Sunday, August 15, 2010

Happy Birthday Your Royal Highness

The hardest working royal in the business, The Princess Royal today turns 60; often criticized for her brusque manner - which the more diplomatic amongst us* might refer to as 'no-nonsense' - Her Royal Highness has spent her entire life in the service of the Nation, the Commonwealth, and indeed the world through various charitable patronages, most notably Save The Children.

PhotobucketShe even represented the United Kingdom at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, where she competed in an equestrian event riding the Queen's horse Goodwill. Her attendance of the Games sparked a minor controversy, however, when it was announced that she would be the only competitor who didn't have to submit to a sex test; then again, as the first royal to ever compete in an Olympic Games, and seeing as she'd spent every single day of her life in the public eye, she was in a unique position of scrutiny none of her fellow athletes could claim for themselves.

The Princess Royal was also the first member of the Royal Family to have been the subject of a kidnapping attempt, in March 1974; Her Royal Highness was instrumental in thwarting Ian Ball, her would-be captor, an event which drew headlines around the world.

Seemingly combining the slavish attention to duty of her mother with the facility for controversy of her father, the Princess Royal was first married (at Westminster Abbey, to Captain Mark Phillips) in November 1973 with all the pomp befitting the only daughter of the Queen. The marriage produced two children, son Peter and daughter Zara (herself an accomplished equestrian), and ended semi-amicably in 1992, following which Her Royal Highness quietly married Timothy Laurence. They reside at Gatcombe Park, which under her stewardship has developed into a centre for equestrian excellence.

The Princess Royal has had several notable brushes with the tabloid press... Her heavy-footededness behind the wheel has resulted in fines and the loss of points on her driving license. In 2002 she was convicted under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 for the anti-social behaviour of her bull terrier Dotty, who attacked two boys while the Princess and her husband were walking through Windsor Great Park; Dotty also killed one of the Queen's prized corgis, possibly Pharos, during the Royal Family's annual Christmas holiday at Sandringham.

Recent years, however, have seen several far more positive events; in December 2006 her daughter Zara was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year, the same title The Princess Royal herself earned in 1971, and in May 2008 she was the beaming mother of the groom when her son, Peter Phillips, married Candian-born Autumn Kelly at St George's Chapel, within the historic walls of Windsor Castle.

*In other words, brown-nosers.

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