Princess Anne is a scene-stealer in The Crown season 3 but Netflix’s series shockingly ignores the fact that she was nearly kidnapped in 1974.
The Crown season 3 surprisingly ignores a remarkable event: the attempted kidnapping of Princess Anne in 1974. Created by Peter Morgan, Netflix’s drama series about the Royal House of Windsor returned for its third season with an all-new cast replacing Emmy winner Claire Foy, Matt Smith, and Vanessa Kirby. Academy Award winner Olivia Colman is the new Queen Elizabeth II while Tobias Menzies steps into the role of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Helena Bonham Carter portrays Princess Margaret, Countess Snowdon.
Set during the 1960s-1970s, The Crown season 3 also introduces Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) and Princess Anne (Erin Doherty) in their late teens/early 20s. As young adults, the prince and princess received compelling storylines based on real-life events; Charles’ investiture as Prince of Wales and his budding romance with Camilla Shand (Emerald Fennell) are spotlighted. Meanwhile, Princess Anne, who is introduced in episode 4, “Bubbikins”, ages from 17 to 27 during the course of The Crown season 3 and she is a scene-stealer. Whether she is sassing her parents the King and Queen or getting in a tryst with Andrew Parker-Bowles (Andrew Buchan) – and thereby getting caught up in her brother’s “messy” love life – Princess Anne is one of The Crown season 3’s best new characters. However, she doesn’t get an episode of her own, which is shocking when the real Princess Anne was almost kidnapped in 1974, which was an incredible incident that was ready-made for – but entirely ignored by – The Crown season 3.
On March 20, 1974, Princess Anne and her new husband Captain Mark Phillips (who was also never mentioned in The Crown season 3) were returning to Buckingham Palace from a film premiere when their car was forced to stop by a Ford Escort. The driver was a man named Ian Ball, who jumped out and began firing his handgun. Ball planned to kidnap Princess Anne and hold her ransom for £2 million, which he planned to donate to the National Health Service; Ball also had the ransom note he penned to Queen Elizabeth on his person and rented a house nearby which he intended to hold the princess hostage in. Inspector James Beaton, Princess Anne’s bodyguard, stepped out of the car to stop the kidnapper but his gun jammed and Ball shot him as well as the chauffeur, Alex Callendar. Princess Anne, Phillips, and Rowena Brassey, Anne’s lady-in-waiting, barricaded themselves in the vehicle as Ball tried to abduct the princess, to which she replied, “Not bloody likely!”
During the incident, several people tried to help Princess Anne and were shot by Ball, including a Daily Mail photographer named Brian McConnell and Constable Michael Hills, who called for backup. Ron Russell, a passing pedestrian who was also a retired boxer, jumped to help and punched Ball in the back of the head. As Ball tried to flee, Detective Constable Peter Edmunds chased the perpetrator and finally tackled and apprehended him. Ball pleaded guilty to attempted murder and kidnapping and was sentenced to life in a psychiatric facility. For their defense of Princess Anne, Beaton, Callendar, McConnell, Russell, Edmunds, and Hills all received medals from the Queen, who was visiting Indonesia at the time.
If Princess Anne’s attempted kidnapping had been part of The Crown season 3, it would have fit in somewhere within the timeline of episode 9, “Imbroglio”, but The Crown was too focused on Prince Charles and Camilla along with Anne’s dalliance with Andrew Parker-Bowles. The Crown never mentions that Anne got married in 1973 or that she competed in the 1976 Olympics as an equestrian; Princess Anne was the first Royal to be an Olympian. Unsurprisingly, Princess Anne bravely escaping being kidnapped made worldwide headlines; it was the first time someone tried to kidnap a member of the Royal Family and the incident even inspired part of Tom Clancy’s novel Patriot Games, so it’s a shock that The Crown outright ignored it. Not to mention Erin Doherty’s gutsy performance as Princess Anne would be ideal for dramatizing this incident.
As Princess Anne told Parker-Bowles in The Crown season 3, episode 8, “Dangling Man”, “I’m not confident – I’m tough”. It’s a shame The Crown season 3 didn’t include Princess Anne surviving her 1974 attempted kidnapping so fans could have seen her prove how tough she really was.