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Princess Anne’s ex-husband Mark Phillips comments on marriage troubles in unearthed interview

The Princess Royal announced her split from her first husband in 1989

Princess Anne in a blue satin dress and tiara sitting next to her first husband Mark Phillips
Nichola Murphy
Deputy Lifestyle Editor
5 March 2024
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Princess Anne and her ex-husband Captain Mark Phillips' marriage was plagued by rumours before they announced their split in August 1989. 

The late Queen Elizabeth II's only daughter married the Olympic gold medal-winning horseman in November 1973 and they welcomed son Peter in 1977 followed by daughter Zara in 1981. Speculation over Princess Anne and Mark's marital troubles began following the birth of their second child, fuelled by the amount of time they spent apart while Anne was completing her royal engagements.

Captain Mark Phillips and Princess Anne wave from balcony© Getty
Captain Mark Phillips and Princess Anne got married in 1973

In 1983, six years before they revealed they were separating, the couple were quizzed about their relationship during an Australian TV interview with Michael Parkinson, and Mark expressed his wishes to "knock [the rumours] all over."

Their immediate response to the personal question was awkward laughter and light-hearted quips, with Mark joking: "Should we leave by different doors?" while the royal replied: "We came in the same car."

Zara Phillips and Peter Phillips visit the annual Chelsea Flower show at Royal Hospital Chelsea © Mark Cuthbert
The former couple welcomed children Peter and Zara

Shutting down the rumours, Anne continued: "Ill-informed gossip has been going on for years," before commenting on their time apart. "The sort of lives we lead, you know, we are apart quite a lot of the time, but there are an awful lot of working couples who suffer from the same problems."

Aside from her royal duties, Mark also stated that fellow equestrian Anne had novice horses so they were attending different competitions. When probed further about how they felt about their relationship being questioned, he became more serious with his response, telling Michael: "To a large extent, we ignore them, but then they start to persist and go on and on and on and it starts to become a bit trying. 

Princess Anne and Lieutenant Mark Phillips following their wedding in 1973© Everett/Shutterstock
The royals announced their split in 1989, six years after commenting on rumours about their marriage

"You eventually feel, well I feel I'm dying to get an opportunity to say something to knock it all over."

After spending their 15th wedding anniversary apart, Buckingham Palace confirmed their separation with a statement in 1989 that read: "Her Royal Highness, the Princess Royal, and Capt. Mark Phillips have decided to separate on terms agreed between them. There are no plans for divorce proceedings."

Princess Anne and Sir Tim Laurence at Platinum Jubilee© Getty
Anne married her second husband Sir Tim Laurence in 1992

Anne and Mark kept the terms of the separation private but they made headlines when they divorced in 1992 and the royal married her second husband, naval officer Commander Timothy Laurence that same year. Anne and Timothy eloped to Scotland for their low-key wedding, since the Church of England did not allow divorcees to remarry until a decade later in 2002.

They tied the knot near Balmoral Castle with Anne opting for a white midi dress while Tim looked smart in his naval uniform. The couple have remained tight-lipped about their relationship, but they live together at Gatcombe Park and Timothy is occasionally spotted supporting his wife during royal engagements.

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