The Princess Royal is this week’s guest editor of Country Life magazine, in a special edition to mark her 70th birthday. Her steering of this edition includes a tour of Gatcombe, and two articles from her husband, Sir Tim.
Taking on the role of campaigning editor, Princess Anne has set out her vision for securing a brighter future for the countryside, in a column where she urges everyone to be more careful about waste and energy.
Princess Anne has featured on the cover of Country Life almost a dozen times in her life. The magazine is a mix of contemporary country-related articles, from architecture, to the arts, as well as gardens and gardening, and wildlife.
In her words, Anne pays tribute to her parents, The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, for instilling a lifelong love of nature within her: “Both my parents had a love and understanding of the natural world through their own experiences. Perhaps even more so for my father when, during his rather disjointed young life, he ended up at school at Gordonstoun and was introduced to the wilds of Scotland, both land and sea.
“Scotland had its influence on my mother too, as did the big skies of Norfolk, and the huge fields and marshes of the Sandringham Estate. Windsor’s Home Park and Great Park were a constant presence for her, as they were for all of us.”
Anne also attended Gordonstoun, and is often compared to her father for her no-nonsense ways.
She offers a glimpse into her own life in Gloucestershire, with new photos of the Princess at Gatcombe Park, taking us on a tour of her home. She shows the horses they keep, from eventers to Suffolk heavy horses, the organic farming methods used and the rare breeds, from White Park cattle to Buff Orpington chickens and Wiltshire Horn sheep.
For the foodies, Anne includes a favourite recipe for devilled pheasant.
Vice-Admiral Sir Tim Laurence has also contributed, having written two pieces for the special edition: one is a light-hearted column for ‘My Week’, where he discusses tree-planting and dry-stone walling. He also writes an in-depth feature about saving country houses, in his role as chairman of English Heritage.
Prince Charles similarly wrote an article for the magazine in 2015, to mark his own birthday.
Something that is also clear is her knowledge and passion for the countryside. Discussing the major issues facing people and the rural economy, the effects of Covid-19, and the importance of good transport and logistics, Anne gets her teeth into it all.
She talks of gaining her HGV licence, which allows her to drive larger horse boxes, technology and research, also touching on affordable housing, and dealing with waste. “Controlling our waste is something everyone can do and it will make a difference to the planet,” she remarks. “I write as a ‘Jack of all trades’ who has the opportunity to listen and engage with the masters of their subjects.”
Through her royal work, Princess Anne speaks to thousands of people from all walks of life and different sectors. Of course, the Princess was a professional equestrian earlier in life, competing at the Olympics. Her daughter, Zara, has followed suit. But she has previously said that if she wasn’t a Royal she would probably have been an engineer.
The Princess reveals some of her personal favourites in the magazine, which includes a painting by a local artist of her father’s racing yacht, Bloodhound, on which she enjoyed family trips as a child.
Her most memorable garden? A ‘horticultural miracle’ on a barren landscape surrounding a lighthouse on the Hebridean island of Islay. The Royal Family used to sail around the islands of Scotland during the summer holidays, with such trips diminishing after the retirement of Britannia, and Anne has a particular passion for lighthouses.
Mark Hedges, editor of Country Life magazine, said: “It was an absolute delight to have The Princess Royal as our guest editor. Her passion for the countryside shines through with every feature, combined with her concerns that the right action is taken to safeguard the rural way of life for future generations, from providing affordable housing to dealing with fly tipping.
“We do hope our special edition makes a very fitting 70th birthday present.”