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Getting too close: the story behind Princess Anne’s attempted kidnap

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It was a chilly night on March 20th, 1974 when Princess Anne left a movie premier with her new husband and ducked into a maroon limousine which would escort her back to Buckingham Palace. Little did she know this would be a night she would never forget.

Who is Princess Anne?

Princess Anne, also known as Princess Royal, is Queen Elizabeth’s only daughter, and sister to the future King of England. As one of the heirs to the Royal Family fortune, the only thing Princess Anne didn’t have was any privacy. 

A young Princess Anne visiting Ethiopia in 1973.Anne was born into the spotlight. When she became a young adult, the Princess Royal graced front covers of magazines and is considered by some to have been the ‘Princess Diana’ of the ‘70s. 

In addition to her intrigue she generated as a young, glamorous Princess, Anne was also famous for her equestrian skills and charitable work. She was committed to promoting children’s charities and gained a reputation as a hard-working Royal. 

In 1973, Princess Anne married a fellow riding enthusiast – an Army captain called Mark Philips. Her life seemed perfect, but soon she would be pulled into a living nightmare.

Who was Ian Ball?

Ian Ball was a diagnosed schizophrenic who dropped out of school at 16, worked odd jobs and lived in a concrete tower block. According to experts, Ball had voices in his head telling him what to do.

A mug shot of Ian BallIn 1972, Ball hatched a plan which would not only get him money but also make him famous. He decided to kidnap the Royal who he thought would get him the most publicity. 

Ball purchased a gun from Madrid and rented a safe house under an alias in the suburbs of London. He bought food, nightgowns and a toothbrush for Anne, as well as three pairs of handcuffs. Finally, he purchased a white, unremarkable car under another false name. 

For the final stage of his plan, Ball shadowed Anne for five days, merging into the crowd as he studied her routine and the people around her. To find out where Anne was going to be at specific times, all Ball had to do was call the Palace press office which told him the Princess would be attending a charity film screening in London on 20th March 1974. 

What happened to Princess Anne on March 20th, 1974?

Anne was being driven home with her husband and her bodyguard, James Beaden, when a white Ford Escort began following them.

Unlike today, Royal cars in the ‘70s weren’t flanked by security officers on the road, so Beaden was Anne’s sole protection officer.  There was also no radio so the car was isolated with no way to call for backup. Box cover image of Royal Inquest Episode, A Hunted Royal

Just as Princess Anne’s chauffeur was driving up to the palace gates, the white car swerved in front of them, forcing them to stop abruptly.

Beaden and the driver – assuming the white car belonged to someone they accidentally cut off in traffic – got out of the car to defuse the situation. The next thing they knew, there was a flash and a bang as Ian Ball shot a bullet through their rear window, narrowly missing Anne’s head. Two more shots were fired, one hitting Beaden in the chest.

As she hid inside the limousine, all Princess Anne could hear was gunfire. Suddenly, the car door was yanked open and the gunman grabbed her arm. Instead of killing her, Ball was eerily polite, telling her to please get out of the car. In response, Anne politely said she’d rather not. 

Did Ian Ball manage to successfully kidnap the Princess, or was Anne able to escape to safety? Find out in Royal Inquest: A Hunted Royal exclusively on True Royalty TV.

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