When did Princess Anne and Mark Phillips get married and did they divorce?

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·8 min read

Watch: Will the royals be watching The Crown?

The Crown’s latest season is set to explore how the marriage of Princess Anne to Captain Mark Phillips fell apart during the 1980s.

It was something of a national scandal and their eventual divorce in 1992 was the first in the Royal Family since 1978 - when Princess Margaret divorced her photographer husband Anthony Snowdon.

Anne was the first of the Queen’s children to divorce, though two of her brothers, Charles and Andrew, would divorce in later years.

How did Princess Anne meet Captain Mark Phillips?

Known for her love of horses, it’s fitting that Princess Anne met future husband Captain Mark Phillips in an equestrian setting.

The pair met in 1968, according to the Chicago Tribune, at a party for horse lovers in Mexico City.

They would both go onto be successful in the field, with Anne named as the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1971, and Phillips winning a gold medal at the 1972 Olympics as part of the three day event team.

Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips during their interview with the Press Association's Court Correspondent Douglas Dumbrell at Buckingham Palace.   (Photo by Ron Bell/PA Images via Getty Images)
Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips during their engagement interview at Buckingham Palace. (Ron Bell/PA Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 3:  An official portrait of Britain's Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips taken 03 November 1973, one week before their wedding.  (Photo credit should read STF/AFP via Getty Images)
An official portrait of Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips taken in November 1973. (STF/AFP)

When did Princess Anne get engaged?

Anne said the couple became serious “after Badminton”, referring to the annual horse trial event. They admitted it had been a “great strain” to keep it secret.

Despite her mother being the Queen, Anne revealed in the engagement interview the couple sought permission from Phillips’ father to get married before going to the monarch.

She added: “You asked my father...” to which Phillips said: “he was very kind to me actually. I was petrified beforehand.”

Marriage didn’t stop their equestrian passions, they both continued with their pursuits.

When did Princess Anne marry Captain Mark Phillips?

Princess Anne on her wedding day with her husband Mark Phillips, her younger brother Prince Edward, and cousin Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones. (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Princess Anne on her wedding day with her husband Mark Phillips, her younger brother Prince Edward, and cousin Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones. (Corbis)
Princess Anne and Mark Phillips walk down the aisle together after being married at Westminster Cathedral. (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Princess Anne and Mark Phillips walk down the aisle together after being married at Westminster Cathedral. (Corbis)

Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips married in November 1973, choosing the same date as Prince Charles’ 25th birthday.

The day was declared a special bank holiday.

They married in Westminster Cathedral, and went to Buckingham Palace afterwards where they waved to the crowds gathered to see them from the balcony.

Though it’s not unusual to watch a royal wedding on television now, in the 1970s it was a rarity. It drew an impressive audience of 500 million around the world.

Princess Anne (m, r) and her husband Mark Phillips (m, l) together with the royal family, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in London, short after their wedding, on 14 November 1973. In the picture (l-r): the parents of the bridgegroom, Anne and Peter Phillips, Prince Edward, groomsman Eric Grounds, bridgegroom Mark Phillips, bride Princess Anne, Sarah Armstrong-Jones, Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Andrew, and Prince Philip. | usage worldwide (Photo by Horst Ossinger/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Princess Anne and her husband Mark Phillips together with the royal family, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after their wedding, on 14 November 1973. Also on the balcony are Anne and Peter Phillips, Prince Edward, Eric Grounds, Sarah Armstrong-Jones, Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Andrew, and Prince Philip. (Horst Ossinger)

What happened in Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips marriage?

The newlyweds certainly got off to a good start, but wedded bliss did not last.

Anne and Phillips had two children, Peter in 1977 and Zara in 1981.

But the couple were increasingly living separate lives, with Phillips running a riding school in Scotland, and Anne carrying out plenty of royal engagements as she saw her popularity rise.

His absence from the engagements became notable. The Chicago Tribune said: “Both seemed to delight in foreign travel-separately.”

About 12 years after they married, Phillips fathered a child after having an affair with an art teacher from New Zealand called Heather Tonkin.

Felicity was born in 1985, when the marriage was already under strain, but Anne and Phillips did not announce plans to separate until 1989.

GREAT SOMERFORD, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 06:  Princess Anne With Her Husband, Mark Phillips, Weeks Before The Arrival Of Their Daughter, Attending The Wedding Of Her Sister-in-law. (exact Day Date Not Certain)  (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)
Anne and Phillips had two children, Peter and Zara. Anne is pregnant with Zara in this picture. (Tim Graham Photo Library)

By then, Anne was caught up in her own scandal. Letters written to her by one of the Queen’s equerries had been stolen, and revealed she was unfaithful too.

Commander Timothy Laurence had written the letters to the royal, which were then stolen by The Sun newspaper, who ran a story about them.

As they wanted to avoid breaching copyright, they did not disclose what the letters said.

But Buckingham Palace released a statement which said: “The stolen letters were addressed to the Princess Royal by Commander Timothy Laurence, the Queen’s Equerry. We have nothing to say about the contents of personal letters sent to Her Royal Highness by a friend which were stolen and which are the subject of a police investigation.”

The statement didn’t quiet the reports of the situation, and People reported: “Tim and the princess were physically attracted to each other, but their friendship goes deeper than that.”

The report added: “He cares for her in the way her husband does not.”

Even Phillips’ father weighed in on their marriage, telling one reporter: “What Mark and Anne have is not what I would think of as married life.

“But it is up to them how they lead their lives.”

A statement released by the palace in 1989 confirmed Anne and Phillips’ separation, though said they would not be divorcing. It said they would split on “terms agreed between them”.

The Queen was “saddened” by the news.

But the BBC reported at the time the couple had planned to split before the theft of the letters, and noted how they had been spending more time apart.

The couple were not in the same country when the split was announced, with Anne at the annual meeting of the International Olympic Committee in Puerto Rico.

While few details were released, they did confirm Phillips would have full access to their two children and would be able to stay at Gatcombe Park, the estate the Queen had given them as a wedding present.

Why did Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips divorce?

Although their marriage had clearly been on the rocks for some time, they only separated in 1989, and said they would not be making any plans for divorce.

That changed when it was confirmed that Phillips was the father of Felicity, the daughter born to Heather Tonkin in 1985.

Phillips had denied being her father, but a paternity test in 1991 proved it.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - APRIL 20:  Heather Tonkin who is in litigation with Captain Mark Phillips over the fathering of her daughter Felicity.  (Photo by Ross Land/Getty Images)
Heather Tonkin, the art teacher who Captain Mark Phillips had a daughter with while married to Princess Anne. (Ross Land/Getty Images)

There are also reports that he had paid her some child allowance.

The confirmation of Phillips’ adultery allowed the couple to divorce, and it was finalised in 1992.

Anne was able to marry again the same year, and she and Laurence tied the knot in Scotland. They had a much smaller ceremony than her first one, with just 30 guests.

The couple had to marry in Scotland as at the time the Church of England did not allow people to remarry if their divorced spouse was still alive.

As avid Scottish Rugby fans though, it was probably no hardship for the couple.

Unlike her first husband, Laurence doesn’t share Anne’s love of horses.

What happened to Captain Mark Phillips?

Phillips did not remarry until 1997 when he wed Sandy Pflueger, who was an Olympic equestrian. They married in February, and in October their daughter Stephanie was born.

Pflueger was present at Zara Phillips’ wedding, when she married Mike Tindall.

But Phillips’ second marriage also ended in divorce, after he was unfaithful to Pflueger. Lauren Hough, who is about 30 years younger than Phillips, is described as his partner in his Horse and Hound column biography.

According to the Daily Telegraph, after news of the second split emerged, he told friends: “I might only be alive for another five or ten years so I might as well be happy.”

STROUD, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 07:  Princess Anne, Princess Royal and Captain Mark Phillips attend day 3 of The Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe Park on August 7, 2011 in Stroud, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/Getty Images)
Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips in 2011 at Gatcombe Park. (Samir Hussein/Getty Images)
Captain Mark Phillips and his wife Sandy smile on their way to the chapel at Kensington Palace, London for the wedding of Lady Davina Windsor and New Zealander Gary Lewis. The 26-year-old, who is 20th in line to the throne, wed the 33 year old Maori renovator Gary Lewis, a former sheep shearer from Gisbourne, New Zealand.   (Photo by Chris Young - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Captain Mark Phillips and his wife Sandy, who divorced after he met Lauren Hough. (Chris Young - PA Images)
CASCAIS, PORTUGAL - JULY 09: Lauren Hough of USA during the competition on the third day of the Longines Global Champion Tour in Portugal on July 9, 2016 in Cascais, Portugal. Piergiorgio Bucci of Italy, riding Casallo Z, was the winner of LGCT's 11th round Grand Prix with an exceptional time of 49 seconds and 07 hundredths of second. Australian rider Edwina Tops-Alexander, with horse Lintea Tequila, reached second place in the podium, finishing the course in 50 seconds and 08 hundredths of second and being, from this point on, the new LGCT leader. Irish rider Bertram Allen and his mount, Hector van d'' Abdijhoeve, came in third place, finishing the course in 50 seconds and 14 hundredths of second.This year's Prize Money was of 300,000 euros. (Photo by Horacio Villalobos - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
Lauren Hough in 2016, who is Phillips' partner. (Horacio Villalobos - Corbis)

According to the Daily Mail, as of 2011, Zara had never been in touch with her half-sister. Felicity Tonkin was working as an equine vet, so clearly picked up the family love of horses.

Capt Phillips maintains a good relationship with his former wife and they were occasionally seen chatting at the Gatcombe Horse Trials, which were run on Princess Anne’s estate.

Capt Phillips and Anne ran the first one in 1982, and their son Peter Phillips became co-chairman. Zara and her family were regularly seen at the event, and Zara competes.

Speaking about it to Cotswold Life in 2014, Phillips said: “I think that’s one of the charms of The Festival. From a personal point the whole family is involved; Zara, Peter and my Stephanie. They are out there painting the pegs and getting everything ready, and then they get their friends involved, and that creates a great team spirit.”

The trials have ended but the Festival of British Eventing, at Gatcombe, is continuing, though had to be cancelled in 2020.

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