Princess Anne’s fiery response to the UK Foreign Office in the 1980s proved she was always going to be a strong presence

Nothing was going to stop Princess Anne from carrying out her work – not even the British Government

Princess Anne's fiery response in the 1980s proves she was always going to be independent
(Image credit: Kent Gavin/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

“Damn them, I’m going.” A short – but powerful – response. The kind one has almost come to expect from the no-nonsense Princess Anne. The Princess Royal’s defiant retort came after the UK’s Foreign Office insisted she cancel a royal tour she was undertaking for a charity close to her heart back in the 1980s.

If there was ever any doubt that Princess Anne has always been consistent – the same hard-working, quippy, and strong person of principles – let’s revisit a recently re-discovered story of one of her first major tours.

Back in the 1970s, Anne began her work with the Save the Children Fund. By 1982, she had more than settled into her role as the President of the charity, and she planned her most extensive tour with the Fund yet.

The tour would eventually take her to Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti, North Yemen and Beirut. She would cover 14,000 miles in just three weeks, visiting immunization centers where diseases like typhoid and polio were rife.

Princess Anne on tour for Save the Children Fund in the 1980s

(Image credit: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

However, the tour almost didn’t come to be.

Writing in his book, Princess Anne: A biography, biographer Nicholas Courtney claimed the Princess Royal was beginning her tour when she received an “urgent communique” from the Foreign Office.

He writes, “Princess Anne received an urgent communique from the Foreign Office to say that it was unsafe for her to go on to Somalia as the sporadic border war with Ethiopia had flared up again.”

However, he writes that the Foreign Secretary at the time, Francis Pym, “had not bargained for Princess Anne’s tenacity.”

Her response to being told to abandon the important mission  was simple and unambiguous. “Damn them. I’m going.”

An undeterred Princess Anne called her 1982 tour a 'highlight' after defying orders to cancel it

(Image credit: Kent Gavin/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

She continued the work undeterred, visiting the Boroma refugee camp where she saw 40,000 refugees of war, and spoke to many Fund workers — a visit she later described as a “highlight” of her 1982 tour.

Princess Anne actually shares this pain with her nephew, Prince Harry.

The government intervened with Harry’s work when he had to cut his first military tour in Afghanistan short in 2008, after a publication leaked his location.

There was supposed to be a media blackout on the news but when Harry’s secret location got out, there was an immediate risk to his - and his squadron’s - safety.

The Government hastily evacuated the prince, but Harry voiced his frustration at the sudden turn of events many years later.

In 2016, he told the Andrew Marr show, “I was feeling very down. To be taken away from your team not knowing what is going to happen to them and whether you may be indirectly responsible was a huge thing that I had to swallow.”

Jack Slater
Freelance writer

Jack Slater is not the Last Action Hero, but that's what comes up first when you Google him. Preferring a much more sedentary life, Jack gets his thrills by covering news, entertainment, celebrity, film and culture for woman&home, and other digital publications.

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