Princess Anne Tours China

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I’m excited for this post, mainly because mentions of the Princess Royal have been few and far between on this site thus far. Usually she gets a brief mention here and there if she pops up at the same event as her brother or nephews, so I’m pleased to be able to cover some of her solo work.

If you haven’t heard, Princess Anne, only daughter of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, is often referred to as the hardest working member of the Royal Family, and she’s earned her reputation the hard way. Last year she carried out 640 engagements, besting every other member of the family by a long-shot.

To put that number in perspective, the Queen carried out 385 and the Prince of Wales did 469. And to help contextualize why the younger Royals are sometimes criticized for their workload, headlines blared last December that Anne’s number meant she conducted more engagements than the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry combined. Now, we’ve discussed reasons for that any number of times, but it’s easy to see why such figures garner her nephews an eye roll taken out of context.

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This past week, Anne was in China on behalf of her mother, a pretty considerable undertaking, especially when you realize that she did it on her own – her husband, Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, didn’t accompany her this trip. Now, I’m not going to tick through five days’ worth of engagements, but I will share some highlights and some of the better images, as well as note how this tour is significant.

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The visit aligns with the 45th Anniversary of UK-China Ambassadorial ties and is meant to both highlight and strengthen the relationship between the two countries. Anne was last in China for official business in 2005, ahead of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. She was also instrumental in the hand-off that allowed the smooth transition of events to London for the summer of 2012.

This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the Hong Kong handover ceremony, in which Charles represented the Queen alongside then-Prime Minister Tony Blair for the change of sovereign hands from the UK to China. Charles was responsible for reading a farewell address from the Queen and essentially bidding goodbye to the citizens of Hong Kong.

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Back to the present day and Anne didn’t venture into Hong Kong, instead sticking to Beijing, Wuhan and Changsha. On Day Two of the trip, Anne visited China’s Forbidden City with Madame Liu Yandong, China’s Vice Premier. Yandong is a member of  the Politburo of the Communist Party of China and the country’s most senior woman. And as for the Forbidden City, well, this one prompted me to do some Googling of my own since my interest in history is primarily confined to Europe. The phrase refers to the Imperial Palace from the 15th century all the way until 1912, a place that served not only as the personal home of the Emperor and his household, but the center of government as well.

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Britain doesn’t actually have an equivalent. Its closest comparison would be how the old Palace of Westminster was used, but the site hasn’t been used as a residence in centuries. Windsor Castle shares the historical length, but has never served as the epicenter of politics, and Buckingham Palace is downright modern in comparison. So, the Forbidden City is a unique structure in that sense and, since 1925, has served as the world’s most visited art museum, housing nearly 15 million artifacts. In that way, it actually sounds a bit like the Louvre in Paris, but on a much larger scale.

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Image: @Royal Family

Well-established as a talented equestrian (consider her daughter, Zara Tindall), Anne’s fourth day of engagements was completely horse-themed. She visited the Equestrian School at the Wuhan Business University and observed the work of the British Horse Society, of which she is Vice-Patron. While there she uncovered a plaque at the University Museum commemorating her visit.

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Other charities visited included Save the Children, the Hunan University in Changsha and Butterfly Children’s Hospices in Changsha where she delivered a speech. She also stood witness to a signing ceremony between the World Wildlife Fund and Hunan forestry administration on behalf of milu deer reintroduction in Changsha.

Now back in the UK and we’ll see the Princess a couple times this coming week. She’s hosting a banquet in London on the evening of Thursday, July 13 for King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain alongside her husband, and it’s entirely likely she will attend the state banquet hosted by her parents the night before.

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