father, Captain Mark Phillips credit, their children are well-rounded individuals who have both achieved much success in their own careers.

But the Princess Royal isn’t completely behind the renegade outlook occasionally perpetuated by the younger royals. In April she claimed that members of the Royal Family should not always try to “reinvent the wheel” and must remember the basics of service.

“I occasionally do see myself as the boring old fuddy-duddy at the back saying, ‘Don’t forget the basics’”, she said. “Change is best achieved with subtly, without making too many waves. I’ve learnt throughout my life that the heavier the rock you drop, the larger the ripples it makes, and therefore the more attention you garner – good and bad. If you can strive for change quietly, it’ll appear quicker and last longer because no one will notice it happening.”

Anne shares a joke with her brother Prince Charles - © Getty Images

Although much of Anne’s changes have perhaps gone unnoticed, the Princess is seeing somewhat of a resurgence of popularity. Thanks to the hugely successful third season of Netflix’s The Crown, audiences have fallen in love with the feisty, unapologetic Princess. The real Princess Anne isn’t far off from the portrayal in the popular series, but what the writers have perhaps failed to feature is her ultimate pride and joy – her service to Queen and country.

Though her life hasn’t always been perfect, with a divorce and an attempted kidnap, whereby she demonstrated her unrivalled toughness by staunchly refusing to cooperate and leave her car, her duty has been absolute. “It is the foundation of who she is,” says Peter Phillips. “If she was to have any fears, it would be that she had disappointed her patronages, the country, and most importantly, the Queen.”

And here lies the success of Princess Anne – her unwavering and immovable loyalty to the country and institution she loves. It’s never been about the glamour, or that picture-perfect moment. She has always understood that her part in the great magnificence of monarchy is a supporting role, one which is never to shine too brightly, but just enough to remind us all she’s still there.

For some, her brash, straight-talking approach is unbecoming for a Princess, let alone a Queen. Yet her dynamic and continuing work ethic consistently sets the royal bar higher and higher. She is the consummate professional who is unapologetically herself, jokes, and all. And in the end, Princess Anne may very well be ‘the Queen we’ll never have’, but she’s the Princess you’d fight to have on your side.

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