Princess Anne: the republican's royal of choice

Viv Groskop on the Queen's daughter, who turns 65 today
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The Independent Online

If there is any royal who is the republican's royal of choice, it has to be the Princess Royal. Because she never looks as if she wants to be part of any of it. She rarely engages in communicating any kind of message to the public, and for the past 65 years of her life, she has largely managed to remain at a distance, private, above it all. There is something in her demeanour that suggests she'd really had enough of all this before it even started. Being third in line to the throne at the time of her birth? Yawn.

Anne's republican claim to fame is not a bad one: she has married two untitled men and her children do not to carry a title because their father, Mark Phillips, refused an earldom when they married. On the quiet, Princess Anne has made some major advances for the royals, both good and bad. Her 1973 wedding to Mark Phillips attracted a huge television audience, paving the way for the Princess Diana spectacle eight years later.

She became the first royal to undergo an embarrassingly public divorce. In some ways it presaged open season on the royal family, leading to the revelations about the marriages of Prince Charles and Prince Andrew. The family accepted that they were going to have to be more transparent. It's a work in progress.

Anne has distinguished herself in many impressive ways. She is an Olympian (equestrian, Montreal, 1976). She had five points on her licence for driving at 93mph. And she is the first royal with a criminal record – an offence under the Dangerous Dogs Act when her dog Dotty attacked two children in Windsor Great Park. Behind the unchanging "ultimate lady" coiffure, Anne is nails.

Let's not forget the kidnap attempt she survived in 1974 when a man shot her bodyguard and two other people (all survived). Ian Ball stopped his Ford Escort next to Princess Anne's limousine on Pall Mall and fired a gun. It later emerged he had a ransom demand of £2m, which he was planning to donate to the NHS. When he asked Princess Anne to get out of the car, she replied: "Not bloody likely," and escaped out of the other side while a passer-by disarmed the gunman.

Republicans don't salute, but if they did... Don't go changing, Anne. Especially not the hair. Happy birthday.

Viv Groskop's Edinburgh Festival show 'Say Sorry to the Lady' is at The Stand until 30 August;