The Real Reason Why Princess Anne Got Divorced

The royal family is known for a number of different aspects — the jewels, the castles, the outlandish weddings — but, as much as they try to avoid it, they're also known for drama. Of course, the revelations poised against the institution by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have been headline-grabbing, but their grievances make up just a blip of issues that the royal family has faced within the last century. From controversial abdications to rumored affairs to three divorces in one year, members of the royal family have tested the stability of the institution for decades.

One of the aforementioned divorces was Princess Anne's split from her first husband, Captain Mark Phillips. In a year that was dubbed by Queen Elizabeth, herself, as "annus horribilis," — a Latin phrase for "horrible year" — 1992 saw the demise of not one, not two, but three of her children's romantic partnerships, and Anne was among them. While Anne's divorce wasn't nearly as high-profiled as King Charles' separation from Diana Spencer, her marriage was overflowing with drama, infidelity, and conflict. What led Anne and Mark down such a precarious path? Look no further — this is the real reason why Princess Anne got divorced.

Even before Princess Anne was married, her family had enormous influence on her romantic life

Even if you don't consider yourself a fan of the royal family, it's safe to say that you're probably aware of the institution's influence on its family members. The royal family has a sordid history of impacting romantic relationships — just think of King Charles and Diana Spencer, who met just a dozen times before getting married — because, at the end of the day, marital unions (in theory) should benefit the monarchy. 

Princess Anne was subject to such scrutiny and, as noted by Express, her family members had a very heavy hand in her romantic life before her first husband even came onto the scene. As it turns out, Anne was quite taken with Olympic equestrian Richard Meade, whom she met at age 20. Meade was a whole 12 years older than the princess, but the two were reportedly smitten. However, Anne's father, Prince Philip, did not approve of the match nor the age gap, and made his feelings known about the situation. Brian Hoey, Anne's official biographer and friend of Meade's, told Express that, due to familial pressures, the couple called it quits less than two years later.

Princess Anne met her first husband, Mark Phillips, in 1968

Princess Anne had a number of suitors and, while her romantic life had been altered by familial expectations, she was ready to meet her match. Along came Captain Mark Phillips, a military man with a background in horse riding — a passion of Anne's. As reported by People, Anne and Mark met while attending a horse riding event in Mexico City. It was 1968, and it's clear that their common interest had quite a heavy hand in their meet-cute

As reported by Town & Country, Mark was born in Gloucestershire in 1948 and, following in the footsteps of his family members, joined the military. He went to school at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and followed his education with a stint serving in the armed forces as a second lieutenant. By the time he and Anne were an item, he had been promoted in rank to captain — hence, the full formal title. In addition to his military service, Mark was an avid horse rider and even won an Olympic gold medal in the British equestrian team event at the 1972 Games. If Anne was attracted to a full resume, Mark definitely checked off a lot of boxes.

The romance between Anne and her first husband was interjected by this fling

While Princess Anne and Mark Phillips met in 1968, their love affair was not instantaneous. In fact, Anne sparked a relationship with Andrew Parker Bowles and the two were quite close. And yes, he was that Parker Bowles, as in Queen Consort Camilla Parker Bowles' now ex-husband. We'll paint the picture. As noted by Elle, Anne and Andrew started dating in 1970, and the Parker Bowles family and the royal family went back quite a ways. Andrew's father was said to have been a friend of the Queen Mother, so the fact that Anne and Andrew crossed paths is not particularly surprising. 

So what happened between the couple that prevented them from taking the next serious step? As noted by Brides, Parker Bowles was Catholic and, as such, wasn't actually allowed to marry Anne (as the royal family are the leaders of the Church of England). The two called it off, and Andrew went on to marry Camilla in 1973. In that very same year, Anne announced her engagement to Captain Mark Phillips. However, despite their short-lived romance, Anne and Andrew remained close friends and continue to be in each other's lives to this day.

Princess Anne and Mark Phillips announced their engagement in May 1973

Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips announced their engagement in May, 1973. Despite their romantic relationship being briefly disrupted, the two got engaged about five years after they met. First, let's talk about the ring. Rings are a big deal in the royal family. After all, just think how poignant it is that Kate Middleton was gifted Diana's Spencer's iconic blue sapphire engagement ring when Prince William popped the question. Anne's engagement ring, given to her by Mark, was no exception. As noted by Elle, Mark proposed with a sapphire ring in a gorgeous square-cut shape. It was framed with two diamonds on either side, and, based on the photo, was a serious rock that stood out on Anne's delicate finger. 

As far as the engagement and announcement of the marriage goes, things are a little less ... exciting. As noted by Brides, Anne and Mark were asked by the press if their relationship could stand the test of time. Specifically, the couple were asked, "Do you think the marriage can withstand the enormous pressures of public duty and publicity that you have to endure?" Anne responded with an emphatic, "Can? It's got to, hasn't it?"

Anne and Mark's wedding was a celebratory affair

On November 14, 1973, Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips tied the knot in a ceremony that was watched by spectators across the world. As noted by People, Anne was the first of her siblings to get married and, as such, there was a lot of excitement in the air. When she emerged on the big day, Anne looked stunning in a high-collared gown that featured bell-shaped sleeves and a seven-foot-long train. In a touching nod to her mother, Anne wore the Queen Mary Fringe tiara — the exact same tiara Queen Elizabeth wore on her wedding day to Prince Philip. 

As you may have guessed, the ceremony took place at Westminster Abbey, and the area was just packed with spectators. When it came to the broadcast numbers, about 500 million people tuned in to watch Anne and Mark tie the knot. The event was so big, in fact, that it turned into an eight-hour-long broadcast on the BBC, and November 14 was even declared a national holiday as a result. This was not your run-of-the-mill wedding.

Princess Anne and her husband went on to have two children before things began to break down

Things naturally change when a married couple has children. Priorities shift, schedules change, and life tends to get a bit more chaotic. But, for Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips, the birth of their children marked a drastic shift in their relationship, and things did not rectify for the better. As noted by Brides, Anne and Mark had two children together — Peter Phillips and Zara Phillips (Tindall). They were born in 1977 and 1981, respectively, and the dynamic between the young parents began to change. 

As noted by Express, Zara's birth marked a shift where in which Anne and Mark "began to drift apart," and their distance became more and more obvious. It was in the early 1980s that the two started to spend more time away from one another, and Mark even went as far as significantly decreasing his presence at different royal occasions and outings. Things got so bad, the couple began staying in different hotel rooms whenever they traveled out of the United Kingdom. If one thing is for certain, the honeymoon phase for the couple certainly didn't last long.

Anne and Mark did not try to hide their unhappiness within their marriage

While the royal family is known for putting on a brave face, Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips did not try to hide that things were going poorly. Now, it's important to remember that their marriage did not face the same level of scrutiny that, say, King Charles and Diana Spencer's marriage did, so perhaps in that sense they were able to be a little more free with their true feelings toward one another. In that regard, Anne had "accepted being second in everything" when it came to both matters of the public and personal sides of her life, as reported by People, and her crumbling marriage was no exception. 

In the 15 years that Anne and Mark had been married, it was reported that neither was happy. At the time that the union failed at overcoming its final hurdle, People noted that the distance in the marriage was obvious — "a dismal truth the couple have made little effort to disguise." Furthermore, Anne and Mark's relationship, by the time it truly crumbled, was described as a "loveless union just drifting along." The couple were said to have a "mutual indifference" for one another, to top it all off.

Mark Phillips fathered a child with another woman while still married to Princess Anne

So what exactly happened between Princess Anne and Mark Phillips that caused such indifference between them? Well to start, Mark had a child with another woman while still married to Anne. As noted by Tatler, Mark had an affair with Heather Tonkin, an art teacher from New Zealand, and she gave birth to their daughter, Felicity, in 1985. It was confirmed in 1991 from a DNA test that Mark was the father, but he had already been providing for the mother and child. 

As reported by Express, Mark had been giving Tonkin about $8,300 a year. He hid the payment in a sneaky way, as he officially hired Tonkin as a consultant relating to "equestrian matters." So, why did the mom come forward? In 1991, Tonkin came to the press, as Mark had stalled on payments. She said that her goal was to have Mark publicly accept their daughter, and she also had the desire to list Mark on Felicity's birth certificate. Mark's agent, John Erskine, reportedly threatened Tonkin before she went public, saying, "I will make life a bloody misery for you." Mark was married to Anne and living in her home on the Gatcombe estate during the affair, pregnancy, and aftermath.

Reports of affairs plagued the marriage, on both Mark and Anne's part

What if we told you that there were more extramarital relationships on both Princess Anne's and Mark Phillips' part? Well, there reportedly were, and we're here to break it all down. As noted by Harper's Bazaar, Mark had "semi-public affairs" with Pamella Bordes (who was working as a call girl at the time), a Canadian public relations executive, and with an anchorwoman from a British television show. 

On the other side of the coin, Anne was reported to be romantically linked to Anthony Andrews, an actor, as well as her bodyguard, Peter Cross. In fact, it was reported that Anne's alleged attachment to Cross was so strong that he was accused of being "over familiar" with her by officials at Scotland Yard which, if you're in the business of being someone's bodyguard, is probably not the position you want to be in. 

In fact, as noted by People, Cross went to the tabloids to talk about the involvement, as he was subsequently let go from his post of protecting the princess. Calling it a "special relationship," Cross said that he and Anne were "close friends, extremely close friends (via Express)." Of course, Anne's most-public rumored public affair was with Timothy Laurence, which we'll get into.

Published letters to Princess Anne from an alleged lover rocked the royal family

There are a couple of scandals that stand out within the modern royal family history, but one that stands out above the rest was the leaking of letters written to Princess Anne from Commander Timothy Laurence, with whom she was reportedly having an affair. 

As noted by People at the time of the scandal, four "intimate" letters that were for Anne's eyes only were given to the Sun, one of Britain's biggest newspapers, as they were reportedly stolen from the palace (sounds like the plot to a great Hallmark movie, if you ask us). Because they didn't want to face legal retribution, the Sun handed the letters over to Scotland Yard, but that didn't stop them from publishing (in big bold font) that they had the correspondence. 

Despite having the info, the Sun didn't leak the contents of the letters but, as noted by People, "public curiosity" took over. The palace eventually released a statement, saying that, "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." Talk about drama.

Princess Anne appoints Commander Timothy Laurence to be her personal advisor

The letters sent to Princess Anne were not from a "friend" but, rather, by the man that she had been reportedly seeing while still married to Captain Mark Phillips. Commander Timothy Laurence was a "favorite of the royal family," as he had joined the ranks of the palace entourage in 1986, as noted by People. He accompanied Queen Elizabeth during a number of notable engagements, including her visit with Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev. 

Of course, things between him and Anne started to get more and more involved, and it came as quite a gesture when the princess appointed Laurence as one of her personal advisors to her trust. A source told People, "The appointment just shows Anne's affection for him." By all accounts, the feelings were reciprocated, and another friend of Laurence's told People that he "never stopped thinking" about the princess after they met for the first time. "Anne has treated him as her closest confidant for some considerable time," the friend said. "Obviously, Tim and the princess were physically attracted to each other, but their friendship goes deeper than that ... he cares for her in the way her husband does not."

Princess Anne and her husband lived separate lives and announced their intent to separate

So, all of these rumored affairs appeared to say that Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips were absolutely not meant to be, and the couple announced their intent to separate in 1989. However, despite their separate lives (for instance, they would take turns traveling to avoid each other, as noted by People), they initially stated that they didn't have any plans to actually get divorced. Rather, they were taking some time to live apart (via Express). 

But, as most of us know, an inch of space in a romantic relationship quickly turns into a mile, and Anne and Mark became one of the fatal pairings within the royal family that called it quits, for good, in 1992. As reported by United Press International, the couple was granted a divorce after 18 years of marriage — it was the "third failed marriage" for the royal family that year alone. Anne was the one who officially requested the divorce, but it was widely noted at the time that the intent to divorce was mutual. It took the judge presiding over the case just four minutes to approve the divorce and, as such, the ex-couple went their separate ways.

Princess Anne had to jump through hoops to pursue her second marriage

Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips did themselves a solid by getting divorced. And, in a surprising twist (at least for the royal family), Anne went on to marry Timothy Laurence, the man with whom she was having an affair, in 1992 — yes, the same year that she got divorced. But, there were a couple hurdles she had to jump through. As noted by Hello!, the couple had to get married in Scotland, because the Church of England did not allow remarrying to take place; as such, Scotland was pretty much the only option the couple had. 

In another technicality, Anne and Timothy had to elope, given the restrictions put in place by the church. Unlike her first marriage that saw the abbey and the spectators and the dress, Anne's second wedding ceremony was very low-key. It was held at the Crathie Kirk church, and there were about 30 people in attendance. Anne wore a short wedding dress, accompanied with black shoes and her signature hairstyle. It was clearly meant to be, because the couple have been going strong ever since.

Mark Phillips also got remarried, but things did not last

Unlike his ex-wife, Mark Phillips' love life hasn't remained as consistent. As noted by Express, Mark went on to marry Sandy Pflueger in 1997. Not dissimilar to his initial connection with Anne, the couple met and bonded over their shared interest in horses, as Pflueger was an equestrian who competed at the 1984 Olympics. However, in 2012, it came to light that Mark had once again been involved in extramarital affairs and, this time, he cheated with a woman who was 28 years younger than him. The woman in question was a member of the U.S. equestrian team for the 2000 Olympics, and it was reported that she and Mark even moved in together during their affair. The extra-marital relationship bled into his professional life, and there were calls for him to resign from his post on the U.S. coaching team for equestrian sports. "I don't read chat rooms and all that rubbish, as it is mostly uninformed and unidentified opinion, which won't change my life," he said of the wishes for him to resign his post. "I have the total support of the team and that's what matters." By all accounts, the exes are on friendly terms, after all.