What happened in the Princess Anne kidnap attempt of 1974?


Princess Anne

Anne, the Princess Royal, is a stalwart in the Royal Family (Picture: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Anne, the Princess Royal, is renowned for being resilient and hard-working.

And she has personified grace and strength as she has carried on duties and represented her mother, Queen Elizabeth II, after her death on September 8.

Anne described the ‘honour’ she has felt accompanying her late mother on her final journeys.

The Queen’s only daughter, Anne is often regarded as one of the hardest working royals, which could explain her enduring popularity.

Kevin S. MacLeod, the Canadian Secretary to the Queen, said of Anne in 2014: ‘Her credo is, “Keep me busy. I’m here to work. I’m here to do good things. I’m here to meet as many people as possible”’ and she means this – she has often carried out more public duties per year than any other royal.

Keen to pitch in and do her duties, Anne rarely causes a public scandal. But she was involved in one of the most shocking royal moments in memory – a kidnapping attempt.

Read all about Princess Anne’s kidnapping attempt, her reported calm reaction and the aftermath here…

What happened when someone tried to kidnap Princess Anne in 1974?

Princess Anne and her first husband Mark Phillips were returning to Buckingham Palace on 20 March 1974 from a charity event on Pall Mall when their car was forced to stop by a Ford Escort.

The driver of that Escort was Ian Ball.

When the Princess Royal’s car came to a stop, Ball jumped out and began firing a pistol.

Princess Anne and Mark Philips (1974)

Princess Anne and Mark Philips in 1974 – the year of the kidnap attempt (Picture: Getty Images)

Anne’s personal police protection officer, Inspector James Beaton, jumped out to try to detain Ball, however, Beaton’s firearm, a Walther PPK, jammed, and he ended up being struck by one of Ball’s bullets.

Beaton wasn’t the only one to be hurt in the kidnapping attempt.

Anne’s chauffeur, Alex Callender, was shot as he tried to disarm Ball, as was Brian McConnell, a nearby tabloid journalist who attempted to intervene.

Leaving three people injured, Ball approached Anne’s car and told her that he intended to kidnap her and hold her for ransom -for a sum given by varying sources as either £2 million or £3 million – which he claimed he intended to give to the National Health Service to fund mental health treatment.

Ball told Anne to get out of the car, to which she replied: ‘Not bloody likely!’

Anne confirmed this in stories over the years, including on an appearance on Michael Parkinson’s chat show in 1980.

Eventually, she got out of her car along with her lady-in-waiting, Rowena Brassey.

A passer-by, who very fortunately turned out to be a former boxer named Ron Russell, punched Ball in the back of the head and led Anne away from the scene.

After this, Police Constable Michael Hills arrived on the scene, and was shot by Ball too, but not before he had called for backup.

Detective Constable Peter Edmonds, who had been nearby, answered, gave chase, and finally arrested Ball.

What happened to Ian Ball, the man behind Princess Anne’s kidnap attempt?

Ian Ball, pictured here being led into court, has been detained under the Mental Health Act since (Picture: Getty)

Ball was arrested and charged with attempted murder and kidnapping.

Because of his self-declared mental health problems, he was sentenced to 41 years in Broadmoor, a high-security psychiatric hospital in Berkshire.

He is still detained under the Mental Health Act.

What happened to Princess Anne’s guard and chauffeur?

Fortunately, all wounded parties recovered just fine.

For his actions, Inspector Beaton was awarded the George Cross by the Queen, who was visiting Indonesia when the incident occurred.

Left to right: PC Michael Hills, Inspector James Beaton (Princess Anne’s private detective) and Detective Constable Peter Edmonds receiving their honours (Picture: Getty)

Police Constable Hills and the former boxer Russell were awarded the George Medal, and her chauffeur Callender, the nearby reporter McConnell, and the other police officer on the scene Edmonds were awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal.

The boxer Russell also had his mortgage paid off by the Queen in gratitude for saving her daughter.


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