Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Princess Anne
The Crown has gone to extreme lengths to capture the roller-coaster existence of the British royal family. Yet there’s one incredible real-life royal drama that the hit Netflix show has never included: the attempted kidnapping of Princess Anne on March 20, 1974.
The attack happened just four months after Anne’s wedding to her first husband, Captain Mark Phillips, and saw the Princess Royal, now 70, come face-to-face with armed loner Ian Ball as she was returning to Buckingham Palace by car.
Four years later, the princess — whose son-in-law Mike Tindall recently admitted to watching The Crown — revealed every second of the drama during a jaw-dropping TV interview with journalist Sir Michael Parkinson.
“This car overtook us and stopped,” Anne told Parkinson about the attack, which happened within yards of Buckingham Palace’s famous front gates.
PA Images via Getty Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips' wedding
“There was an exchange of shots,” she added, before joking revealing how perilously close she'd come to being a victim of friendly fire from her own Scotland Yard detective.
“The policeman got off one shot which I’m convinced came through the back of the car because that all hit me on the back of the head,” Anne said with a wry smile. “So that was a good start!”
It was at this point that Ball walked up to the car’s door armed with two handguns.
“He opened the door, and we had a sort of ‘discussion’ about where or where not we were going to go,” Anne, who was just 23 at the time, told Parkinson, adding that she told Ball “it be much better if he just went away and we’d all forget about it.”
“I said I don’t think I wanted to go,” she continued. “I was scrupulously polite because I thought it was silly to be too rude at that stage.”
By the end of the attack, Ball had shot two policemen and Anne’s chauffeur, Alex Callender. It had also prompted Anne — played by Erin Doherty for the last time in Season 4 of The Crown — to perform the most un-regal exit from a car after Ball grabbed her by the arm.
"The whole thing rather collapsed in a sort of a heap," Anne told Parkinson. "But I could reach the door handle from behind my head and I opened the door and literally pulled my feet over my head and did a sort of backward somersault onto the road."
Anwar Hussein/Getty; Netflix Princess Anne; Erin Doherty
Within minutes, Ball had attempted to flee the scene and been brought to a sudden halt by swarms of rapidly-arriving Metropolitan Police.
In the aftermath of the attack, it emerged that he had intended to ransom Anne for close to $4 million after a note to the Queen (played by Olivia Colman in The Crown) was found in his pocket. Following a trial for attempted murder, Ball was sentenced to life imprisonment in a psychiatric hospital.
An amateur boxer named Ronnie Russell, now 72, was also awarded the George Medal – Britain’s highest civilian award for gallantry — for his role in defending Anne, after he raced to the scene, punched Ball in the head and wrestled him to the ground.
John Sciulli/Getty Images for Turner Helena Bonham Carter, Erin Doherty, Josh O'Connor and Sam Phillips
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At the medal ceremony, which Russell recently sold at auction for $59,270, the Queen said to Russell: “The medal is from the Queen, but I want to thank you as Anne’s mother.”
For Anne, however, the incident brought to life an event she had always feared as a girl growing up in the royal family
“It just struck one as a possibility," she told Parkinson, adding that she had previously considered what she would do if it ever happened.
“I suppose the answer is I decided that I wasn’t going to get out if that particular situation arose," she added. "However, there was only one man. If there had been more than one then it might have been a different story."