Princess Anne, the reliable royal at the heart of Queen Elizabeth II's farewell

Widely regarded as the hardest-working British royal, she is accompanying her mother's coffin to London

Princess Anne, princess royal, speaks to her mother, the late Queen Elizabeth II, during a visit to Glasgow in 2021. AFP
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

The job of accompanying Queen Elizabeth II's funeral cortege on the final leg of its journey to London will once again fall to Princess Anne, the late monarch's only daughter.

The princess is believed to have been at the queen’s bedside, alongside her brother King Charles III, in her final hours.

And she was chosen by the queen herself to travel with the cortege on its long road journey from Balmoral, where the monarch died, to Edinburgh. On Monday, she stood alongside her brothers at a vigil at St Giles' Cathedral in the Scottish capital. On Tuesday night, she will be on board the plane bringing the queen's coffin to London.

The princess, who is regarded to be the hardest-working member of the royal family by the sheer number of engagements she attends, is thought to be much closer to the king than their other siblings. She is therefore expected to play a crucial role in providing him with counsel.

That is partly because of the large age gap between Charles, 73, Anne, 72, Prince Andrew, 62, and Prince Edward, 58. There is a decade between the eldest pair and their younger siblings, but only 21 months between Charles and Anne.

The pair are said to have a warm relationship, despite their different personalities.

As a child, Anne was boisterous and noisy, while Charles was quiet and sensitive.

“She didn’t exactly push him aside, but she was certainly a more forceful child,” the former royal nanny, Mabel Anderson, once said.

Her boxing gloves once had to be confiscated when she was at risk of hurting him too much.

Yet they grew close, and their relationship has prospered in recent years. That has led to speculation she may take on an important role as confidante to the king.

The princess, an accomplished horse rider like her mother, is reported to have once described herself as "not everyone's idea of a fairy-tale princess".

"You learn the hard way," she said. "There isn't a school for royalty."

She never sought to please the press, saying she did not "do stunts", and once told photographers to "naff off".

But the princess has earned respect from the way she has been willing to roll her sleeves up and work hard. She carried out 387 royal engagements alone in 2021, two more than the new king.

And the princess has made it clear she has no plans to retire any time soon.

“I don’t think retirement is quite the same [for me]. Most people would say we’re very lucky not to be in that situation because you wouldn’t want to just stop,” she told Vanity Fair to mark her 70th birthday.

"It is, to a large extent, the choice of the organisations you’re involved with and whether they feel you’re still relevant."

She has won the respect of hundreds of charities and organisations throughout her career as a working royal.

She is known for her quick wit and dry humour, a trait she shared with the queen.

So when she was the target of a kidnap attempt in 1974 when her car was ambushed, the princess naturally had the perfect quip.

An account released by the National Archives said assailant Ian Ball pointed his gun at Anne and said: "I want you to come with me for a day or two, because I want £2 million ($2.3m).

"Will you get out of the car?"

The princess replied curtly: "Not [expletive] likely ― and I haven't got £2 million."

Two police officers, her chauffeur and a passer-by were shot and wounded.

Like her mother, the princess is a skilled equestrian, and won the 1971 European Eventing Championship. The British public voted her BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

"I certainly saw it as a way of proving that you had something that was not dependent on your family and it was down to you to succeed or fail," she said of her horse-riding career that year.

She competed for Britain in the three-day equestrian event at the 1976 Olympics, but suffered concussion after a bad fall.

“She was that concussed that she couldn’t remember ― and still to this day I believe can’t remember ― the rest of the course,” Anne’s former lady-in-waiting, Jane Holderness-Roddham, a fellow event rider, told the ITV documentary, Anne: The Princess Royal at 70.

She married equestrian Mark Phillips in 1972, in a ceremony watched by an estimated 500 million people.

The princess had two children with the army officer, sports events managing director Peter and equestrian Zara, who married former England rugby captain Mike Tindall. She would follow her parents to the Olympics, winning silver in the team eventing at London 2012.

But neither of her children hold royal titles, after the princess declined an offer from the queen to extend them.

Anne, who supports more than 300 charities, organisations and military regiments, was granted the title of princess royal, traditionally given to the monarch's eldest daughter, in 1987.

Two years later, she split from Mr Phillips and the couple divorced in 1992.

Nine months later, Anne married naval commander Timothy Laurence, a former equerry to the queen.

They wed in Scotland as the Church of England did not permit the remarriage of divorcees.

Admiral Sir Laurence has been at the princess’s side as she has accompanied her mother’s coffin on its journey south.

Updated: September 13, 2022, 10:57 AM