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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Princess Anne: the day she categorically refused to imitate Diana

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Often relegated to the background behind her older brother, now King Charles III, Princess Anne has also suffered from the comparison with his first wife: Princess Diana.

She does not enjoy a popularity, especially across the Channel, comparable to that of her older brother and his family. Long before Prince Harry and his media debacle, Princess Anne was also “the spare”: “the substitute” of King Charles III. Voluntary and deferential, the only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip has distinguished herself by her sense of duty to the British Crown. She has been involved in numerous charitable causes, sponsoring more than 300 associations, including the NGO Save the Children, of which she is still president today.

If she has more than honored her royal obligations – “many people think she is the best king [the United Kingdom] will ever have,” writes Tina Brown in her book The Palace Papers – the royal princess has suffered from competition with another princess particularly appreciated by the British: her sister-in-law, Lady Di. The latter was as demonstrative as the former is rational and unflappable. So when Diana was photographed, during a trip to Africa, spoon-feeding children and hugging emaciated babies, Anne displayed a cold restraint while visiting, the same week in Uzbekistan, a hospital for children with cerebral palsy. “She seemed completely indifferent to the sight of their twisted limbs […] She did not reach out to any of them. She did not smile. She didn’t even make eye contact,” royal correspondent and biographer Penny Junor recalled to the American magazine Town and Country.

“That’s not me.”

The photographers present had asked her to hug a baby and show a distressed and compassionate face, though. A request that she had obviously refused, retorting immediately: “It’s not me,” recalls Mark Bowden. Having joined the NGO Save the Children in 1979, he has traveled a dozen times with Princess Anne. According to him, it is very naive to count on the latter to play the game of the photographers or to make sensationalism. On the other hand, her work with the charity is clearly visible: “What she has done is to give us access to heads of state. In Uganda, she questioned President Museveni about child soldiers, and she was very frank. In Somalia, she challenged the President on female genital mutilation. In terms of high-level advocacy, it was very important,” he told our American colleagues.

Photo credits: CYRIL MOREAU / BESTIMAGE

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