Royal wedding fever is definitely in the air thanks to the looming engagement of Prince Harry and the Queen’s 70th anniversary with the Duke of Edinburgh. Today we’re going to take a look back at the first of the Queen’s children’s weddings: Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips. Nearly eight years before the Prince of Wales married Lady Diana Spencer in St. Paul’s Cathedral and launched the wedding of the century, London was taken up with the very British romance of the Queen’s only daughter.
Anne and Mark met at the 1972 Olympics held in Munich, Germany where Mark won the gold medal for an equestrian event. A keen horsewoman herself (Anne won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in 1971), riding was a shared passion for the couple. Their engagement was announced in May 1973, with a wedding planned for that autumn.
On the face of it, Mark was a perfect fit. He was educated at Marlborough College, achieved the rank of Captain in the Amy and was enough of an athlete and outdoorsmen to handle the lifestyle of the Royal Family well. Given Anne’s low-key approach to royal duties, Mark’s “commoner” status and active career boded well for a straightforward family life that wouldn’t complicate her role within her family or with the public.
The strangest thing about the wedding, in my opinion, is that it was held on November 14, Charles’s 25th birthday. Honestly, I feel like literally any other day could and should have been chosen. Anyway, the ceremony was televised following the tradition started by the wedding of Princess Margaret to Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1960, with about 500 million viewers worldwide tuning in.
The wedding was held at Westminster Abbey. Princess Margaret’s daughter, Lady Sarah, served as Anne’s bridesmaid while her younger brother, Prince Edward, served as page boy. Anne’s dress was an unusual Tudor-style embroidered gown with a high collar. Mark wore a full dress uniform. Notable guests included Prince Carlos and Princess Sofia of Spain (they wouldn’t succeed to the throne until 1975), Prince Ranier and Princess Grace of Monaco and King Carl VI Gustaf of Sweden, among others.
The event was mere months after Charles’s former girlfriend (and now wife), Camilla Shand, had married Andrew Parker-Bowles. Ironically, while Charles and Camilla had carried on a relationship prior to their marriage, Anne had briefly dated Andrew. Something, something [too] small world.
The couple’s honeymoon was aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Nearly three years to the day after the wedding, Anne and Mark welcomed their first child, Peter Phillips. He was followed by a younger sister, Zara, on May 15, 1981. The couple separated in 1989 and divorced in 1992 following mutual infidelity. Within months of the marriage’s end, Anne married Timothy Laurence, the Queen’s former equerry, in Scotland. Frankly all of this would likely have been a larger scandal than it was (though it certainly garnered press), had it not been for the exploits of Anne’s brothers, Charles and Andrew, the Duke of York and their respective marriages.
In 1991, while still legally married to Anne, it was discovered that Mark had fathered a daughter in 1985 from an extramarital affair. Reportedly this young woman has had no contact with her Mountbatten-Windsor half-siblings. In 1997, Mark remarried to another horsewoman who was pregnant with his child, another daughter. The couple separated in 2012. Mark currently lives with a girlfriend in Florida.