Mark Phillips Biography

Athlete (1948–)
Olympic medalist Mark Phillips is renowned as the commoner who married Princess Anne.


Born in England in 1948, Mark Philips earned distinction as a military official, serving in The Royal Dragoons (1st Dragoons). After winning a gold medal as an equestrian, Phillips became a national icon as the commoner husband of Princess Anne, daughter of Queen Elizabeth II.

Early Life and Military Career

Born on September 22, 1948, in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, England, to parents Peter William Garside Phillips and Anne Patricia Phillips, Mark Anthony Peter Philips received a privileged upbringing. He was educated at Marlborough College as a child, and then entered Sandhurst Royal Military Academy. Upon graduation from Sandhurst, Phillips entered the military, joining The Royal Dragoon Guards. While rising in the ranks from Lieutenant to Captain, Phillips was named a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, in recognition of his service to the monarch of the British Royal Family, and a Personal Aide-de-Camp to the Queen, which allowed him to represent the ruling monarch and her viceroys.

Equestrian Career

In addition to his successful military career, Phillips was a talented horseman, and competed in three-day event riding on The Beaufort Hunt Pony Club Team for five years in the 1960s, reaching the finals on three separate occasions. He went on to win a Team Gold Medal at the Munich Olympics in 1972, and was on the winning teams for the 11th World Championships in 1970 and the 7th European Championships in 1971. He also won the championship title at Badminton in 1971, 1972, 1974 and 1981, and at Burghley in 1973. In addition to his talent as a three-day event rider, Phillips also became an accomplished show-jumper, competing on two winning Nation's Cup Teams. Phillips retired from professional competition in 1988, after earning a silver medal in the Seoul Olympic Games.

Horses also happened to be the link between Phillips and Princess Anne, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth II and the Prince Phillip. Anne was an equally skilled equestrian, who had not only won the individual title at the European Eventing Championship, but was also voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1971. While competing on the equestrian circuit, Phillips and Princess Anne met and became friends. Their shared interest in horses evolved into a deeper relationship, and a romance blossomed between the commoner and the royal.

Marriage to Princess Anne

Phillips's relationship with Princess Anne became the subject of much speculation from the general public. But the intensely private Anne managed to keep the details of their relationship a closely guarded secret. The couple even kept the news of their engagement private for six weeks, before it was officially announced on May 29, 1973. The news of the couple's impending marriage placed Phillips and his royal fiancée under intense scrutiny by the media; their marriage would be the first in 200 years in which a member of the British Royal Family married a commoner.

The couple wed on November 14, 1973, at Westminster Abbey—the same church that housed the marriage ceremony of Princess Anne's parents, years before. An estimated 500 million television viewers watched the nuptials, and the day was declared a national holiday.

Phillips and the princess had two children together: Peter Mark Andrew Phillips, born on November 15, 1977, and Zara Phillips, born May 15, 1981. But rumors of their stormy relationship soon surfaced, and their marriage became the frequent topic of the tabloids. In April 1992, after a paternity suit revealed that Phillips had fathered a child with New Zealand schoolteacher Heather Tonkin, the couple divorced. Princess Anne remarried later that year, to Commander Timothy Laurence of the Royal Navy.

Move to the U.S.

Following the public breakdown of his marriage, Phillips moved to the U.S., and stayed out of the public sphere. He resumed his equestrian pursuits, training athletes in the art of horsemanship and designing courses and trails for riding. He also became a regular contributor to Horse and Hound magazine, and served in a number of roles for the British Equestrian Team and as the Chef d'Equipe with the US Eventing Team.

Phillips remarried on February 1, 1997, this time to accomplished dressage rider Sandy Pflueger. The couple met Phillips through international equestrian activities.

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