The emotional significance of Princess Anne’s recent appearance – and how it represents one of her earliest signs of independence

Princess Anne recently paid a visit to her former school – but there’s a poignant reason why the school means a lot to the Princess Royal

Princess Anne returned to her old school for an appearance this week
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Princess Anne paid a visit to her former school this week to celebrate its centenary. The Princess Royal’s visit might have held a special significance, as deciding to leave the palace to go to a regular school was one of the first independent decisions she made as a young girl – and it set in motion the future of the hard-working, no-nonsense royal we’ve come to respect.

The Princess Royal paid a visit to her former school in Kent to mark its centenary earlier this week.

Princess Anne started as a pupil at Benenden School in 1963 and has returned for various appearances throughout the years – suggesting the school holds a special place in her heart.

During her visit on Thursday, she spoke to sixth formers from 60 different schools about inspiring female leaders. The school's current head teacher Samantha Price said the princess was “a great role model” for pupils.

Princess Anne attended Benenden School in 1963

(Image credit: Getty Images)

But the school might have meant a lot to the Princess Royal, too. She was the first princess to opt to go to a normal school, breaking years of tradition.

Choosing to go to the school was a departure from the usual for royal children, who typically were educated at the palace by private tutors before being old enough to go off to boarding schools or university.

Anne was so nervous on her first day that she was sick on the way, according to Channel 4's 2002 documentary The Real Princess Anne.

A former schoolmate told the documentary, “I do remember we were all extremely excited about her arrival. Everyone I knew said: ‘What's she like? What’s she like?’ you know.”

“And I said, ‘She’s just like one of us.’”

Princess Anne became the first princess to go to a 'normal' school in 1963

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Anne had been educated by her governess, Catherine Peebles, up to that point – first with her older brother Charles and then, after he went to boarding school, on her own.

Another royal expert said in a different documentary, Channel 5’s Princess Anne: the Daughter Who Should be Queen, royal expert Katie Nicholl explained, “I think growing up as a young girl, Anne did have quite a different childhood to previous royal children. Initially, she was homeschooled… But she was desperate to go to school and she wanted to get out and discover life beyond the palace walls.”

This, of course, has become something of a pattern of the Princess Royal ever since.

Princess Anne has always done her own thing, from competing in the Olympics to being a tireless worker

(Image credit: Getty Images)

She’s long been regarded as the hardest working royal – wracking up more appearances than royals decades younger than her even still – and she is beloved for her no-nonsense approach, with a throwback video revealing her humble plans for if she wasn't a royal. 

From her sharp attitude to the press to being “ahead of her time” with her fashion boldness and later becoming the first royal to compete in the Olympics, Princess Anne has never followed the easy path.

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.