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The Crown’s latest season is set to explore how the marriage of Princess Anne to Captain Mark Phillips fell apart during the 1980s.
It was something of a national scandal and their eventual divorce in 1992 was the first in the Royal Family since 1978 - when Princess Margaret divorced her photographer husband Anthony Snowdon.
Anne was the first of the Queen’s children to divorce, though two of her brothers, Charles and Andrew, would divorce in later years.
How did Princess Anne meet Captain Mark Phillips?
Known for her love of horses, it’s fitting that Princess Anne met future husband Captain Mark Phillips in an equestrian setting.
The pair met in 1968, according to the Chicago Tribune, at a party for horse lovers in Mexico City.
They would both go onto be successful in the field, with Anne named as the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1971, and Phillips winning a gold medal at the 1972 Olympics as part of the three day event team.
When did Princess Anne get engaged?
Anne said the couple became serious “after Badminton”, referring to the annual horse trial event. They admitted it had been a “great strain” to keep it secret.
Despite her mother being the Queen, Anne revealed in the engagement interview the couple sought permission from Phillips’ father to get married before going to the monarch.
She added: “You asked my father...” to which Phillips said: “he was very kind to me actually. I was petrified beforehand.”
Marriage didn’t stop their equestrian passions, they both continued with their pursuits.
When did Princess Anne marry Captain Mark Phillips?
Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips married in November 1973, choosing the same date as Prince Charles’ 25th birthday.
The day was declared a special bank holiday.
They married in Westminster Cathedral, and went to Buckingham Palace afterwards where they waved to the crowds gathered to see them from the balcony.
Though it’s not unusual to watch a royal wedding on television now, in the 1970s it was a rarity. It drew an impressive audience of 500 million around the world.
What happened in Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips marriage?
The newlyweds certainly got off to a good start, but wedded bliss did not last.
Anne and Phillips had two children, Peter in 1977 and Zara in 1981.
But the couple were increasingly living separate lives, with Phillips running a riding school in Scotland, and Anne carrying out plenty of royal engagements as she saw her popularity rise.
His absence from the engagements became notable. The Chicago Tribune said: “Both seemed to delight in foreign travel-separately.”
About 12 years after they married, Phillips fathered a child after having an affair with an art teacher from New Zealand called Heather Tonkin.
Felicity was born in 1985, when the marriage was already under strain, but Anne and Phillips did not announce plans to separate until 1989.
By then, Anne was caught up in her own scandal. Letters written to her by one of the Queen’s equerries had been stolen, and revealed she was unfaithful too.
Commander Timothy Laurence had written the letters to the royal, which were then stolen by The Sun newspaper, who ran a story about them.
As they wanted to avoid breaching copyright, they did not disclose what the letters said.
But Buckingham Palace released a statement which said: “The stolen letters were addressed to the Princess Royal by Commander Timothy Laurence, the Queen’s Equerry. We have nothing to say about the contents of personal letters sent to Her Royal Highness by a friend which were stolen and which are the subject of a police investigation.”
The statement didn’t quiet the reports of the situation, and People reported: “Tim and the princess were physically attracted to each other, but their friendship goes deeper than that.”
The report added: “He cares for her in the way her husband does not.”
Even Phillips’ father weighed in on their marriage, telling one reporter: “What Mark and Anne have is not what I would think of as married life.
“But it is up to them how they lead their lives.”
A statement released by the palace in 1989 confirmed Anne and Phillips’ separation, though said they would not be divorcing. It said they would split on “terms agreed between them”.
The Queen was “saddened” by the news.
But the BBC reported at the time the couple had planned to split before the theft of the letters, and noted how they had been spending more time apart.
The couple were not in the same country when the split was announced, with Anne at the annual meeting of the International Olympic Committee in Puerto Rico.
While few details were released, they did confirm Phillips would have full access to their two children and would be able to stay at Gatcombe Park, the estate the Queen had given them as a wedding present.
Why did Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips divorce?
Although their marriage had clearly been on the rocks for some time, they only separated in 1989, and said they would not be making any plans for divorce.
That changed when it was confirmed that Phillips was the father of Felicity, the daughter born to Heather Tonkin in 1985.
Phillips had denied being her father, but a paternity test in 1991 proved it.
There are also reports that he had paid her some child allowance.
The confirmation of Phillips’ adultery allowed the couple to divorce, and it was finalised in 1992.
Anne was able to marry again the same year, and she and Laurence tied the knot in Scotland. They had a much smaller ceremony than her first one, with just 30 guests.
The couple had to marry in Scotland as at the time the Church of England did not allow people to remarry if their divorced spouse was still alive.
As avid Scottish Rugby fans though, it was probably no hardship for the couple.
Unlike her first husband, Laurence doesn’t share Anne’s love of horses.
What happened to Captain Mark Phillips?
Phillips did not remarry until 1997 when he wed Sandy Pflueger, who was an Olympic equestrian. They married in February, and in October their daughter Stephanie was born.
Pflueger was present at Zara Phillips’ wedding, when she married Mike Tindall.
But Phillips’ second marriage also ended in divorce, after he was unfaithful to Pflueger. Lauren Hough, who is about 30 years younger than Phillips, is described as his partner in his Horse and Hound column biography.
According to the Daily Telegraph, after news of the second split emerged, he told friends: “I might only be alive for another five or ten years so I might as well be happy.”
According to the Daily Mail, as of 2011, Zara had never been in touch with her half-sister. Felicity Tonkin was working as an equine vet, so clearly picked up the family love of horses.
Capt Phillips maintains a good relationship with his former wife and they were occasionally seen chatting at the Gatcombe Horse Trials, which were run on Princess Anne’s estate.
Capt Phillips and Anne ran the first one in 1982, and their son Peter Phillips became co-chairman. Zara and her family were regularly seen at the event, and Zara competes.
Speaking about it to Cotswold Life in 2014, Phillips said: “I think that’s one of the charms of The Festival. From a personal point the whole family is involved; Zara, Peter and my Stephanie. They are out there painting the pegs and getting everything ready, and then they get their friends involved, and that creates a great team spirit.”
The trials have ended but the Festival of British Eventing, at Gatcombe, is continuing, though had to be cancelled in 2020.
The Crown is streaming now on Netflix.
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