Princess Anne Is Supposed to Be the Unsinkable Royal. Here’s Why Her Hospitalization Has Me So Concerned

It's reportedly for minor injuries, but still

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I’ve been a royal watcher my whole life—more intensely in the last four years as co-host of the Royally Obsessed podcast—and to describe it as a roller coaster would be an understatement. Take the last week for example: One minute you’ve got Royal Ascot and Prince William posing for a selfie with Taylor Swift; the next, you’re waking up to headlines that Princess Anne has been hospitalized due to a weekend mishap with a horse at her Gatcombe Park estate.

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Her injuries are reportedly minor, though the 73-year-old royal and sister of King Charles III did suffer a concussion following an incident that was described by a person familiar with the royal family as being “consistent with having had contact with the legs or head of a horse.” Still, the part that left me feeling shaken as DMs and New York Times’ news alerts about Anne popped up on my phone this morning was this: The Princess Royal, who BTW is an Olympic-level equestrian, is supposed to be the unsinkable royal.

In a year full of cancer scares (for both the king and Kate Middleton), but also more Prince Andrew, Prince Harry and even royal portrait drama, Princess Anne embodies the British mantra, “keep calm and carry on.”

That’s why royal worries quickly followed: Is this a tipping point for the monarchy? Should even a stalwart royal figure like Anne consider slowing down?

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It’s not that a minor injury is the end of the world (in fact, I’m betting, based on my knowledge of Anne, that she’s rather annoyed at all the fuss and attention), but it’s another breath-holding moment in a bumpy year for the monarchy—and one that serves as a reminder of the pressure on the next generation, namely Prince William and Kate.

After all, the current line of senior royals is, well, aging. I’m feeling optimistic about the health of King Charles, who is 75 and recently returned to royal duties, despite the fact that his cancer treatment continues. (His wife, Queen Camilla, regularly quips that “he won’t slow down and do what he’s told.”) Prince Edward, the king’s youngest brother who is a youthful 60 years old, has been making every effort to step up to the plate alongside Duchess Sophie, his wife, in the wake of another royal family member’s absence. (Let’s just say Prince Andrew won’t be back to royal work anytime soon.)

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And then there’s Anne.

When other areas of the monarchy start to feel weak, she’s the ultimate stress test—devoted to duty (and taming even the unruliest of horses) through thick and thin. Much like her late mother, Queen Elizabeth II, she’s unflappable, really. But today’s health scare is yet another reminder that the royal bench is thinning—and even someone like Anne needs to occasionally call for backup. That’s OK.

Still, what is decidedly a much-more low-stakes hospitalization than one involving a direct heir calls to mind questions about the monarchy’s future and what I’d imagine are plenty of behind-the-scenes conversations about how to best distribute the workload so that the pressure never falls on a single royal’s shoulders. (After all, a quick peek at the royal diary shows Anne was due to carry out a whopping six engagements this week alone.)

Permission to let Princess Anne slow down, recover and take a royal beat? Granted, of course. (The king has already expressed his “fondest love and well wishes” for a speedy recovery.) In the meantime, is it time to extend the range of bench-warming, engagement covering royals? Perhaps.

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Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...