Who Is Princess Anne? The Hardest Working Royal Is a

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Sporty. Utilitarian. Luxe when need be. Princess Anne’s style prowess is not to be slept on.

By Natalie Michie

Date May 5, 2023

When we talk about fashion in the Royal Family, we tend to focus on Princess Diana, the Duchess of Sussex, the Princess of Wales, and Queen Elizabeth II. But there’s one unsung hero of this famous sartorial lineup. Ahead of the Coronation of King Charles III on May 6, we must discuss the style legacy of Princess Anne.

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Who is Princess Anne, you say? We don’t fault you for asking. Daughter of Queen Elizabeth II and sister to King Charles, she is known as the hardest-working, often overshadowed royal. Seventy-two years old with no retirement plans in sight, Princess Anne reportedly worked 214 engagements last year, compared to King Charles’s 181. Over the decades, she has witnessed the evolving monarchy first-hand with a famously tough sensibility (she once faced off an armed would-be kidnapper), a reserved demeanour (shocking, right?) and a signature dry sense of humour. Oh, and she loves horses. All of this can be mirrored in her no-nonsense, ever-put-together style. And this week, in a rare CBC interview, Princess Anne hinted at her winning approach to getting dressed: She’d prefer simply not to think about it.

King Charles’s coronation is a once-a-generation event shrouded in sartorial anticipation. But Princess Anne’s outfit choice — her military uniform — couldn’t be more self-explanatory. The Royal revealed to CBC that she’ll be reprising the ceremonial role of Gold-Stick-in-Waiting at the historic event, adding that such a position solves her “dress problem,” as she’ll be donning traditional regalia. “This is so on-brand,” writes Tamara Abraham in The Telegraph. “It’s not like the Princess Royal to make a fuss about her wardrobe — it’s a problem to be fixed, rather than a creative opportunity.”

As her appearance indicates, Princess Anne seems always focused on the task at hand. Look no further than her stacked resumé. At 39, she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. She was the first British Royal to compete in the Olympics, having ridden in the three-day equestrian at the 1976 Montreal Games. With the reputation of being somewhat of a rebel, she forewent royal titles for her children, Zara and Peter, in an effort to give them a more normal upbringing.

Similarly, at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth, Princess Anne made history when she accompanied the coffin alongside only men, dressed in a military uniform and pink lipstick. With this tribute, she reportedly became the first royal woman to walk in such a procession. All of this to say: Anne is sort of a fashion icon hiding in plain sight.

As a reliable worker in the Royal Family, Princess Anne often sidesteps salacious headlines. With a practical, utilitarian, and sometimes sporty style, she’s perhaps the greatest personification of the rumoured royal “never explain, never complain” mantra. But that’s not to say what she wears is boring. In fact, it’s pretty daring.

Travelling sans stylist on royal tours, Princess Anne is not known for following trends or overhauling her wardrobe each season. She has established a reputation for re-wearing outfits, often changing accessories or styling the same look slightly differently decades later. She stays true to her tomboyish tendencies, which have not always been applauded. In 1973, when Princess Anne famously wore a linen pantsuit to go to the theatre — paired with blue eyeshadow, we might add — it was reportedly seen as controversial for a woman in the Royal Family.

Even still, a frequent inspiration in Princess Anne’s wardrobe is her equestrian career, donning traditional, timeless, and impeccably tailored suiting. She’s also a fan of bright colour blocking and playful patterns — think: pink houndstooth, vibrant polka dots, exaggerated florals and geometric shapes. She has a penchant for statement details like oversized collars, fanciful ruffles and extravagant headpieces. Switching between androgynous utilitarianism and refined glamour, Princess Anne’s under-the-radar dressing legacy is the epitome of personal style.

Vogue notes that her outfits reflect her position as one of the family’s most “progressive thinkers,” having put her own spin on the era-defining fashion of the ’60s and ’70s. Whether she’s dressed up or pared down, her style remains direct, unwavering and entirely certain of itself. This is an invaluable skill to have in the Royal Family.

Below, we’ve rounded up some of the best looks from Princess Anne over the years.

Princess Anne visting a theatre in 1973

Princess Anne and Queen Elizabeth II at Royal Ascot in 1970

Princess Anne and Queen Elizabeth ll in Turkey in 1971

Princess Anne at Royal Ascot in 1987

Princess Anne at a charity dinner in 2005, wearing a dress she originally wore in 1989

Anne at Sandhurst Military Academy in 1973, in a dress she would re-wear 11 years later with an extended hemline

Princess Anne at Cheltenham Races in 1997

Princess Anne in Kiev, Russia in 1973

Princess Anne at a film premiere in 1973

Princess Anne at Royal Ascot in 1980

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