Princess Anne in carriage at races

A full timeline of Princess Anne’s terrifying kidnap attempt and her three-word response to gunman

A remarkable royal tale

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Princess Anne once talked an armed man out of kidnapping her.

The ordeal will feature in Channel 5’s The Real Crown: Inside the House of Windsor tonight (October 3).

So when did the incident happen and how did Anne react? Read on to find out more.

Princess Anne in green dress at royal service
Princess Anne endured a kidnapping attempt in the 70s (Credit:

Princess Anne’s kidnap ordeal: What happened?

March 1974

The extraordinary incident occurred on March 20, 1974 as the late Queen‘s daughter returned to Buckingham Palace following a charity event.

During the commotion, would-be kidnapper Ian Ball – who was armed with two guns – ended up shooting four people. It has been reported Anne’s actions helped stall Ball as he demanded the then 23-year-old Princess Royal get out of her car.

But other reports have claimed the much-admired sister of King Charles refused point blank to consider Ball’s request, telling him: “Not bloody likely!”

Princess Anne wearing blue outfit during royal engagement
Anne reportedly told the kidnapper “not bloody likely” (Credit:

What happened next?

Joining Anne in her vehicle were then husband Captain Mark Phillips, her lady-in-waiting, and her bodyguard Inspector Jim Beaton.

After turning into The Mall, the royal’s car was cut up by a Ford Escort which forced the driver to stop.

Ball then jumped out of vehicle and approached the royal limo – and confronted Beaton with a gun when he officer stepped out himself. Ball then proceeded to shoot the bodyguard in the right shoulder.

Due to his injury, Beaton was unable to return fire. Then his own weapon jammed. And by this time Ball had ordered those in the car to open up or he’d shoot.

As Captain Phillips and the lady-in-waiting struggled to keep the car secure, Beaton managed to clamber back in and put his own body between Ball and Princess Anne.

He was then shot two more times, receiving further injuries to his hand and abdomen. Beaton later recalled in a police statement: “I felt tired and very drunk, although I hadn’t been drinking. I just wanted to lie down.”

The driver, Alexander Callendar, was also shot, in the chest, and a passing journalist who also tried to intervene was the third person to be shot.

Eventually, boxer Ronnie Russell – who was also passing – subdued Ball with a punch to the back of the head. But Anne’s contributions have been regarded as crucial to ensuring the incident did not end much worse than it did.

Princess Anne in coat, hat and scarf at races
The Princess Royal spoke about the kidnap attempt in a 1983 interview (Credit:

Was he arrested?

Remarkably, despite Ball shooting four different people, there were no fatalities.

He was arrested, and charged with attempted murder and kidnapping. Ball was ultimately sentenced to 41 years in high-security psychiatric facility Broadmoor.

Jim Beaton and Ronnie Russell, meanwhile, each received a George Cross for gallantry.

The aftermath – Anne’s response in 1983

During a 1983 appearance on Parkinson, Anne recalled: “He opened the door, and we had a sort of discussion, about where or where not we were going to go. He said I had to go with him, I can’t remember why. I said I didn’t think I wanted to go.

We had a fairly low-key discussion about the fact that I wasn’t going to go anywhere.

“I was scrupulously polite because I thought it’s silly to be too rude or that sort of thing. We had a fairly low-key discussion about the fact that I wasn’t going to go anywhere and wouldn’t it be much better if he moved away and we’d all forget about it?”

Read more: ‘Shocked and saddened’ Sarah Ferguson releases statement after former PA is murdered

The Real Crown: Inside the House of Windsor airs tonight (October 3) from 9pm on Channel 5. 

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Robert Leigh
Freelance writer