Princess Anne recalls surviving kidnap attempt and telling kidnapper: 'Not bloody likely'

Royal described as 'cool, calm and collected' during incident that saw four people get shot

Sarah Young
Thursday 30 July 2020 11:06 BST
Princess Anne recalls the moment she survived a kidnapping attempt

Princess Anne has spoken about the moment she survived an armed kidnapping attempt.

On 21 March 1974, just four weeks after her royal wedding, the Princess Royal was on her way home after a charity event with her new husband Captain Mark Phillips.

As they drove down The Mall towards Buckingham Palace, their chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce was forced to stop after another car blocked its route.

Suddenly the car’s driver, Ian Ball, exited his vehicle and pulled out a handgun. Ball shot Anne’s chauffeur and her security officer, Jim Beaton, as well as a nearby tabloid journalist who tried to intervene.

Ball, who was trying to kidnap Anne, had planned to ask the Queen for a £2 million ransom. However, when the gunman told the royal to get out the car, she refused and bravely replied “not bloody likely”.

Now, Princess Anne has opened up about the terrifying moment in a new documentary which celebrates her 70th birthday, saying she still remembers each moment “like photographs”.

Speaking on ITV’s Anne: The Princess Royal at 70, the Queen’s daughter said: “What is interesting is what you remember and how you remember it, because although I thought I remembered everything that happened I would never have been able to swear I could remember in the right order.

“Because they were like photos, individual snapshots. Very clearly.”

The Princess added that she had previously thought about how she would react if someone attempted to kidnap her.

“One thing about horses and sport is you have to prepare for the unexpected and you've got to think through the problems that are likely to occur," she said.

When the gunman told the royal to get out the car, she bravely replied “not bloody likely” (ITV)

“I suppose that was the discipline which to some extent coloured my thought processes.”

Anne’s protection officer, Beaton, also spoke about his memories of the day during the documentary.

“There were a couple of short cracks so I took my pistol lifted it up and fired it in his direction but nothing happened, it obviously had jammed,” he recalled.

“I manage to get in the car and there was Ball with his gun, so I just stuck my hand in front of it.

“He fired, and it went through the window and into my hand.”

During the incident, Princess Anne tried to talk Ball down, telling him she would not leave the car when passer-by Ronnie Russell punched the gunman in the head twice, finally bringing the kidnap attempt to an end.

The Queen awarded all of the four people who Ball shot a medal as a thank you for helping to save her daughter's life (ITV)

The Queen awarded all of the four people who Ball shot a medal as a thank you for helping to save her daughter's life.

Mr Beaton said: “Princess Anne, because she was so cool, calm and collected, I think it kept the situation in control.”

Ball was later sent to a psychiatric hospital by an Old Bailey judge.

This is not the first time the royal has spoken about the ordeal.

In a 1980 interview with British talk show host Michael Parkinson, Princess Anne spoke about how she refused to move, even as Ball grabbed her arm and tackled her to the floor of the car.

“We had a sort of discussion about where or where not we were going to go,” she revealed, adding that she saw no point in being rude to her assailant during the attack, which she thinks lasted at least 10 minutes.

“I was scrupulously polite because I thought it was silly to be too rude at that stage,” she said, adding that it was the moment when Ball ripped her dress that her attitude changed for the worse.

“The back of my dress split and that was his most dangerous moment,” she quipped. “I lost my rag at that stage."

You can watch the full documentary Anne: The Princess Royal at 70 on the ITV Hub here.

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