Britain's Princess Anne talks to guests during a reception at Buckingham Palace, as NATO leaders gather to mark 70 years of the alliance, in London. Picture: Yui Mok/Pool Photo via AP, File)
Britain's Princess Anne talks to guests during a reception at Buckingham Palace, as NATO leaders gather to mark 70 years of the alliance, in London. Picture: Yui Mok/Pool Photo via AP, File)

Princess Anne to young royals: 'Please stop trying to reinvent the wheel'

By Rebecca English Time of article published Apr 16, 2020

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Princess Anne has warned the younger generation of royals against "reinventing the wheel" in their approach to their duties.

The Queen’s daughter used a rare interview ahead of her 70th birthday to caution her more youthful family members not to change the traditional approach to charity work.

She singles out no one in particular, but this year has already seen Harry and Meghan quit as working royals as they prepare to launch a charitable venture called Archewell from the US, where they now live with son Archie, one.

Anne said younger royals should not forget older family members such as herself have been successfully working in the field for decades. Speaking to US magazine Vanity Fair, the princess also said she wasn’t planning to retire any time soon, but praised her elderly parents for deciding to hand down some of their duties to their children and grandchildren.

Harry, 35, and Meghan, 38, have complained about being ‘strait-jacketed’ by the monarchy and say they want to find a new way of carrying out public work.

And several years ago William and Harry decided to take a "different" approach to charity work and official duties – representing fewer charities to get more involved at a grassroots level. It led to the launch of successful campaigns such as Harry’s Invictus Games but also criticism that they were taking on fewer official duties even than the elderly Queen and Duke of Edinburgh.

Anne – who has supported charities including Save the Children for decades and carried out more than 500 engagements last year – described herself as ‘the boring old fuddy-duddy at the back’. She said: ‘I don’t think this younger generation probably understands what I was doing in the past and it’s often true, isn’t it? You don’t necessarily look at the previous generation and say: “Oh, you did that?” Or: “You went there?”

‘Nowadays, they’re much more looking for: “Oh, let’s do it a new way.” And I’m already at the stage, “Please do not reinvent that particular wheel. We’ve been there, done that. Some of these things don’t work. You may need to go back to basics”.’

Harry and Meghan’s decision to quit royal duties and Prince Andrew’s enforced absence over the Jeffrey Epstein scandal have put more pressure on senior royals. And Anne, who will turn 70 in August, says she has no intention of slowing down. ‘I don’t think retirement is quite the same [for me]. Most people would say we’re very lucky not to be in that situation because you wouldn’t want to just stop,’ Anne told Vanity Fair.

She added: I think both my father and my mother have, quite rightly, made decisions about, you know, “I can’t spend enough time doing this and we need to find somebody else to do it,” because it makes sense.’ The Duke of Edinburgh retired in 2017, but the Queen, who turns 94 next week, carried out nearly 300 official duties last year.

The generational divide is also clearly on Anne’s mind as she discusses her aversion to screens.

The princess said: "I find it very difficult to understand why anybody gets sucked into screens and devices. Life’s too short, frankly."

Anne, known for wearing decades-old outfits, said she recycles her clothes "because I’m quite mean". She added that she was always keen for her children, Peter and Zara Phillips, to have ordinary childhoods and decided not to accept the offer of a title for them.

Anne also speaks with joy about her time at boarding school – Benenden in Kent – saying: "I think boarding school has been demonised by some when in fact it’s a very important aspect to have available and many children actually thrive in it."

Vanity Fair said the interview took place on the day it was revealed Peter and wife Autumn were divorcing, but it was warned Anne would not discuss the separation. She divorced Captain Mark Phillips after 20 years of marriage.

Although she pursued a successful career as a competitive equestrian eventer, winning an Olympic medal, she said she would actually have liked to be an engineer.

Daily Mail

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