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Denmark’s American-born Princess

Several European nations have had members of their royal families with American backgrounds – many of whom have created scandals.

In the British Royal Family, King Edward VIII chose to abdicate in 1936 to marry divorcée Wallis Simpson, and in more recent years, the Duchess of Sussex has been in the headlines in newspapers around the world after she and the Duke of Sussex stepped back from their senior royal roles.

In Monaco, on the other hand, they had great success with the beloved American princess, Grace Kelly, who tragically died in a car accident in 1982. Another rather pleasant story about an American princess is quite unknown. For it, we have to go to Denmark and to the rather unknown, but still, somewhat controversial divorcée Princess Anne.

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Anne Bowes-Lyon was born in Washington, D.C. in 1917. Her father was John Herbert Bowes-Lyon, and her mother was Fenella Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis. Her father, John Bowes-Lyon was the second son of the 14th Earl of Strathmore and the brother of future Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (making him an uncle to Queen Elizabeth II). Anne had three younger sisters, two of whom were institutionalised from 1941 for severe mental disabilities.

Anne married Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas William Arnold Anson on 28 April 1938. As her husband held the courtesy title of Viscount Anson, Anne was styled Viscountess Anson upon their marriage. They were divorced in 1948 and had two children.

Anne had a circle of royal friends as she was noble and the cousin of Queen Elizabeth. She developed a good friendship with the Danish Prince George which later developed into a romance. The two announced their engagement on 17 June 1950, and on 16 September that same year, at Glamis Castle, she married Prince George Valdemar of Denmark, upon which she became Princess Anne of Denmark.

British King George VI supposedly told King Frederick of Denmark: “If a Bowes-Lyon was good enough for me, a Bowes-Lyon is surely good enough for one of your princes.”

The marriage resulted in mixed feelings for the Danish people and the Danish Royal Family. The previous year, in 1949, Prince George’s brother, Prince Flemming had forfeited his royal title and succession rights and been demoted to Count of Rosenborg when he married a commoner, Ruth Nielsen. Prince George was nevertheless allowed to retain his position upon his marriage to Anne.

According to Countess Ruth of Rosenborg, Flemming did not care about his title, while Prince Georg attached great value to his royal position and implored King Frederick IX to allow him to remain a prince.

Bernstorff Palace in Denmark. Photo: Henrik Jessen/Wikimedia Commons

Princess Anne became well-liked by the Danish Royal Family. She was a warm person, easy to talk to and had no enemies. She was a quiet person who did little.

Prince George Valdemar of Denmark served as the Danish defence attaché to London as well as the naval and air attaché in Paris. The couple mainly resided in London and had no children. Anne died in London in 1980 at the age of 62 from a heart attack. She was survived by her husband, Prince George, who died in 1986.

Both Princess Anne and Prince George are buried in the garden of Bernstorff Palace in Denmark.

About author

Senior Europe Correspondent Oskar Aanmoen has a master in military and political history of the Nordic countries. He has written five books on historical subjects and more than 700 articles for Royal Central. He has also interview both Serbian and Norwegian royals. Aanmoen is based in Oslo, Norway.