The Crown has introduced a whole new generation to the doomed marriage between Prince Charles and Princess Diana, the infamous Margaret Thatcher years in Britain, and the “overlooked,” as show creator Peter Morgan put it, Princess Anne (via The Telegraph). Anne, Queen Elizabeth II’s only daughter, was never considered a very popular royal, but the show brought out her bluntness and independence, giving her a whole new legion of fans.
One of the most interesting plot points in Seasons 3 and 4 of The Crown was Princess Anne’s romance with Andrew Parker Bowles and her subsequent marriage to fellow equestrian Captain Mark Phillips. In Season 4, we see Anne become increasingly unhappy with Phillips. But what really happened between Anne and her first husband? It turns out, the unhappy relationship was filled with some serious spinoff-worthy scandals and drama that the TV show left out. Here is the truth about Princess Anne’s first marriage.
Before Princess Anne was linked to Mark Phillips, she had some interesting love affairs
Like older brother Prince Charles, Princess Anne had her fair share of love affairs before settling down and tying the knot. One of Anne’s earliest romances was with Gerald Ward, an Eton-educated friend of the family. It turns out, the pair may have never actually been an item, though Ward was often named as a potential suitor in the press. Notably, he eventually became Prince Harry’s godfather (via The Telegraph).
One of Anne’s most famous early suitors was Richard Meade. Like Anne, Meade was an Olympic equestrian, who, according to Harper’s Bazaar, was known as one of the sport’s biggest hunks at the time — in fact, he won three gold medals! Little is known about the romance between Meade and Princess Anne, but while they were seen at the Royal Ascot together in 1969, The Independent described their affair as brief. According to the Daily Mail, the queen didn’t approve of the match, which may explain why they eventually parted ways (via South China Morning Post), leaving her to get together with Captain Mark Phillips later on.
Princess Anne met Mark Phillips at a "party for horse lovers"
Princess Anne certainly had plenty of eligible suitors in her youth, as biographer Sally Bedell Smith told Elle. One of these suitors was Captain Mark Phillips, whom she met in 1968, at a party “for horse lovers,” according to the Chicago Tribune. As People reported, this event took place in Mexico City, so it was the year that the Olympics were hosted there. Captain Mark Phillips was also a member of Britain’s Olympic equestrian team, just as Princess Anne was. According to Newsweek, the couple quickly bonded over a mutual love of horses. In fact, there is even a book about the couple’s love of horses and their impressive equestrian careers.
The couple became engaged in 1973. During a press event, Anne was asked if the marriage could last under the pressure of royal life. She famously replied, “Can? It’s got to, hasn’t it?” (via People).
Princess Anne started a relationship with Andrew Parker Bowles after meeting her first husband
One of Princess Anne’s romances that The Crown did include was the notorious affair with Andrew Parker Bowles. It’s easy to see why this love affair featured in the show — Parker Bowles went on to marry Camilla Parker Bowles, who was Prince Charles’ girlfriend, then mistress, and then finally, second wife (via Harper’s Bazaar). It’s a juicy, scandalous love triangle — or love square — that the producers of the show clearly loved getting their hands on. But how much truth is there to the romance between Anne and Parker Bowles?
While the pair are shown in some pretty racy situations in The Crown, the real-life romance was probably a little different. As royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith told Vanity Fair, the couple did date in 1970 — however, they were unable to consider marriage as Parker Bowles was Catholic. And it turns out, Anne’s relationship with Parker Bowles did not overlap with Camilla’s. Sounds like the real-life story is a little less dramatic. According to Smith, who also spoke to Elle, their relationship fizzled out and they remained friends. Parker Bowles is even godfather to Anne’s daughter with Mark Phillips, Zara.
Princess Anne and Mark Phillips married in a lavish ceremony in 1973
The wedding between Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips took place on Nov. 14, 1973. It wasn’t quite the same international event as the wedding between Prince Charles and Princess Diana, however, but, at the time, it was definitely a pretty exciting affair.
As People noted, the “famously low-key” princess pulled out all the stops on her wedding day. She was the first of the queen’s children to marry, so the wedding was surrounded with intrigue. Roughly 500 million people were said to have tuned in to watch the event. The BBC presented an eight-hour broadcast, and the day was made a national holiday. Anne wore a lavish Tudor-style wedding dress with a seven-foot train and donned a tiara that her mother, the queen, had also worn on her wedding day. But unfortunately for royal fans, this lavish ceremony was entirely skipped over in The Crown.
This is where Princess Anne and Mark Phillips lived after getting married
After tying the knot, Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips began married life by moving into Gatcombe Park. As Woman & Home reported, the large estate is located in Gloucestershire on 700 acres of parkland and was given to Anne and Phillips by the queen. The home was refurbished by the Crown before the family moved in in the late ’70s. The large estate was ideal for the horse-loving couple, as it provided the perfect land for equestrian events.
Anne explained on the BBC show Countryfile (via Woman & Home), “It’s really nice to come back and just be yourself in an area like this.” She then said that she works hard to make the home pay for itself by investing in farming, craft fairs, and equestrian events. “This is not something that comes free,” she said. “This has got to pay [its] way, otherwise I can’t stay here.” It remains Anne’s permanent residence as of 2020.
Princess Anne raised her children from her first marriage in a "well lived-in place"
Princess Anne and her first husband Mark Phillips had two children, Peter in 1977 and Zara in 1981. As Hello! noted, Anne started a famous trend with the birth of her son. She was apparently the first royal to give birth in the Lindo Wing and to pose for photographers with her newborn on the now-famous steps.
Anne and Phillips also shocked the world by deciding against giving their children titles. As the Express reported, Phillips had declined an earldom when he married Anne, which meant that the children were the first royal babies to be born “commoners” in over 500 years (via BBC).
According to former royal bodyguard Ken Wharfe, who spoke to People, family life at Gatcombe Park was pretty happy and relaxed when the children were young. He recalled that Anne’s nephew Prince William “rather liked the controlled chaos” of the home, which Wharfe described as a “well lived-in place.” Sounds like Anne and Phillips created a laid-back, easy-going home for their children in their early years, even if that wasn’t obvious on The Crown.
Why Princess Anne reportedly had an affair during her first marriage
The marriage between Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips reportedly survived through a series of affairs before eventually ending officially in 1992. One of the earlier reported affairs was between Anne and her bodyguard, Sergeant Peter Cross. This rumored affair was almost entirely skipped over in The Crown — as Marie Claire noted, it was alluded to very briefly in a scene in which the queen said that “there’s been… talk” about the bodyguard. The queen then said that he was being relocated to desk work, to which Anne replied, “You can’t. He’s the one thing that makes me happy.”
So, what really happened between Anne and her bodyguard? Cross had been Anne’s personal bodyguard for about a year when the rumors started in 1979. When it became a scandal after a story broke in The Sun (via Marie Claire), Anne reportedly ended things. In 1984, Cross sold details about their relationship to a tabloid. However upset Anne and Phillips may have been, their marriage survived the scandal.
In 2020, Cross told the Daily Mail that Anne had become “very lonely and isolated” at the time because of her husband’s work commitments. “We became very close because I think the Princess appreciated my point of view on life,” he said.
Princess Anne was also linked to this actor during her first marriage
Apparently, Princess Anne’s bodyguard, Sergeant Peter Cross, may not have been the only man who caught her eye during her first marriage. According to the Chicago Tribune, there had been some speculation about her relationship with actor Anthony Andrews, known for his role as Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited.
In 1988, the Los Angeles Times spoke to the actor about his close relationship with the princess. Apparently, he and his wife, Georgina, had struck up a friendship with Anne and her husband, Mark Phillips, because they all had a passion for horses. As the Times noted, some of the “more scurrilous” tabloids had begun speculating about an affair between Anne and Andrews at the time. When asked about the rumors, Andrews refused to comment. “I’ve learned that you cannot win in that kind of situation,” he explained. “Whatever I say is bound to come out the wrong way, so it’s better to say nothing.”
We’ll probably never know if the rumors were true — so it’s no great surprise that the producers of The Crown chose to leave this particular scandal out of the show.
Princess Anne reportedly had an affair with second husband before her divorce
Of all of Princess Anne’s reported affairs during her marriage to Captain Mark Phillips, her alleged affair with Timothy Laurence (who would later become her second husband) was probably the most famous at the time and it certainly became one of the royal family’s most scandalous romances. In 1989, People revealed that Buckingham Palace had confirmed that Laurence had sent the princess a series of love letters.
The scandal began when The Sun reported that it had anonymously received letters written to the princess, stolen from the palace. The palace published a statement, saying, “The stolen letters were addressed to the Princess Royal by Commander Timothy Laurence, the Queen’s Equerry.” Several sources revealed that Laurence and Anne had a very close friendship, with one revealing, “He cares for her in the way her husband does not.” While the letters weren’t published, the tabloids described them as being “affectionate” and “more romantic.”
The Crown’s fourth season, which many fans are upset about, covers the time period between 1979 and 1990, and while the show has yet to introduce its viewers to Laurence, it will almost certainly cover his relationship with Anne in Season 5.
Princess Anne's first husband, Mark Phillips, was rumored to have his own affairs, too
While Princess Anne certainly had her fair share of tabloid-driven scandals during her first marriage, Captain Mark Phillips also made headlines for his rumored romances. The Chicago Tribune wrote in 1989 that Phillips had “semi-public affairs” with a series of women during the marriage. His affairs included British television anchorwoman Angela Rippon, PR executive Kathy Birks, and Pamella Bordes, an Indian model and call girl. As People reported, Rippon and Birks denied the rumors.
Bordes, however, claimed that she had met Phillips while studying at his riding school and developed a very close relationship. “We struck up an immediate rapport,” she said. “We were being drawn to each other, so we spent the evening drinking and talking until very late, certainly after everyone else had left.” Phillips commented, “I never had a relationship with Miss Whatever-Her-Name-Is.”
While The Crown does show Anne and Phillips drifting apart, it completely left out the rumors about Phillips’ affairs.
Princess Anne and Mark Phillips reportedly led separate lives after their daughter's birth
In addition to the alleged extramarital affairs, the marriage between Mark Phillips and Princess Anne seemed to be practically non-existent by the late ’80s. According to People, the couple had begun to drift apart shortly after their daughter’s birth in 1981 (via Express).
As People reported in 1989, Phillips had become increasingly interested in his equestrian businesses, while Anne’s was more involved in her royal duties. Friends reportedly claimed that the couple remained together for the sake of their children. Even Phillips’ father admitted that the marriage wasn’t working, saying, “What Mark and Anne have is not what I would think of as married life.”
The Chicago Tribune reported that the couple were officially separating in September of 1989, shortly after the letters to Anne from Timothy Laurence were exposed. As the publication revealed, for years, their lives had increasingly separated. They frequently traveled separately and spent months on end apart.
In 1991, it was revealed Princess Anne's first husband had a secret child out of wedlock
As it turned out, Mark Phillips had, in fact, had at least one affair during his marriage to Princess Anne. In 1991, the shocking news broke that Phillips had fathered a child with Heather Tonkin, an art teacher from New Zealand. She claimed, “My ambition is to get Mark’s public acceptance of her and to be able to enter his name on her birth certificate.” While Phillips denied the claim, it was discovered that he had been sending Tonkin money for the past five years (via Express).
According to New Idea, Phillips had always struggled to accept the child. One friend said, “He just never accepted it and he couldn’t cope with it.” He continued to deny the child was his until a court-ordered DNA test proved that Tonin’s claims were true.
Because this shocking revelation about Phillips’ affair came to light in 1991, it wasn’t covered in the fourth season of The Crown.
Princess Anne and Mark Phillips divorced in 1992, and Anne remarried months later
After Mark Phillips was revealed to be the father of a child out of wedlock, he and Princess Anne finally divorced in 1992. It seems as though that scandal was the last straw in their incredibly strained marriage (via Express).
For Anne, this newfound freedom meant she could finally be with Timothy Laurence, the queen’s equerry whose stolen love letters had caused a scandal in 1989, as noted by People. Anne and Laurence married in December of 1992. According to Hello! magazine, the wedding was suitably low-key, taking place at the Crathie Kirk church near Balmoral in Scotland. Unlike Anne’s first wedding, which had over 500 million viewers (via People), her second wedding had only 30 guests.
As of 2020, Anne and Laurence are still happily married. It seems pretty clear that her ill-fated first marriage came to an end at the right time.
Princess Anne's first husband reportedly later had several affairs with equestrians
Mark Phillips also moved on quite swiftly after the end of his marriage to Princess Anne. Unsurprisingly, he ended up falling for another horse lover. In 1997, he married Sandy Pflueger, a fellow Olympic equestrian from the US team. However, as the Express reported, his second marriage was also unsuccessful. Apparently, he fell for yet another horse-loving woman in 2012, Lauren Hough. Hough was 28 years his junior and — you guessed it — an Olympic horse rider, just like his previous two wives. He certainly has a type!
At the time, the scandal led to calls for Phillips to resign his position at the US Eventing Team. The Telegraph (via Express) wrote that the affair was under scrutiny as Hough was his colleague at the time.
Anne didn’t comment on the new scandal surrounding her ex-husband — however, it’s probably safe to say that she’s glad to finally be out of the tabloid headlines!
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