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British RoyalsFeaturesHistoryInsightPrincess Anne and Family

Princesses who married commoners: Anne, Princess Royal

Princess Eugenie of York is just days away from marrying her partner, Jack Brooksbank, in a ceremony at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor and as she says ‘I do’ she’ll join an ever growing list of HRHs who have wed men with no royal title of their own. While princesses of yore had to say ‘I do’ to a suitably regal groom who would cement dynastic alliances, Eugenie is part of a modern royal generation making their own marital paths in the world. To mark Eugenie’s marriage, Royal Central is taking a look at other princesses who have married ”commoners” and leading the charge in the 20th century was the Queen’s daughter, Princess Anne.

Princess Anne and Mark Phillips

Princess Anne was the first of the Queen’s children to marry but the relationship which led her to the altar was rather low key. She met Mark Phillips through their shared passion for horse riding and they dated for several years before he proposed at the Badminton Horse Trials early on in 1973. The official announcement of their engagement came on May 29th the same year when the groom, then a lieutenant in the 1st Dragoon Guards, admitted he had been ever sol slightly nervous about asking the Duke of Edinburgh for his daughter’s hand in marriage.

The wedding took place on November 14th 1973, the 25th birthday of the bride’s older brother, Prince Charles. Millions of people around the world tuned in to see Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise and Mark Anthony Peter Phillips say ‘I do’ in a glittering ceremony at Westminster Abbey, attended by royalty from around Europe.

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The bride had a big say in the design of her wedding dress which was created for her by Maureen Baker. Anne’s gown was based on Tudor court dress and featured a high neckline, trumpet sleeves, a fitted bodice and flared skirt. The princess added a touch of sentiment to her outfit by wearing the same tiara, the Queen Mary Fringe, that her mother had used at her own wedding in 1947.

A rather regal reception at Buckingham Palace followed before the couple headed off on honeymoon. They then set about making a life together at Gatcombe Park in Gloucestershire, a wedding present from the Queen. However, there was no title for Mark Phillips, a decision that he and his wife made together.

Anne and Mark had two children, Peter and Zara, but the marriage ran into trouble in the 1980s and their separation was announced in 1989. Their divorce was finalised in 1992 at the start of what the Queen would later call her ‘’annus horribilis’’.

The Princess Royal and Timothy Laurence

That difficult year got something of a happy ending as the Royal Family gathered in Scotland in December 1992 for Anne’s second marriage. By now, she had taken on the title traditionally given to the Monarch’s eldest daughter and was known as the Princess Royal.

Anne had met Timothy James Hamilton Laurence during his time as an equerry to the Queen. Their wedding took place just seven months after the princess’ divorce came through and as the Church of England forbade the marriage of people whose previous spouses were still living,  Anne and Timothy chose to wed in the Church of Scotland.

The ceremony was set for December 12th 1992 at Crathie Kirk near Balmoral, the church the Royal Family usually worship at during their stays at the Queen’s Scottish residence. However, just three days before the wedding, the separation of the Prince and Princess of Wales was announced. Anne’s second wedding, while a happy family event, became a global sensation as it marked the first appearance of many of the Windsors since the news that Charles and Diana were to part.

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The wedding itself was simple with the bride wearing a cream dress with matching jacket and a sprig of flowers in her hair. Anne arrived on the arm of her father, the Duke of Edinburgh, and posed for photographers afterwards alongside her new husband and her two children. As before, there was no title for the newlywed groom who continued his naval career after his marriage.

The Princess Royal and Timothy Laurence celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in 2017, making Anne the first of the Queen’s children to reach that landmark event. The princess who has made her royal role her own has been a bit of a trailblazer when it comes to regal marriages as well.

About author

Lydia Starbuck is Associate Editor at Royal Central and the main producer and presenter of the Royal Central Podcast and Royal Central Extra. Lydia is also a pen name of June Woolerton, a journalist and writer with over twenty years experience in TV, radio, print and online. June has been a reporter, producer and editor, picking up several awards over the years. She's appeared on outlets including BBC 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Local Radio and has also helped set up a commercial radio station. June is also an accomplished writer with a wide range of material published online and in print. She is the author of two novels, published as e-books. She is also a marriage registrar and ceremony celebrant.