Princess Anne ‘wants to go on Strictly’ – and it might actually help the royal family’s image problem

According to ‘Strictly’ professional dancer Nadiya Bychkova, the Princess Royal would be keen to get on her dancing shoes for the BBC competition. It seems improbable, but it might actually be a good PR move for the Windsors, says Katie Rosseinsky

Tuesday 30 April 2024 15:00 BST
The Princess Royal reportedly fancies her chances at taking part in Strictly
The Princess Royal reportedly fancies her chances at taking part in Strictly (PA/iStock)

Picture the scene. It’s late September and you’re settling down to watch the latest season of Strictly Come Dancing. Then – cue a triumphant musical flourish from Dave Arch’s indefatigable band – who should come down the staircase but… Princess Anne! Her hair is still in that signature austere up-do, but she seems to have undergone the contractually obligated spray tanning, and now she’s making small talk with Tess Daly!

This is not just a mad middle England fever dream. According to one of Strictly’s stars, the Princess Royal is actually pretty keen to make a play for the Glitterball Trophy. “She is a Strictly fan, and she wants to go on the show – she told me,” professional dancer Nadiya Bychkova revealed to The Sun, after meeting Her Royal Highness recently at a ballet event. “I think she would be good,” Bychkova added. “There’s a lot of personality there, isn’t there?”

Securing a royal contestant would certainly be one very regal way for the show’s producers to stick two fingers up at the naysayers who, without fail, respond to the new Strictly line-up each year by claiming they’ve “never heard of any of ‘em”, as if there’s a moral superiority in not being able to immediately recognise a children’s TV presenter or soap actor. But, highly improbable as it may be, perhaps dispatching Anne to learn the Pasodoble could actually do The Firm some good. Plus, she must already have a whole wardrobe of ceremonial cloaks that she could practise with.

After years of scandal – from Prince Andrew’s Newsnight debacle to the bleak rift between Princes William and Harry to the media circus around the identity of an alleged “royal racist” – it’s now hard to buy into the old thinking that the royals are somehow “above” certain aspects of celebrity life (like appearing on reality TV). Their stand-offish model of dealing with the press and the public no longer seems to work: it just means that they are prone to losing control of the narrative.

Anne was one of the few members of the House of Windsor to get a reputational boost courtesy of Netflix’s The Crown – a show that, whether deliberately or not, has also dismantled much of the royals’ mystique – thanks to a sympathetic, sparky portrayal by actor Erin Doherty. In real life, she comes across as hardworking and straightforward, which aren’t exactly common descriptors for the rest of her family. Wouldn’t a stint on Strictly be a cheery way to show that off to the viewing public? Surely attempting to dance the Charleston in a spangly dress on national television would be far more dignified than that Newsnight car crash.

And although we’ve never seen a royal on reality telly before – King Charles popping into The Repair Shop doesn’t count – it’s not entirely without precedent. Anne (in)famously appeared on It’s a Royal Knockout in 1987, alongside her younger brothers; she dressed up in a panto-style ye olde costume and watched as Gary Lineker and Tom Jones took part in an obstacle course, dressed as vegetables. The one-off programme was roundly panned as cringe-inducing – an entirely fair assessment. But our attitude to fame and deference to royalty has changed a lot in the decades since then. The Princess’s close family have already shown they’re not totally averse to the cameras, either. Her son-in-law Mike Tindall went into the I’m a Celeb jungle in 2022, where he had to share a camp with Matt Hancock; her daughter Zara has cropped up in the “star in a reasonably priced car” segment on Top Gear (Zara doesn’t have a royal title, as part of Anne’s efforts to give her children a more normal life – arguably further proof of her good sense).

Princess Anne would be keen to step into the Strictly ballroom, according to one of the show’s professional dancers
Princess Anne would be keen to step into the Strictly ballroom, according to one of the show’s professional dancers (Getty)

So in a world where Anne manages to get clearance from the boss (ie her older brother) to spend the autumn learning about fleckerls and arabesques, who would she get paired up with? Now that Anton du Beke has retired from squiring older contestants around the ballroom to sit on the judging panel, it’d probably be a toss-up between Kai Widdrington, who did such a charming job dancing with 79-year-old Angela Rippon last year, and Johannes Radebe, who’s already had a royal seal of approval from Queen Camilla. You can just picture the episode one montage where one of them “surprises” her while she’s down at the stables, doing something equestrian.

The Princess doesn’t seem the type to set much store by the emotional “journeys” that Strictly sets such store by, though. I can’t see her bursting into tears if Claudia Winkleman peered kindly from underneath the fringe to ask if it’d been a tough week. Instead, she’d be more likely to declare briskly that it was all jolly good fun. A straight-talking, quickstepping Anne might just be the secret weapon that the royals so desperately need: why not let her swap her sensible boots for dancing shoes for a little while? 

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