Princess Anne, often overlooked, plays a key role during the queen’s death

LONDON — Princess Anne, the only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, has often kept a low profile in British public life, at times overshadowed by the personalities (and scandals) of her brothers.

But she is considered one of the hardest-working members of the royal family. And this week, she has been the only one of her siblings to accompany her mother’s coffin as it made its way on a six-hour car journey through Scotland, from Balmoral Castle to Edinburgh, and then on a flight to London.

“I was fortunate to share the last 24 hours of my dearest Mother’s life. It has been an honor and a privilege to accompany her on her final journeys,” Anne said in a statement late Tuesday. She said the experience on the queen’s final stretch among the crowds had been “both humbling and uplifting,” and she offered her “thanks to each and every one who shares our sense of loss.”

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Although she never served in the military, Anne, 72, known as the princess royal, holds a number of ceremonial titles and was seen in military regalia marching somberly behind her mother’s cortege in Scotland. She also took part in a traditional vigil in the church there, alongside her brothers Charles, Andrew and Edward. It was thought to be the first time a female member of the royal family has done so.

Anne has “always been hard-working, no nonsense,” Dickie Arbiter, a royal commentator and former press spokesman for the queen, told The Washington Post on Wednesday. “She’s been absolutely stoic and tremendous” since the death of her mother last week, he added.

In Arbiter’s view, Anne has not been “overshadowed” as much as she has been overlooked and “ignored by the media.” He recalled that she would add stops on trips to and from London to pack in extra work opportunities or visit charities, always arriving home late. Describing her as a “workaholic,” he said Anne is “very much someone who works for her charities,” adding: “She didn’t take them on just to be a figurehead.”

Anne, who undertook her first public engagement as a teenager, is involved with over 300 charities and military organizations, especially the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. Among the causes she supports are home aides, protection of cattle, heart health and the improvement of public transport. Most notably, she is a long-serving former president and current patron of the nonprofit Save the Children.

On top of her royal duties and raising children Zara and Peter, a young Anne represented her country as an accomplished equestrian.

She competed in the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games as a member of the British equestrian team and still works to support riding for disabled people across the Commonwealth, according to Buckingham Palace. She also took part in London’s successful bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games. Her first husband, army Capt. Mark Phillips, was also an Olympic equestrian, and their daughter, Zara Tindall, followed in both her parents’ footsteps.

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Anne also made tabloid front pages after being apparently scolded by her ever-diplomatic monarch mother during a 2019 visit to the United Kingdom by President Donald Trump. A video went viral online of the queen appearing to chastise her daughter with a subtle side-eye glance when greeting Trump and the first lady Melania Trump at a Buckingham Palace reception.

“She was funny,” said Arbiter of Anne, who often shared humor with her outspoken late father, Prince Philip, of whom she was a reported favorite. Queen Elizabeth was “proud” of her achievements, he added, and the two enjoyed “a very good relationship.”

“As the queen got older, [Anne] became a great companion and a great comfort to the queen,” Arbiter said. She also has fairly good relations with her elder brother, Charles, despite a “rocky period” after his separation from Princess Diana in 1996, he said. “Underneath it all, there was always a good relationship,” Arbiter added.

This week, Anne, who is 16th in line to the throne, thanked her mother for her “contribution to our national identity.” She added in a statement: “I am also so grateful for the support and understanding offered to my dear brother Charles as he accepts the added responsibilities of The Monarch.”

Anne famously declined to give her two children royal titles when offered. She also survived an attempted kidnapping in 1974 after her vehicle was pulled over by a gunman near Buckingham Palace. As the attacker shouted at her to get out, she reportedly replied, “Not bloody likely,” before she eventually escaped.

Like many royals, she has not been immune to having her romantic life publicized in the press. She divorced Phillips in 1992 during the queen’s so-called “annus horribilis” and eight months later married Timothy Laurence, a navy commander charged with caring for the royal family’s horses.

In 1989, love letters that Laurence wrote to Anne, while she was still married, were stolen and leaked to the Sun newspaper. The tabloid publicly pledged not to publish them and handed them over to British authorities, but it continued to print speculation about the extramarital relationship.

Laurence walked behind his wife and the queen’s coffin in a procession through central London on Wednesday from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall, where the late monarch will lie in state until her funeral on Monday.

Millions are expected to flock to London to catch a glimpse of the historic farewell to the queen. The state funeral of Elizabeth’s mother took place at Westminster Abbey in 2002, as did that of Princess Diana in 1997. The last monarch to have a state funeral there was King George II in 1760.

After the funeral in London, Elizabeth will make her final journey to Windsor Castle, where she will be buried at St. George’s Chapel close to her husband, Prince Philip, and father, King George VI.

Annabelle Timsit and Ellen Francis contributed to this report.

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