Princess Anne's terrifying kidnapping ordeal that was left out of The Crown

Megan C. Hills
Reginald Davis/Shutterstock

Season 3 of The Crown has been packed with emotional drama and a new cast featuring Olivia Colman , Tobias Menzies and Helena Bonham Carter .

The latest series skipped forward in time to the period 1964 - 1977 and introduced young adult interpretations of Royal Family members, including Prince Charles and Princess Anne.

But the series also skipped what was arguably one of the most dramatic moments of recent royal history: Princess Anne’s attempted kidnapping.

(Getty Images)

The botched abduction took place on March 20, 1974, when seven people were injured trying to protect a remarkably stoic princess.

Following a publicised charity film screening, Princess Anne travelled home with her then-husband Captain Phillips in a Rolls Royce.

On the way back, a man named Ian Ball stopped his car in the middle of the Mall, which forced the princess' vehicle to come to a quick stop as Ball stepped out and began shooting.

Princess Anne recounted the attempted kidnapping in an interview with Michael Parkinson in the 1980s, joined by Phillips.

She said, “The essence of the operation was this car overtook us and stopped. This was going up the Mall...[A van] pulled up a bit quick and the [chauffeur] stopped to avoid it. And this man got out of his car and ran back, then the policeman [accompanying the princess] got out of his car and he walked round the back of his car. And when he walked round the back of his car, he realised this man had a gun.”

Princess Anne's Rolls Royce and Ball's white Ford Escort after the attempted kidnapping (Getty Images)

Following a shoot-out between the policeman and Ball, which caused the back window to shatter and cover the princess in glass, Princess Anne revealed the policeman (who was seriously injured in the attack) soon encountered a problem.

“Unbeknownst to us, his gun jammed so he was useless - and he was also quite seriously wounded at that stage," she said.

Ball on the other hand had two guns on his person. After her chauffeur was shot as he tried to intervene and the royal told her lady-in-waiting to escape the car, Ball was able to get to Princess Anne. He tried to convince her to come with him but she refused to comply.

Princess Anne in 1974, after visiting two men at hospital who were shot in the attack (Getty Images)

She said, “We had a discussion about where - or where not - we were going to go… I said I didn’t think I wanted to go. I was scrupulously polite because I thought it would be silly to be too rude at that stage. So I mean, [it was] 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 just went away and we all would forget about it? Which was [as it] turned out wishful thinking.”

Phillips described Princess Anne as being “obstinate” with her kidnapper and Phillips, who was a captain in the army, said, “I was frightened, I don’t mind admitting it.”

Police searching the scene of the crime in 1974 (Getty Images)

Later reports also claimed Princess Anne had told Ball more specifically that it was “not bloody likely” she was going with him.

Eventually, several people attempted to come to her aid including a former boxer, two other policeman and a journalist. The princess explained that following a tug of war, she was able to keep her cool and devise an escape from the vehicle.

Pinned down on the floor of the car, she found that the door handle was above her head and opened it, rolling backwards onto the street where she waited for Ball to move. When he did and tried to run around the car to get to her, she threw herself back into the vehicle and shut the door behind her again.

Princess Anne in 1971 (Getty Images)

Over the course of the struggle, Princess Anne recounted that she “lost my rag” when her dress was accidentally ripped. At one point, she, Philips and Ball had been locked in a back and forth as they both tried to close/open the passenger door which resulted in her dress tearing.

She said, “In the process of [Ball] getting the door back open, the back of my dress split from top and all the shoulders went out of it. And that was his most dangerous moment. I lost my rag at that stage.”

Eventually, additional police officers arrived on the scene and were able to apprehend Ball as he attempted to flee, but not without some dry parting words from Princess Anne. She said, “The police were there at that stage and I said, ‘Go on. Now’s your chance.’ And he legged it off towards the park and was smothered.”

Princess Anne and Mark Phillips in 1973 (Getty Images)

While Princess Anne explained that Ball did not immediately make his reasons for kidnapping her clear, more details emerged as he eventually pleaded guilty to two attempted murder charges and an additional kidnapping charge.

Ball was an unemployed labourer and had a history of mental health issues and had been planning to ransom Princess Anne to the tune of £3 million - which he then intended to donate to the NHS to ‘improve the care and treatment of psychiatric patients’ according to the Guardian at the time.

Princess Anne now (Getty Images)

Ball’s plan also involved a ransom note to the Queen, which dictated she would have to arrive on a plane flying to Switzerland to sign paperwork and exchange the money - which was to be put into 20 unlocked suitcases. Ball was 26 years old at the time.

Although the attempted kidnapping sounds like it could very well have been its own episode on The Crown, it was omitted altogether.

According to The Crown’s historian Robert Lacey via The Express, “They had to choose what was significant, and while he acknowledged that was an incredibly important story, he said it just didn’t fit with the timeline, the stories they wanted to tell and the characters they wanted to develop.”

The Crown's Princess Anne played by Erin Doherty vs. the royal in real life (Netflix/Getty Images)

Instead, The Crown chose to focus more on Princess Anne’s flirtation with Andrew Parker-Bowles - who would go on to marry the current Duchess of Cornwall (though they later divorced).

Princess Anne is played by Erin Doherty on the series, which is currently streaming on Netflix.