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Princess Anne's enduring popularity: Her equestrian excellence, Canadian connections and an escaped kidnapping attempt

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LONDON, ENGLAND -

It seems that the Royal Family’s run of bad luck when it comes to their health continues. Princess Anne, a stalwart royal member, has been admitted to hospital with a suspected concussion.

Known for her equestrian prowess and long-standing dedication to the sport, Princess Anne's involvement with horses is well-documented. The incident, which occurred on her Gatscombe Estate, has resulted in a concussion and a hospital stay at Southmead Hospital, Bristol.

Preliminary reports suggest that the injury is consistent with an impact from a horse's head or legs.

Princess Anne’s commitment to her royal duties and public engagements is well known, and it's anticipated that she will resume her responsibilities once she's recuperated. However, her trip to Canada that was due to begin at the end of this week has been postponed.

She will also miss the state banquet for the Japanese state visit on Tuesday. The equestrian community and admirers of the princess have extended their well-wishes for her speedy recovery, underscoring the respect and affection she commands both within and outside royal circles.

Princess Anne's exceptional contributions as a royal figure extend far beyond traditional ceremonials, encapsulating outstanding equestrian achievements.

The one that stands out the most is her participation in the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics -- a testament to her dedication and skill and a historic milestone in that she became the first Royal Family member to compete in an Olympics. 

Princess Anne and husband Capt. Mark Phillips at the XXI Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada in 1976 (AP Photo)

Princess Anne, the second child and only daughter of Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II -- achieved considerable success in equestrian sports long before the Games. Notably, she won an individual gold medal at the 1971 Burghley Three-Day Event and secured individual and team silver medals at the 1975 European Eventing Championship in Luhmühlen.

Her prowess in the sport was further recognized in 1971 when she was voted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

More recently, her contributions to equestrianism were honoured in June 2016, when she received the prestigious Longines Ladies Award, celebrating her as a legend of the sport.

Beyond her competitive achievements, Princess Anne has continued to influence the equestrian world through various roles. She served as the President of the International Equestrian Federation from 1986 until 1994, significantly shaping the sport's governance.

Princess Anne riding in the three day equestrian event in Bromont, Que., July 22, 1976 (CP PHOTO)

Her ongoing dedication to equestrianism not only highlights her personal passion but also her commitment to advancing the sport globally.

She escaped an attempted kidnapping

Away from equestrianism, Princess Anne has led far from a boring life. The attempt to kidnap her stands as one of the most audacious and shocking incidents in modern British royal history. On the evening of March 20, 1974, as Princess Anne and her then-husband, Captain Mark Phillips, were returning to Buckingham Palace from a charity event, their car was ambushed on The Mall by Ian Ball.

Ball, an unemployed labourer with a history of mental health issues, had meticulously planned the abduction, intending to demand a ransom of £2 million, which he supposedly aimed to distribute to the National Health Service.

The incident unfolded with shocking swiftness and violence. Ball forced the royal limousine to a halt and began firing a pistol, injuring several individuals who intervened. Among those wounded were Princess Anne’s personal bodyguard, Inspector James Beaton, her chauffeur, and a passing journalist named Brian McConnell. Despite the chaos and physical threat, Princess Anne remained remarkably composed. When Ball demanded she exit the vehicle, she famously retorted, “Not bloody likely!” Her resolute stance contributed to thwarting his plans.

The dramatic confrontation ended when Ball was apprehended by police officers arriving at the scene. He was subsequently arrested and later pleaded guilty to attempted murder and kidnapping charges. Ball was sentenced to life imprisonment and remains detained under the Mental Health Act.

This harrowing episode underscored significant lapses in royal security protocols at the time, prompting a thorough review and subsequent enhancements in protective measures for members of the Royal Family. Princess Anne's courageous response during this event earned her widespread admiration. The incident is frequently cited as a testament to her fortitude and that keep-calm-and-carry-on attitude. It also serves as a stark reminder of the potential threats faced by the Royal Family and the necessity for robust security arrangements to safeguard them.

Connections to Canada

There’s no doubt that Princess Anne will be disappointed to postpone her trip to Canada that was supposed to start later this week. Her three-day visit to Canada in May 2023 exemplifies her deep connection with the country. She participated in various significant events including a commemorative concert, a parade, and a gala dinner in Moncton and Sussex.

This visit was not just ceremonial; it included laying a wreath at the RCMP Memorial and attending a special military recognition event where she was invested with the Canadian Order of Military Merit. These interactions underscore her ongoing engagement with Canadian communities and her role in strengthening U.K.-Canada relations.

Princess Anne addresses the military and the crowd during the 8th Canadian Hussars Exercise of the Freedom of the City of Moncton Parade on Saturday May 20, 2023 (Ron Ward / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Princess Anne holds several honorary military titles in Canada, reflecting her longstanding relationship with the Canadian Armed Forces. She is the ceremonial Colonel-in-Chief of the 8th Canadian Hussars, a position she has held since 1972. Her involvement extends beyond ceremonial duties; she actively participates in military anniversaries and engages with troops, exemplifying her dedication to Canadian military organisations. Her recent involvement in the 175th anniversary celebrations of the 8th Canadian Hussars in New Brunswick highlights her active role and commitment to the regiment.

Princess Anne's contributions to Canada go beyond her military roles. She has made a significant cultural impact through her frequent visits and interactions with various communities across the nation. Her presence at events such as the unveiling of a statue in Normandy to honour the Royal Regina Rifles demonstrates her respect and appreciation for Canadian history and her commitment to remembering the sacrifices made by Canadians. Her words during these events resonate with many, reinforcing the strong ties between the Royal family and Canada.

She's even more popular than The King

The princess’s lasting appeal is deeply rooted in her genuine commitment to public service and her approachable personality, which have both played a significant role in shaping her public image and has cemented her status as an indispensable member of the Royal Family.

In this Nov. 14, 1952 file photo, Prince Charles, right, sits with his sister, Princess Anne, as they pose for a photo, at Balmoral Castle in Scotland (AP Photo / File)

Princess Anne consistently ranks highly in public opinion polls in the U.K., reflecting her widespread acceptance and admiration. Latest data by YouGov polling shows her popularity at 65%, making her more popular than King Charles III. This level of esteem underscores her significant impact as a member of the Royal Family, admired for her dedication, keep-calm-and-carry-on attitude and work ethic.

Her public engagements are a testament to her enduring popularity. Princess Anne is known for her numerous appearances at events that resonate with the public, such as charity functions and military commemorations. She is celebrated for her strong work ethic, involvement in over 300 charities, and her practical approach to royal duties.

Her no-nonsense attitude, combined with a down-to-earth manner, makes her relatable to the public. Often, she is described as the hardest working royal, and usually notches up the most number of public engagements every year amongst the working royals. This year, more than ever, Princess Anne has been put to work following the health issues that have plagued both King Charles III and the Princess of Wales rendering them out of action.

Her trendsetting ways

Princess Anne is also something of a trendsetter thanks to her decision not to bestow hereditary titles upon her children, Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall. For this, she has been praised for allowing them a semblance of normalcy and the freedom to carve out their own paths.

Princess Anne at the Albert Hall, London, where she was co-presenting the Society of Film and Television Arts Awards (SFTA) on March 4, 1971 (Photo by Michael Stroud / Daily Express / Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

This choice reflects a modern parenting approach within the royal context, making her a relatable figure to many parents. Furthermore, her active involvement and straightforward nature demonstrates the importance of authenticity and dedication in public service.

Princess Anne's influence and legacy, marked by notable equestrian endeavours, Olympic participation, and prestigious accolades, vividly exemplifies her dedication and passion for the sport. Equally, her enduring bond with Canada through various military and community engagements enriches her contributions to strengthening international relations, showcasing a deep and multifaceted impact on public and cultural spheres that transcends geographical boundaries.

It’s evident that her enduring popularity and respect among the public are well-merited. As an accomplished horsewoman, Princess Anne's accident serves as a reminder of the inherent risks associated with equestrian activities. Her resilience and dedication to her passions have long been admired, and this incident is unlikely to diminish her enthusiasm for the sport. I’m sure it won’t be long before we see her on horseback again.

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