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Princess Anne gives rare insight into how George VI’s death impacted The Queen

Her Royal Highness Princess Anne has granted a rare interview to reporter George Alagiah as part of the BBC’s programme The Queen: Her Commonwealth Story which aired this week in the UK.

The documentary charted the evolution of Her Majesty’s visits to the Commonwealth countries from her first “tour of the nations” through to the visits of the 1970s where the “walkabout” was born. Sir William Heseltine, The Queen’s former private secretary, said that the walkabouts came from a desire to bring back the “sparkle” of a royal visit at a time when the world was losing its deference to authority.

He said that Her Majesty immediately took to the walkabouts but Princess Anne, who joined Prince Charles on a visit to Australia, was less taken with the new addition to royal duties. On a blustery day the wind was doing its best to capture the princess’s hat which caused her to remark “this bloody wind”, which caused some controversy.

In the documentary, the Princess Royal freely admitted that: “We hated them [walkabouts]. I mean, can you imagine as teenagers. It’s hardly the sort of thing you would volunteer to do. I mean it gets easier but, can you imagine? I mean how many people enjoy walking into a room full of people that you’ve never met before? And then try a street. I don’t think many youngsters would actually volunteer to do that.

Princess Anne added, wryly: “Nowadays of course there are so many cameras around that you can’t see the people. Especially those who insist on using their iPads, they haven’t even got any heads. So that changes the crowd structure a bit.”

Soon after The Queen’s coronation, Her Majesty and Prince Philip embarked on a lengthy Commonwealth tour which separated them from their children – Prince Charles and Princess Anne. Of this length separation Princess Anne said “”Her predecessors had travelled enormously, that was the expectation. And they’d been away for very long times and that again was part of the expectation.” She added: “And of course it was made worse by her father dying so early on in her career that she didn’t have the option really to spend more time at home.”

In the interview Princess Anne praised her mother, observing that her experience and the respect she has carried over the years allowed people – especially people in positions of power – to share things they may normally not have. “Her length of time in that position and her ability to listen and talk to those leaders is virtually unique. She’s been in that position of being an honorary man for a long time… People get used to the fact you can have a conversation about things you wouldn’t normally talk to women about.”