Former boxer Ronnie Russell is pictured for the last time with the George medal

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A hero who saved Princess Anne during an attempted kidnap is selling his George Medal nearly 50 years later to fund his own funeral. Former heavyweight boxer Ronnie Russell, 72, punched gunman Ian Ball in the head as he tried to abduct the Princess at gunpoint in London in 1974. He was awarded the George Medal for bravery by the Queen who told him: "The medal is from the Queen, but I want to thank you as Anne's mother." Now Ronnie, who has suffered poor health for decades, is auctioning the medal in London to cover the costs of his funeral which he fears could be imminent. Ronnie is currently suffering with the rare inflammatory Adult Onset Stills disease which destroys joints and means he is taking high doses of medication. He has also battled cancer and several strokes, leaving him in precarious health. The former bodyguard said: "It will give me, or should give me, the relief I will be able to pay for my own funeral. I am very sad to be doing this. "I am a through and through royalist to this day. I still believe that members of the royal family lives are more important than my own. Dying for them was fine by me." He was a married 28-year-old and a father of two when he spontaneously defended the Princess during the kidnap bid on The Mall, central London. Ronnie, an area manager for Exclusive Office Cleaning, had been working in Princess Square on Pall Mall before being sent home at about 8pm on 20 March 1974. Recalling the incident, he said: "It is as clear today as it was if it was last night. Once I got into the Mall, I saw a royal car coming down the Mall and it's got a small blue light on the roof of it. "That's only on when there is a member of the royal family in the car. I saw the car and thought 'I wonder who this is'." A few minutes later a car drove towards him towards him by Admiralty Arch, which Ronnie initially thought was a case of road rage. But when he realised it was more serious, he turned back to intervene, acting as Princess Anne's "human shield" as the assailant tried to kidnap the royal. He added: "She was the calmest person of the whole event. She just kept sitting there without getting angry or upset. "She just went "go away you silly man". That was it. That was all she said to him, without any excitement or shouting." "I said 'come this way Anne', you'll be safe. I got her by her forearms and lifted her out in front of me. "I said he's going to have to go through me to get to you. "He has then run round behind me but I don't know that. I turn around and he's looking at me, glaring at me with the gun. "It's you or me now." Ronnie, who was a boxer weighing more than 19 stone at the time, then punched the assailant to the ground. He said: "I landed the punch right on his chin. I hit him as hard as I could in one go and there he was, flat on the floor. He was never going to move." Police arrived shortly after and Ronnie went to help an injured chauffeur, who was pouring with blood and he said 'he's done me'. After the incident Ronnie was criticised for calling the Princess by her Christian name, without using her title. He explained: "I got a lot of stick from the press for calling Princess Anne, 'Anne'. All they kept saying was 'who does he think he is, this commoner to turn around and just call her 'Anne'? "It was far too serious to start thinking about 'Your Majesty' or 'ma'am'. It just had to be done." During the criticisms Ronnie received a telegram from the Palace. He added: "Instead of it being in type-mode, the last bit she just signed it 'Anne'." Ronnie, who now lives in a council house in Bristol with his wife, wanted to use the attention from the medal's sale to to clarify myths surrounding the event. One false story circulating was that the Queen had paid off his mortgage to thank him for his heroism. He said: "We are not supposed to say this yet but there is an inference that the Queen may pay your mortgage off as a reward. "So I didn't pay my mortgage for four months and then they were going to repossess my house." He said: "I've just been so ill for the last few years. I have to go and have a drip every 21 days. "I want to thank my brother, Terry, for looking after me during my illness. I'd have been in serious trouble if it weren't for him." The medal is expected to fetch between £15,000 and £20,000 when it goes under the hammer at Dix Noonan Webb auctioneers, central London, on Wednesday. The silver medal, the second highest civilian honour for bravery behind the George Cross, has a portrait of the Queen's head on one side and a scene showing St George Slaying a dragon on the other. It is one of only 600 George Medals awarded since World War Two and is the second highest honour available to civilians. Auctioneer Thomas Pepys spoke to Ronnie over the telephone when he decided to auction the medal. He said: "Most medal collectors collect them because they are interested in the story behind them. "Ronnie got in touch with us directly. We built up a rapport and it has been a very straightforward process. "It is worth £12-15 but it is the story that it represents. It is very much the honour of the award rather than the financial worth. "Most of the people the Queen gives awards or honours to, she has not met or does not know much about them. "This is obviously very different." Ronnie spoke to Princess Anne after the Queen awarded him the medal. Recalling the interaction, he said: "She is a very very straight person. In fact when we went to the private reception after the presentation of the medal, all the press were there to take their photos and she said 'come on mum, we better get this over and done with.' She said she was really pleased that the Queen had awarded me the medal." The hero added: "Princess Anne really is a very special person. She should be the one that is second in line to the throne, in my world. Her way with people and her way about facts of life make her so special." He joked: "I think me saving her life made her think about dumping her husband to be honest with you."

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