Royals

From our archives: Princess Anne on her 1970 Australian tour

In 1970, our royal reporter went on the road with Princess Anne in Australia - we republish it here today.

For our September 2024 cover, we spent a week following The Princess Royal as she traversed the UK on official appointments. But it’s not the first time we’ve spent time with the inexhaustible Princess Anne.

Australia was abuzz when news came that Princess Anne would accompany her parents as well as her brother Prince – now King – Charles to Australia in 1970. The extensive tour was the first large public engagement for the just-out-of-school Princess and she would wow the crowds who flocked to see her in person.

On May 6, 1970 The Weekly‘s royal reporter Anne Matheson wrote a review of the then 19-year-old royal’s Down Under debut which we are republishing here now. Enjoy!

The Australian Women's Weekly cover May 6, 1970

Have you wondered where Anne’s smile goes to?

She can be oh, so solemn. But when she laughs, as on our cover, she’s a different girl.

When the Queen and Prince Philip had the quite brilliant idea of changing the whole pattern of the royal visit, getting rid of as much needless ceremonial as possible, the chances of its success weighed heavily on the youngest and least experienced royal visitor, 19-year-old Princess Anne.

Anne was thrust with little or no training into a world of boisterous street walks and mob scenes, yet was the only member of the royal family who did not know Australia well – a stranger in a strange land so to speak.

Also, she is a girl who suffers from being a little shy, anyway. Anne was even a bit frightened when the “easy informality” got exuberantly out of hand.

She had the job of doing her own thing in the crowds, meeting and mixing with people on a friendly footing, at an age when her mother had faced up to nothing more formidable than her regiment of Guards on parade outside Windsor Castle.

Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Anne at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney at the start of their royal tour of Australia, April 1970. (Photo by William Lovelace/Daily Express/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Anne at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney at the start of their royal tour of Australia, April 1970. (Photo by William Lovelace/Daily Express/Getty Images)

It has not been easy. For over and above all was something that governed and inhibited every move. The Princess had been briefed by the court advisers that she must not at any time steal the Queen’s limelight.

How then has Princess Anne handled the situation?

I would say she has managed by adding her own sparkle to the royal visit, yet never showing the slightest precocity; not attracting too much attention when the Queen is there, yet not staying too much in the background.

When the royal family appear, Anne rarely smiles, so the TV cameras pick up the Queen’s lovely smile – which the photographers are happily catching and the crowds busily cheering.

But the fact that the Princess is not smiling does not mean she is unhappy.

In fact, she is more than pleased when things are going this way – you can tell this by the way her face will suddenly lighten with a half smile and she will give a friendly little wave, and then, chin down, head off into the crowds to mix and mingle.

The crowds are the people who get to know the real Anne. And they love her.

Princess Anne arrives at Sydney Airport at the start of her royal tour of Australia, 1st April 1970. (Photo by William Lovelace/Daily Express/Getty Images)
Princess Anne arrives at Sydney Airport at the start of her royal tour of Australia, 1st April 1970. (Photo by William Lovelace/Daily Express/Getty Images)

It takes courage for Princess Anne to do this thing of on the royal tour walking into the crowds and talking to them. It’s rather like rushing into the surf on a cold day – when you are in, the water is just fine.

Once with the crowd, Anne is happy, though she is unlikely to be smiling as she approaches. Her face is more likely to look thoughtful.

Anne has no time for small talk, and she will not insult people’s intelligence with trite remarks or banalities.

She has none of her father’s gimmicks, like pulling out your tie.

Nor does she have the undergraduate’s licence of Prince Charles, who can get away with comment and criticism while he is still at Cambridge.

It is when Princess Anne is happily talking she will smile, at ease, snowing her lovely teeth, and with her blue eyes lighting up beneath those dark flickering lashes. At ease herself, she makes it easy for everyone she meets.

That is why those who have spoken to Princess Anne find her enchanting while those who see only TV shots, photographers’ pictures, and formal close-ups don’t know what to make of her.

But at 19 Anne cannot be expected to have the polish of a woman twice her age.

She has a pleasant, rather staccato way of speaking, a sort of shorthand that gets down to the very essence.

This makes short, off-the cuff talks come off well. As one man said along the route, “She cuts the cackle and gets on with it.”

Princess Anne sports a wide-brimmed hat with an artificial insect on it, at a fashion show in Brisbane, Australia, April 1970.  (Photo by William Lovelace/Daily Express/Getty Images)
At a fashion show in Brisbane, Australia, April 1970. (Photo by William Lovelace/Daily Express/Getty Images)

Some people think this is rather abrupt, others put it down to nervousness, but it is actually an upper-class way of speaking – very Benenden, where she was at school.

Her voice and manner have not yet outgrown the traces of “snobbery” most Benenden girls acquire. But then the Princess has not left her schooldays far behind.

One of the disappointments at meeting and seeing the Princess is that she has not turned out to be the young swinger girls and boys of her own age expected.

But she is not the central figure on this royal visit to Australia. And when you’re on stage without the leading role you don’t try to grab it.

It would be unthinkable for Princess Anne to behave like a pop star.

And Princess Anne, who could dance on stage at “Hair” and kick cushions around at the coming-out dance the Soames’ gave in Paris, can scarcely be expected to do this with tour officials – indeed, there are few people she gets to know long enough for her to really relax with.

When Anne arrived on the tour, I thought she might be in danger of being over-exposed. And it is this over-exposure I think is responsible for some of her so-called moodiness. But the “moods” soon pass.

As to Anne’s often unsmiling face: People with long memories can recall that her great aunt the late Princess Royal was so shy that her brother the Duke of Windsor had to coax her to smile – it was accepted then that a young girl was shy and a little moody.

And when did smiling become such an essential part of royal ladies’ lives?

riginal Caption) Sandringham, Norfolk, England: Her long hair falling on her shoulders, Princess Anne, 19, is shown on the grounds of Sandringham, the Royal Family's country residence. She, her mother, Queen Elizabeth, father, Prince Philip, and brother, Prince Charles, posed for a series of pictures in connection with their projected tour of Australia and New Zealand. There is also a frame of the Princess with her hair swept up, dressed in evening.
An official portrait of Princess Anne, taken in honour of their upcoming royal tour in 1970. Photo: Getty

The Queen Mother, as Duchess of York, was hailed as the “smiling duchess” in Australia. People went wild about her, but back in England, where to be so expressive was not the done thing, she was thought to be not truly regal. All that smiling was “playing to the gallery.”

I don’t suppose anyone has seen the Queen as happy and relaxed as she is in Australia on this tour. People have got to know her more quickly and know her for the bright and cheerful person she really is.

It is thanks to Princess Anne’s not stealing the show with her youth and vivacity that the Queen can be seen by everyone really enjoying herself – her eyes sparkle where on previous tours one felt they were at times filled with sadness.

And everyone’s saying that now she looks not a day older in spite of her 44th birthday on April 21.

She is in high spirits and one never sees her really flag. True, there were evenings, particularly in Brisbane, when she looked puffed around the eyes, but those dark shadows have disappeared, and the heat of Queensland did not really seem to affect her.

In fact, even her appetite seems to be quite hearty.

Queen Elizabeth II with Princess Anne and Prince Charles as they passed through the crowds at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney during the Royal Tour of Australasia. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

It is astonishing to me that it is the Queen people want to see. The royal tour started off with everyone out to see Princess Anne, but the Queen’s lovely smile and easy manner soon had her top of the pops, and Princess Anne where she wants to be – well down the charts.

Prince Philip, who has for so long had the reputation of opening his mouth and putting his foot in it, seems to have tamed down.

He is even putting on a little weight – not much, but just enough to fill out the drawn lines. You still hear cries of admiration for his good looks, and in spite of thinning hair he looks young.

In fact, the Queen and Prince Philip appear far too young to be the parents of the assured and charming Prince Charles, and of a young daughter with a strong personality.

For Anne has a sharpish way of expressing herself when she is put out, and is not a girl who can be pushed around. She is also sensitive to criticism. But, whatever the knockers say, she knows perfectly well she has been right in her behaviour on this tour, doing her own thing.

Related stories