She knows the words to ‘Flower of Scotland’ by heart and rarely misses a Scotland rugby match. In her 70th birthday year, we look at Princess Anne’s strong affection for Scotland
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“I didn’t ask to be born a princess!” she once replied to an interviewer’s leading questions. It was partly a rebuke, but it was also a telling statement from Princess Anne.
Even though she did not ask to be born a princess, nobody could ever accuse Princess Anne of shirking her responsibilities. She has been tagged ‘the working princess’ and even anti-royalists have to admit that Princess Anne lives up to that label.
She has proved herself time and again to be capable of bringing a ray of sunshine to many of the world’s less fortunate people, yet on the day she was born – 15 August 1950 – it was a rainy morning in London. Almost prophetically, the skies cleared and the sun appeared just as Big Ben struck noon. Only 10 minutes before, Anne had been born.
The birth was announced in a Court Circular issued immediately. It simply stated: “At 11.50 o’clock this morning, Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh, was safely delivered of a Princess at Clarence House.”
Duchess of Edinburgh? Yes, prior to her ascension to the throne, HRH The Queen was the third royal to hold this title – George III’s mother was the first – but has any royal nailed their tartan colours to the mast more evidently than the Princess Royal, Princess Anne?
“Scotland is such a beautiful country with such passionate people, who could fail to want to be a part of it?” she once said. Those were not idle words either.
Throughout the years her affinity with Scotland has grown and grown. It may have all started when she was five years old and started to really take notice of her surroundings.
Anne had been to Scotland before, but this was a different trip in that she journeyed with her mother and Prince Charles to the village of Portvoller on the Isle of Lewis, further north than she had ever been before. The holiday not only cemented her love of Scotland, but during the trip the Royal Family visited Tiumpan Head Lighthouse on the Eye Peninsula and thus also began Anne’s love of lighthouses.
Like her older brother, Anne was close to her grandmother, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, who also had such a love of Scotland that she considered herself to be a Scot even though she was born in England.
Much of her maternal grandmother’s childhood was spent at Glamis Castle and the whole family have always loved Balmoral, so it is not surprising that Anne has such an affinity with Scotland. “My grandmother was a great influence on all of us, but I don’t think any of us needed convincing to have a love of Scotland,” she said on one of her many tours.
The Princess Royal’s busy schedule is legendary, with more than 500 official engagements every year and sometimes nearer 700. Many of those engagements are in connection with charities and organisations of Scottish origin or with branches dotted around the country.
Then, of course, there is rugby. Anne hardly ever misses a home match and has travelled abroad to support the Scottish national team. Her son, Peter, won Scotland Schoolboy international caps and there was never a prouder mum looking on whenever he played.
The princess has always had a love of sport, of course, having represented Great Britain in equestrian events at the Olympics, and she has made no secret of her love of rugby and being Patron of the Scottish Rugby Union, but she is also an avid sailor and looks forward to her holidays in Scotland where she and her husband, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, regularly sail – and, of course, visit lighthouses. That first experience at Tiumpan Head would eventually lead to her becoming a keen pharologist.
Talking of married life, Princess Anne and Sir Tim tied the knot at Crathie Kirk, near Balmoral, and spent their honeymoon in the Highlands rather than on an exotic island somewhere in the Caribbean.
As she approaches 70, the Princess Royal shows no signs of slowing down, and why would she? We are talking of a princess who survived a kidnap attempt, has competed in the tough world of horse racing and is generally regarded as a no-nonsense lady who likes nothing better than to wrap a tartan scarf around her neck and go for a walk with the dogs in the Highlands. “I am a member of the Royal Family,” she said. “Certain things are expected of me, but I am also a human being.”
Away from the media spotlight and the public perception, what is she really like? She has the reputation of being grumpy, but nothing could be further from the truth. Her son-in-law, ex-England rugby star Mike Tindall revealed, “She has a great sense of humour and she is very knowledgeable about many things, especially rugby.”
Her son, Peter, also spoke glowingly of his mother, “If ever we showed signs of getting above our station, she is the first one to bring us back to earth and she has always been there to give advice on life in general, invaluable advice.” Her daughter, Zara, echoed the same view adding, “She is great fun, has a wicked sense of humour and she is a good dancer too.”
Now we are really getting behind the scenes. We know that she likes a drink but is moderate, a whisky now and then, but probably more often a Martini at the end of a busy day.
She also genuinely appreciates the many gifts she receives during official engagements, especially chocolates. Many times, her smile has widened when she’s received chocolates and she will say, “These will not get home.” That is not a scripted response, she means it and they don’t.
Princess Anne, the Princess Royal holds many titles and quite a few of them are related to Scotland, but what will surely delight her more than anything is that she has often been referred to as ‘the unofficial Queen of Scots’ – a sobriquet of which she is undoubtedly proud.
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