32 times Princess Anne was everyone's hero - from making history to hilarious, no-nonsense quotes

The Princess Royal is one of the hardest working (and most popular) members of the Royal Family - and these moments prove why

Princess Anne
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Princess Anne is celebrated as being one of the most resilient and reliable royals - serving with unfailing grace. 

And while there are plenty of fun facts about the Princess Royal, there have been several instances where she's impressed us with her relatability, wit and cool demeanour. 

From memorable moments to inspiring quotes, we revisit the times Princess Anne proved she was an unsung hero of the Royal Family. 

32 times Princess Anne was everyone's hero

Inspiring us through her relentless work ethic

Princess Anne

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Princess Anne is famously recognised as the hardest working royal. 

The Princess Royal continues to top the list of most official engagements carried out per year, usually tracked by the Court Circular (the official record of appearances undertaken by the working members of the Royal Family). 

In 2023, Anne carried out 457 engagements, with King Charles carrying out the second most with 425.

The Princess Royal: From Princess Mary to Princess Anne by Helen Cathcart | £11.99 at Amazon

The Princess Royal: From Princess Mary to Princess Anne by Helen Cathcart | £11.99 at Amazon

This insightful biography focuses on the role of Princess Royals throughout history, including Princess Anne who currently holds this prestigious title. It explores Princess Anne's life, drawing on journals, royal letters and associated material, and how the six Princess Royals before her helped to shape this position.

By becoming an accidental fashion

Princess Anne wearing a bright orange and yellow outfit

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Princess Anne has become something of an accidental style hero to many, simply by refusing to follow the trends and sticking to her own tried and tested formula for decades. 

Similar to her mother, the late Queen Elizabeth, Anne has been known to prefer bright, bold colours, but she's also known for her frugal, no-nonsense approach to clothes. 

For the more eco-conscious generations, the Princess Royal has even become an icon of sustainability, regularly going viral on the likes of TikTok when new fans discover she's been re-wearing outfits for decades

With her lifelong commitment to trademark sunglasses

Princess Anne wearing a hat and her trademark visor-like sunglasses

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Long before the likes of Balenciaga and the Kardashians made slick, wraparound sunglasses trendy, Princess Anne has been sporting the same frameless sunglasses for decades. 

The Princess Royal has a few sunglasses in a similar style, but one pair on regular rotation are her Adidas sunglasses - and they are quintessential her. They're functional, durable and reliable, showcasing Princess Anne's preference for practicality above all.

The fact they've just so happened to come back in style is just the cherry on top. 

Adidas Sp0016 Sunglasses| £152.39 at Amazon 

Adidas Sp0016 Sunglasses| £152.39 at Amazon 

With a sleek, practical design, these sunglasses have been a Princess Anne staple for decades.  

Making history after the death of her mother

Princess Anne keeping Vigil of the Princes with her brothers after the death of Queen Elizabeth II

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When her mother, the late Queen Elizabeth II died, Princess Anne became the first female royal to participate in what was known as the Vigil of the Princes, where children of the monarch stood a symbolic watch over the coffin.

As Queen Elizabeth's coffin lay at St. Giles, all four of her children joined the Royal Company of Archers to stand guard. The Vigil of the Princes has only taken place twice before - following the death of King George V, and following the death of the Queen Mother in 2002. 

The Vigil of the Princes gets its name as George V's four children - King Edward VIII, and Princes Albert, Henry and George - stood guard at their father's coffin in January 1936 at Westminster Hall.

When she became the first royal to take part in the Olympics

Princess Anne

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Princess Anne has always been known as a keen athlete - much like most of her sporty family - but she was the true hero when she took it one step further and became the first royal to ever compete at the Olympic Games. 

The Princess Royal competed at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games as a member of the British Equestrian team.  

She was just 25 when she made such history, riding the Queen's horse, Goodwill for the occasion.

When she shared the pain of using technology with parents

Princess Anne with Queen Elizabeth II

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sometimes, the heroism comes from the mundane relatability which proves - royal or not - we're all the same. 

When the coronavirus pandemic struck the world in 2020, not even the royals were immune. Switching a lot of their engagements to virtual appearances, Anne and her late mother joined in a call to support the nation's carers during National Carer's Week. 

During the online call, Anne asked her, "Can you see everybody? You should have six people on your screen," to which the late Queen replies, "Yes, well I can see four..."

Laughing off the tech troubles, Anne jokingly replied that she didn't need to see her as "you know what I look like!"

With the amusing gift she gave King Charles

A young King Charles and Princess Anne

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Anne once showed off her cutting sense of humour in the best way possible, proving she's the kind of person we'd all love to share a joke with.

The royals famously give each other humorous gifts at Christmas instead of splurging big amounts of money. And one year, per the Mirror, Anne poked fun at the fact her brother, King Charles (who was still Prince Charles at the time), had a notoriously long wait to ascend to the throne, owing to Queen Elizabeth's historic 70 year reign. 

Determined to give her brother a throne of his own, she presented him with a toilet seat - with the colloquial term for a toilet being 'the throne.'

When she reworked a decades old outfit - and still looked great!

Princess Anne rewearing the same pink satin shirt and skirt decades apart

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Fashion is cyclical and no one knows this better than Princess Anne - but her penchant for not thinking twice about re-wearing outfits for glitzy, glamorous events is such an inspirational move. 

Take her bold, pink satin outfit (pictured). She first wore it to the 1984 Bafta Awards at Grosvenor House Hotel. Keeping to the style of the day, the pink gown had voluminous puff sleeves. 

Cut to nearly two decades later and eagle-eyed fans saw the same outfit repurposed with more modern sleeves.

When she didn't take herself seriously on a TV game show

Princess Anne

(Image credit: Getty Images)

On February 5 1987, Princess Anne became the first member of the Royal Family to appear as a contestant on a TV quiz-show, taking part in the BBC's A Question of Sport. 

It was a classic case of the Princess Royal being the unsung hero of the Royal Family, as she did away with protocol and joined in the banter, not batting an eyelid when she was referred to in most un-royal terms, including "mate" and "pal."

When she chose love over precedent

Princess Anne on her wedding day to Captain Mark Phillips

(Image credit: Getty Images)

While Princess Anne's first marriage to Captain Mark Phillips wasn't to last forever, the two remain on good terms. 

And Anne's choice to wed Mark Phillips was another example of her proving why so many look up to her. It was only the second time in 200 years that a royal had married a "commoner" - an archaic term for someone who had no title to inherit from their father. 

The relatable and steadfast Princess doesn't care for such things, and neither did anyone else, it seems. A reported 500 million people across the world watched her wedding to Captain Phillips on November 13, 1973.

Her hilarious reaction to being mistaken for Charles

King Charles with Princess Anne

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Given the airs and graces around royalty, you'd think mistaking the Princess Royal for her brother would be a major faux pas. 

But in 2012, Princess Anne was mistaken for her elder brother, the now-King Charles, while attending the Young Advocates for Agriculture debate.

In an iconic Princess Anne moment, the Princess Royal laughed along with the joke, rolling her eyes in comic shock. Per the Express, after noticing his mistake, speaker David Bolton said it was "the excitement", to which Anne replied, "There's a worry!" 

When she shared her humble back-up plans for life away from royalty

Princess Anne walking at Gatcombe Park with her children

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In 2023, old clips of Princess Anne being interviewed found their way to a whole new audience via TikTok.

One clip which really resonated with fans saw Princess Anne speaking with British presenter Terry Wogan in 1982. 

A chic looking Anne, with a high-collared white blouse and a gold clasp, proved that the thought of life away from the palaces wasn't something she necessarily feared. 

When asked what she'd do if the Royal Family were abolished, she replied that she’d simply have to "work even harder on the farm.” She then reveals that "out of necessity" she qualified as a "heavy goods vehicle driver."

By accidentally starting a royal tradition

Princess Anne with a baby Zara Phillips (now Tindall) outside the Lindo Wing

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The famous shot of royal mums holding their newborn babies outside the Lindo Wing of London's St Mary's Hospital is now something royal fans await with eager anticipation. But did you know it all started with Princess Anne?

It actually used to be custom for royal mothers to give birth at home. But Anne broke this tradition, heading to the Lindo Wing to deliver both of her children, Peter and Zara. 

In typical cool, calm and collected fashion for the Princess Royal, she became the first royal mum photographed holding her baby (her second child, Zara) outside the hospital.

Laughing off an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction with her son-in-law

Princess Anne and Mike Tindall

(Image credit: Getty Images)

While appearing on ITV's I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!, Mike Tindall made Princess Anne sound like the mother-in-law everyone wants. 

Explaining a rather embarrassing encounter with the Princess, he talked about dancing too vigorously during Zara Tindall's birthday. 

Then, as he told amused celebrity campmates, "Ripped my trousers, straight in front of her. It happened to be that my boxers that I had on at that time said 'nibble my nuts.'" 

Showcasing her laid-back humour, she had the best reaction upon reading the rather unusual order on his pants. She simply quipped, "I'd rather not."

With her classic British stiff upper lip

Princess Anne

(Image credit: Getty Images)

After the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Anne proved that she could keep her composure while still reaching out for a bit of comfort - and it's the kind of amusing story which captures the no-nonsense British stiff upper lip. 

Per People, while waiting for more family members to get to Balmoral, she received a hug from a "senior member of staff" after apparently looking visibly distressed.

Accepting the embrace at a moment of need, Anne then wryly quipped, "That is the last time that’s going to happen."

Gallows humour during a difficult time? A great trait. 

When fans thought she didn’t want to meet Donald Trump

Princess Anne

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Whatever your political affiliations, the thought of a British Princess drolly getting in on the joke of one of the most talked about US Presidents of all time is pretty amusing, and fans thought the Princess Royal was letting us in on how she *really* felt about the 46th POTUS during a state visit in 2019. 

During a greeting line for Donald and Melania Trump, Anne was seen standing further back and apparently shrugged. 

Queen Elizabeth II had to actually gesture for her to move along and join the greeting line. 

Her suggested reluctance led to fans on social media at the time to crack jokes about her being the “Princess of Shade.” However, Anne was merely shrugging because it was later revealed she was informing the Queen there were no more dignitaries left to join the line and it was just her.

By holding on to the same coat for over five decades

Princess Anne wearing the same blue coat several decades apart

(Image credit: Getty Images)

You could almost forgive someone born into royalty to be glib with possessions, but Princess Anne is a hero we can all relate to in the fact she's held on to a top quality coat for over FIVE decades.

This blue fur-lined coat has been seen on the Princess since 1976.

Since that first noted appearance of the chic outerwear, she has worn it on Christmas Day in 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2012. Why change the formula if it's working? 

By being a prepared woman who always has a pen to hand

Princess Anne signing a document

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Social media users had a lot of fun with King Charles's ill-tempered reaction to a pen not working for him in 2022 - but one person who won't be caught out the same way is the Princess Royal. 

Per the Royal Family's official website, Anne always uses her own pen for signing things, knowing that you can't always rely on others to give one which works.

Such a small thing, but when someone thinks about every small detail in such a way, how can they not be considered an icon?

With her history of 'firsts' starting young

Princess Anne

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The first to do many things - compete at the Olympics, break tradition to stand with her brothers at the Vigil of the Princes - Princess Anne's trailblazing ways started young. 

She was the first princess to ever leave the palace to attend school with other children, choosing to board at Benenden school in Kent. 

Years later, she'd also become the first generation of the Royal Family to take and pass A levels - in History and Geography.

When she wanted everyone to eat cake - but not like another famous royal...

Princess Anne slicing a cake

(Image credit: Getty Images)

This act of forcing cake on everyone is nothing like Marie Antoinette, and instead, proved that the Princess Royal knows how to include and relax those around her. 

While on one of her countless engagements, Anne came across a most decadent chocolate cake - and she knew that everyone needed to tuck in. 

But, perhaps detecting that some might be cautious around the royal, she joked that everyone needed a slice or it would be a crime. 

As reported at the time, Anne joked, "I hope you’ve all had a chance to see this cake because it really is stunning. But the instructions are that you will eat it if I cut it... otherwise it’s just legalised vandalism."

When she hilariously shaded her brothers

Princess Anne

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In 1984, Princess Anne enjoyed an interview with US host David Frost. 

During the rare sit down interview, Anne proved she had a quick wit - and wasn't afraid of a bit of sibling rivalry. 

When asked about the hardest part about being a royal, the no-nonsense Princess quipped, "Trying to look stupider than my brothers."

When she shared how much she values her work

Princess Anne touring Africa for Save the Children

(Image credit: Getty Images)

While some might think the royals carry out their work with an air of obligation, Princess Anne really proved her worth with a moving quote about how deeply she values her role. 

During her interview with Vanity Fair in celebration of her 70th birthday in 2020, Anne said, "It’s not just about 'can I get a tick in the box for doing this?' No, it’s about serving.

"It comes from an example from both my parents’ way of working and where they saw their role being. I mean, my father served; it was a more direct form of service, I suppose you could argue. And the Queen’s has been a lifelong service in a slightly different way, but they both have that perspective of service, which is about working with people."

When she got candid on not being a typical Princess

Princess Anne

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Growing up royal might be a valid excuse to develop a skewered perception of reality, so Princess Anne really deserves some credit for always keeping a level head. 

Per the Express, she once poked fun at the realities of living as a Princess - and got candid about people's perception of what that could mean. 

"As a young princess, I was a huge disappointment to everyone concerned. It’s impractical to go around in life dressed in a long white dress and a crown."

When she proudly embraced being a 'dinosaur'

Princess Anne

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In a world increasingly reliant on screens and social media, Anne is the hero we need to speak out against it all. 

Per the Independent, the Princess Royal revealed she is not a fan of the ever-increasing dominance of devices. 

"I find it very difficult to understand why anybody gets sucked into screens and devices. Life’s too short, frankly. There’s more entertaining things to be done. I suppose that puts me in the real dinosaur range," she said.

When she got very real about her own beauty habits

Princess Anne

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Actress Erin Doherty - who played the Princess Royal in Netflix's The Crown - once shared in an interview with Town and Country that perfecting Princess Anne's hair could "take two hours," even dubbing it "its own beast."

However, during the ITV documentary, Anne: The Princess Royal at 70, Her Royal Highness had the most hilarious response, dismissing the thought of any high maintenance required to achieve her signature style. 

She says on the special. "I’m thinking, ‘How could you possibly take that long?' I mean it takes me 10 or 15 minutes."

No muss, no fuss. We love it.

When she had the most humble reaction to her fans

Princess Anne

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Despite the Princess Royal being quite firmly anti-devices and social media, she's become something of a hero to a new generation - who resurface clips from the past capturing her humble and no-nonsense attitude.

One such clip which generated a lot of likes and views showed members of the public waiting outside for her at an engagement. 

Thinking they were queuing for something, she asks the crowd, "Are you inside or outside?"

But the fans reveal they're actually " just waiting for you Ma’am."

Anne, in a joking but appreciative way, jokes, "Oh…get away."

When she inspired a 2024 fashion house

Princess Anne

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Princess herself is known to wear the same clothes for decades, but she actually has become the muse for a whole new series of runway collections. 

In The Times, fashion designer Silvia Venturini Fendi dubbed Anne "the chicest woman in the world…capable of maintaining her femininity while wearing a uniform."

Fendi, the third-generation namesake head of the fashion empire, let the Princess Royal inspire her new collection. 

"I fell in love with the style of Princess Anne, who to my mind is the most elegant woman in the world. When I saw the coronation last year with Princess Anne in her uniform, I thought she looked beautiful. So I said, ‘Let’s be inspired for a men’s collection.’"

When she defended doing things the traditional way

Princess Anne

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you've ever felt like people hop on fads and trends and forget that, sometimes, there's no substitute for old fashioned work, let Anne be a steady voice in a changing world. 

During her Vanity Fair article in 2020, Anne stuck her neck out to share truly sage advice. 

Despite calling herself "the boring old fuddy-duddy at the back" she explained people shouldn't "forget the basics... I don’t think this younger generation probably understands what I was doing in the past and it’s often true, isn’t it? You don’t necessarily look at the previous generation and say: ‘Oh, you did that?’ Or: ‘You went there?’

"Nowadays, they’re much more looking for: ‘Oh, let’s do it a new way.’ And I’m already at the stage, ‘Please do not reinvent that particular wheel. We’ve been there, done that. Some of these things don’t work. You may need to go back to basics.'"

When she chose to give her children a more normal life

Princess Anne with a young Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Princess Anne decided not to give her son and daughter - Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall - hereditary titles for admirable and relatable reasons which many parents would understand. 

Zara has previously stated she was grateful for this, saying "From my point of view, I was obviously very lucky that my mother didn't give us any titles so I really commend her on that. We were very lucky that we got to do it a bit our own way."

Speaking about her decision to forego titles for her children, Anne told Vanity Fair, "I think it was probably easier for them, and I think most people would argue that there are downsides to having titles. So I think that was probably the right thing to do."

When she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize

Princess Anne

(Image credit: Getty Images)

As long time patron and president of Save the Children, Princess Anne has visited the organisation's projects all around the world, preferring to really get involved in the work. 

She has visited Bangladesh, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Mozambique, Ethiopia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

As a result of this hard work, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 by Kenneth Kaunda, President of Zambia.

When she defied centuries of tradition for equality

Princess Anne as a Knight of the Garter

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Princess Anne was installed into the Order of the Garter in 1994, the oldest and most senior Order of Chivalry in Britain. 

Included in the Order are the likes of the now King Charles, the Duke of Gloucester (the late Queen's cousin) and Princes Edward and Andrew. 

When Anne was to be inducted, she'd typically be expected to be done so as a Lady of the Order, but she insisted on receiving the title her brothers would have - Knight. 

Ladies of the Garter didn't have the same status as their male counterparts. While Knights became "companions", Ladies did not. And so it was done that she became the first female Knight of the Order. 

With her iconic reaction to almost being kidnapped

Princess Anne

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Princess Anne and her first husband Mark Phillips were returning to Buckingham Palace on 20 March 1974 from a charity event on Pall Mall when their car was forced to stop by a Ford Escort.

Ian Ball was the driver in question, and he jumped out and began firing his pistol, injuring three people involved, including Anne's chauffeur and personal police protection officer. 

In the kerfuffle, the Princess Royal’s car came to a stop and Ian managed to reach her. 

He told her that he intended to kidnap her and hold her for ransom - for a sum given by varying sources as either £2 million or £3 million. Demanding Anne get out of the car, she replied with the most heroic and iconic of lines - telling the armed attacker, "Not bl***y likely!"

While she eventually did get out, fortunately, a passer-by (who even more fortunately turned out to be a former boxer named Ron Russell) punched Ian in the back of the head.

Anne has told the story on chat shows before, and done so in a most calm manner, refusing to embellish and paying her thanks to the people involved who were injured or helped her.

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.

Having written for various print and online publications—ranging from national syndicates to niche magazines—Jack has written about nearly everything there is to write about, covering LGBTQ+ news, celebrity features, TV and film scoops, reviewing the latest theatre shows lighting up London’s West End and the most pressing of SEO based stories.