A princess carrying her own bags through the crowded terminals of JFK Airport? That was indeed the sight that greeted travelers earlier this month, when Anne, Princess Royal, visited New York on a working trip weeks after her mother’s funeral. The visit, which included attending a charity gala,visiting the National Lighthouse Museum and meeting with the English-Speaking Union, furthered Anne’s reputation as Britain’s “hardest working royal,” a “no frills princess” who shuns the spotlight and high society status her siblings, nieces and nephews have sought.
With what biographer John Parker calls her “abrasive goodness,” Princess Anne has proved herself the strongest surrogate for her older brother, King Charles III. In 2021, Anne completed 387 public engagements, the most of any working royal for that year—including Charles. Utterly tireless, she once wryly asked an associate after a 17-hour-day, “What! You’re not getting tired, surely?”
Authentically herself, in sensible tweed, her hair pulled back in her trademark chignon, the sarcastic, adventurous, practical princess is the only one of Queen Elizabeth II’s four children to stay relatively scandal-free. The only girl among them—always aware she would be a supporting royal at best—Anne seems removed from the sense of entitlement that has gotten her brothers Andrew and Edward into trouble, with none of the emotional waywardness and tendency to whine that has plagued Charles.
She has successfully avoided the tiara trap (the expectation to be glamorous, decorative, and serene). Uninterested in being a celebrity, she refuses to cave to fashions, trends, or traditional gender roles—and has earned an enormous amount of goodwill in the process.
This is despite the fact that Anne is the only senior royal to be convicted of a criminal offense (she pleaded guilty to the charge that her dog Dotty attacked two children in a park in 2002). She also had a need for speed, which has resulted in a handful of fines over the decades and a temporary ban on her driving in 2000. She has risen above the gossip by being exactly what she is—a working royal—and in doing so has managed to earn the dignity and gravitas her siblings appear to lack.
“Princess Anne is universally respected because she is who she is—and I think it’s the same with Camilla; what you see is what you get,” a palace insider recently told Express. “She’s unselfconscious, unpushy and on message, and she gets on with the job.”
During her brother Charles’s lowest point during the 1990s, polls showed the UK public supported Anne succeeding the queen instead of him.
“I quite believe that had the Princess Royal been born the Queen’s first child, there might well have been … constitutional crises because of her strength and forthrightness,” writer Jeffrey Archer told John Parker, author of The Princess Royal. “The Princess has become what I would term one of our leading non-political figures, one of the world’s outstanding leaders who shows amazing persistence and courage. … She has devoted herself to public service in a way which resembles early Victorian Royalty.”
Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise was born on August 15, 1950, at Clarence House in London. According to Helen Cathcart, author of The Princess Royal: From Princess Mary to Princess Anne, her father, Prince Philip, telephoned his mother and grandmother with the news: “It’s the sweetest girl.”