She was once among the most unloved of British royals, so widely loathed that the satirical writer Auberon Waugh could safely, if ungallandy, liken her to “a demented llama whose poisonous spittle could blind a press photographer at 100 yards.” For years, she languished at or near the bottom of royal popularity polls. With her bouffant hair, quick temper and acid tongue, the second child of the Queen and Prince Philip seemed destined to remain, as she once sadly confessed on British television, “a huge disappointment to everybody concerned.” But times have changed for the Princess Royal, better known as Princess Anne. “It used to be impossible to find anyone who had a good word to say about her,” remarks Harold Brooks-Baker, publishing director of Burke’s Peerage, the authoritative guide to Britain’s aristocracy. “Now, she’s a saint.” Paradoxically, while public attitudes have altered, the princess herself has not. She remains, at 48, what she has always been— unpretentious, honest and seemingly immune to the post-Diana pressures to “modernize” the Royal Family. She is probably the least glamorous of all the Windsors. She has not changed her hairstyle—nor her wardrobe approach— in a decade. Her second marriage in 1992, to commoner Tim Laurence, was notable primarily for its lack of royal excess, costing less than $5,000.
Yet fortune has been smiling upon Anne of late, unlike most of the other members of Britain’s beleaguered royal household. It is pardy the result of sheer hard work. She is by far the busiest royal, routinely carrying out more than 600 engagements a year. But it may also have something to do with the blunt manner and prickly integrity she inherited from her crusty father. Despite close to 30 years as president of Britain’s largest charity, the Save the Children Fund, she has publicly confessed that she is not particularly fond of children. She has also ruffled feathers at the International Olympic Committee, for the right reason: she is one of the few members who never accepts gifts.
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