What Life Was Like For Princess Anne Following Her Divorce

Correction 7/28/23: An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed the length of time between Princess Anne's divorce and remarriage as three months instead of eight months. This has been corrected.

Of all the royal family members in this current batch, Princess Anne certainly comes across as the most stoic. She is the embodiment of the stiff upper lip, dedicating herself to the monarchy with a ferocity that even King Charles III can't rival, all while keeping her personal details to a minimum. Being the second child and only daughter of the late Queen Elizabeth II, Anne has been in the public eye since the day she was born, working alongside her mother on many occasions and pursuing an impressive equestrian career as a young woman. These days, she's busy serving on just about every single committee and board you can think of, living alongside her husband Timothy Laurence, and sporting the same hairstyle she's rocked since the 1980s. And while Anne has a steely decorum that certainly keeps the public and the press at arm's length, she was once the center of some pretty intense drama.

Given that she seems so above the fray, Anne was one of Elizabeth's four children to get divorced in the 1990s. Alongside then-Prince Charles and Prince Andrew, Anne's first marriage to Captain Mark Phillips came to a grinding halt after years of tension between them. Amid their formal separation and divorce, Anne kept chugging along and was somewhat able to hide behind her work — and her older brother's shocking split — all while maintaining that military-esque exterior she's known for. But, life was certainly different for the Princess Royal following her divorce.

Princess Anne's initial separation rocked the royal family

Though there had been years of private tension and public animosity, Princess Anne and Mark Phillips' separation announcement still came as a shock to the royal family and the British public as a whole. It hadn't been since Princess Margaret's shocking split from Antony Armstrong-Jones that a separation had rocked the royals, and Anne's decision in 1989 kicked off an era of royal marriages going south. In an announcement made by Buckingham Palace at the time, the royals insisted that Anne and Mark would not be getting divorced, but were instead taking time away from each other.

"Her Royal Highness, the Princess Royal, and Capt. Mark Phillips have decided to separate on terms agreed between them," the announcement read (per the Los Angeles Times). "There are no plans for divorce proceedings."

The details about the separation were not made public, but the palace did confirm at the time that Mark would be moving out of their home in Gloucestershire, while Anne would be staying there with their two children. Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall were just 11 and 8 years old at the time, respectively. Given that it was a separation and not a divorce, there were no details provided of any kind of settlement, though British newspapers did report that Mark was given a lump sum by Queen Elizabeth II.

The Princess Royal was exposed to harsh media scrutiny amid her separation and divorce

As Princess Anne's marriage to Mark Phillips was falling apart, she was exposed to some seriously harsh media coverage and critics. The most severe fallout came when personal letters of hers from Commander Timothy Laurence, who worked as one of Queen Elizabeth II's equerries, were stolen from her possession and handed over to the press. What started as a personal nightmare turned into a public scandal, and The Sun, one of the United Kingdom's biggest and most notorious tabloids, published that they had the contents of the letters in their possession.

In order to avoid a lawsuit, The Sun published a headline that read, "PALACE THIEF STEALS ANNE'S LETTERS...SUN TO THE RESCUE." By doing so, they spilled the beans that Anne was exchanging intimate letters with someone other than her estranged husband, but they avoided any legal ramifications (as they did not publish the actual letters themselves). Though the publication did give the correspondence to the authorities, their decision to go ahead with the coverage — albeit with a sideways angle — allowed publications like People and other local media outlets to cover Anne's devolving marriage in a way that the princess was never exposed to in the past.

Anne embraced the drama when her brother was also in the midst of separation

Princess Anne going out of her way to embrace the drama is a side of hers that we don't see often, but she was ready to go down fighting when her separation hit the headlines in the late 1980s. Alongside her own personal life going up in flames were her brothers' dual separations from their own spouses. Prince Andrew and his wife, Sarah Ferguson, were parting ways amid her infamous toe-sucking scandal, and then-Prince Charles and Diana Spencer made their intentions to separate known as part of the "War of the Waleses" that had played out in the public eye.

According to Phil Dampier, a royal journalist who spoke to IBTimes UK about Anne's tactics during this period of intense drama, the Princess Royal went as far as thinking about confronting her older brother about his behavior within his own marriage. Deciding instead to embrace the drama, Anne was accompanied to the Royal Ascot that same year by none other than Andrew Parker Bowles, her ex-boyfriend and then-husband of Camilla Parker Bowles.

"You see them together at Royal Ascot every year and they are best friends," Dampier said of their dynamic, both past and present. "He was her first love and their bond goes very deep. It was a weird royal set-up which Diana went into not realizing the depth of the relationships."

The heat was slightly taken off Anne during her divorce thanks to her brother's own drama

As Princess Anne's major separation news started to die down a little, the public's attention was taken off of her once again when then-Prince Charles and Diana Spencer announced in 1992 that they, too, would be separating. It was about three years after Anne and Mark Phillips made it clear that their lives would not be carrying on together, and while the Princess Royal's news marked the first time since Princess Margaret got divorced from her husband, Charles' own separation reared the press and public's ugly head in a new way.

As royal watchers know, Diana was adored by the public, and was often seen as the shining star of the royal couple. Their marriage had been fraught with personal strife, extramarital affairs, and rumors of consistent unhappiness. By 1992, things were at a stalemate, and then-Prime Minister John Major announced that the two would be formally separating (per History).

Anne's life proceeded relatively normally, all things considered, while her brother's marriage fell to pieces. She had two young kids, her royal duties, and her equestrian career to focus on. Meanwhile, Charles and Diana's implosion dominated the headlines and provided the main source of royal drama until their official divorce in 1996.

Anne's settlement was fairly straightforward

Though the initial announcement regarding Princess Anne and Mark Phillips' separation made it clear that a divorce would not be in the couple's future, the two finally and formally called it quits in 1992. All things considered, it was fairly straightforward, and plenty of other royal drama kept the public satisfied while Anne dealt with her personal life behind closed doors.

As the estranged couple was figuring out the logistics of their divorce, Queen Elizabeth II reportedly cautioned Anne about being too severe. The monarch made it clear that consistency would be key in order to save Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall any emotional strife as their parents divorced, and even went as far as to determine that Peter specifically would greatly suffer if he were to be forced away from Mark (per UPI Archives). As such, the exes found common ground when it came to their children and even charted a path forward that benefited them both.

Given that they had been separated for more than two years, Anne was able to file an uncontested divorce, streamlining the process significantly. The Princess Royal maintained her residence at Gatcombe Park with Peter and Zara, while Mark was granted the ability to "remain in the vicinity," the statement provided by Buckingham Palace to The Washington Post at the time read.

The princess was able to pursue her new relationship in the open

Princess Anne's intimate connection with Timothy Laurence had become public knowledge due to the letters that made it into the headlines. However, she was finally able to pursue her connection with Timothy as her divorce became final.

Before his employment working alongside the royal family, Timothy enjoyed a fruitful naval career and even held a position on the queen's beloved HMY Britannia yacht. While it remains unclear exactly when the two first met, given that Timothy worked for Queen Elizabeth II as an equerry, it is largely assumed that his employment beginning in 1986 first allowed Timothy and Anne to cross paths (per Town & Country). By 1989, Anne had made Timothy a trustee for her charity, and an insider even commented on the decision in an interview with People at the time. "The appointment just shows Anne's affection for him," the source said, adding even more fuel to the separation fire.

By the time Anne and Mark got divorced, the princess was in a full-fledged relationship with Timothy, and the two stepped out in public for the first time just moments after the princess' divorce was finalized. Though it seemed rather scandalous — especially for a royal — Anne kept her cool.

Anne dedicated herself to the crown following her divorce, having picked up this nickname

Though Princess Anne is known as the hardest working royal these days, she rededicated herself to the monarchy during her divorce and the years following. Back when her personal life was unfolding in the headlines, Anne picked up the nickname "Her Royal Rudeness" due to her stoic demeanor and no-nonsense approach, but even then, she wasn't particularly bothered (per E! News). Following her divorce and second marriage to Timothy Laurence, Anne got back into the game and did so with a sort of vengeance. In 2001, she clocked 655 royal engagements, averaging about two official visits per day year round (per the BBC). To say that she found her purpose is an understatement — and she has kept her foot on the gas ever since.

According to Reboot SEO Company, Anne once again topped the list of official royal engagements in 2022, coming in at 214 working days out of the year. Her brother, King Charles III, came in second with 181 engagements, and Prince Edward and Duchess Sophie came third and fourth, making 143 and 138 appearances, respectively. Meanwhile, Prince William came in fifth with 126 working days, and Princess Catherine only clocked 90 royal engagements. Back then and today, Anne makes it clear that her dedication is to the crown and the crown only.

Anne got remarried just eight months after her divorce was finalized

You may have thought that Princess Anne would take a little bit of time to be single, enjoy her life without her ex-husband around, and revel in her newfound sense of freedom. Nope — she got married just eight months after her divorce was finalized, tying the knot with Timothy Laurence in 1992 (per the BBC).

As she had already been married before, Anne was not allowed to have a big royal wedding in Westminster Abbey this time, much like then-Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles had to downsize their civil ceremony due to the royal family's connection to the Church of England and its overwhelming disapproval of divorce. So, Anne and Timothy instead got married at Crathie Church in Scotland, just a short distance from Balmoral Castle. The royal family members were in attendance, and Prince Philip walked his daughter down the aisle for the second time. Zara Tindall, who was just 11 at the time, served as her mother's bridesmaid.

Taking the fuss out of the day, Anne wore a classic white dress suit and jacket, and Timothy wore his Navy uniform. A small group of people gathered outside the church to wish the royal well, and the newlyweds were subsequently joined by the royals for a reception back at Balmoral. Anne and Timothy have been happily married ever since.

The couple have kept their relationship relatively private over the years

Though Princess Anne is the hardest-working royal both past and present, making herself available in the public eye on many occasions throughout the year, she has kept her private marriage to Timothy Laurence very close to her chest. When Anne and Timothy got married in 1992, the Royal Navy veteran decided not to adopt a royal title, much like Mark Phillips when he and Anne originally tied the knot (per E! News). Instead, Queen Elizabeth II made him a knight in 2011.

Perhaps the only insight that has really been given into Anne's life post-divorce has come from her daughter, Zara Tindall, who opened up slightly about her mother during an interview in 2010 (via The Scotsman), marking Anne's 60th birthday. Noting what it was like to grow up with Anne as a mother, Zara said, "I look at her and just think if I was going to be a mother, that's what I would want to be like. I would like to be as good a mother as she has been to us."

Apart from Zara's insight, Anne and Timothy keep their life together private, reveling in their roles as grandparents. When not working or attending an event in the evening, Anne is said to enjoy her time at home with Timothy, who makes her a martini every night — the princess is famous for only drinking coffee during the day and the classic cocktail every evening.

Princess Anne and Mark are actually quite cordial with each other

Despite their strenuous relationship, separation, and eventual divorce — not to mention his love child and following failed marriages — Princess Anne and Mark Phillips are actually quite cordial with one another. Maintaining decorum while their children were young, Anne and Mark co-parented Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall, and have been spotted enjoying each other's company on a number of occasions (per Town & Country).

Like her mother, Zara pursued an equestrian career and reached varying levels of success, even going as far as representing Great Britain at the Olympic Games. When the Games were hosted in London in 2012, Zara was the pride of her home country, taking home the silver medal as a member of the Great Britain equestrian team. Not only was the public proud of the royal, but Anne and Mark also got together for a number of Zara's competitions throughout her career, making it known that they were a united team supporting her ambitions.

Even still, Anne and Mark have joined family events alongside Anne's second husband, Timothy Laurence, clearly proving that their past drama is just that — in the past. The three were photographed chatting with one another at the Festival of British Eventing held at Gatcombe Park back in 2007, and again in 2011 during the Gatcombe Park Horse Trials. Honestly, we love to see it.

What has Anne said about her own life and the future of the monarchy?

Since her divorce from Mark Phillips, Princess Anne has rededicated herself to the crown, gotten remarried, worked more than any other royal, and sadly watched as both her parents died. After Queen Elizabeth II died in 2022, Anne's brother immediately became King Charles III, setting off a chain reaction and raising questions about the future of the monarchy. 

Amid Charles' own calls for a slimmed-down monarchy, Anne gave a rare interview with CBC about the ways in which the monarchy can modernize, telling the broadcast channel that narrowing down the working royals "doesn't sound like a good idea." "My mother didn't change very much. We kind of knew what the rhythm of the year was. So ... things like that will change," Anne said. "How we are part of the support for the monarchy may change slightly, who knows."

Carrying on about the future of the monarchy, Anne said that the current moment calls for important discussions about modernity, but maintained that the crown serves an integral purpose that should be upheld. "I would just underline that the monarchy provides, with the constitution, a degree of long-term stability that is actually quite hard to come by any other way," she said, clearly showing her dedication and thoughts on the matter.