by Scott Mehl
Mark Phillips, first husband of Anne, The Princess Royal
Captain Mark Phillips was the first husband of The Princess Royal and father of her two children. He was born Mark Anthony Peter Phillips on September 22, 1948, to Major Peter Phillips and the former Anne Tiarks (whose father was an Aide-de-Camp to King George VI). He had one sister, Sarah, who passed away.
Following his education at Stouts Hill Preparatory School and Marlborough College, Phillips entered the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. After passing out, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Queen’s Dragoon Guards, eventually reaching the rank of Captain in 1975. He retired from the Army in March 1978.
An avid horseman, Philips was a member of the British Equestrian Team with whom he won the Team Three-Day Event world title in 1970, the European title in 1971, and Olympic Gold in 1972. He also won Silver at the 1988 Olympics and is a four-time champion at the Badminton Horse Trials.
It was through their mutual membership on the British Equestrian Team that Phillips met Princess Anne, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh. Their engagement was announced on May 29, 1973, and they married at Westminster Abbey on November 14, 1973. Following their honeymoon, the couple settled at Gatcombe Park, an estate in Gloucestershire which The Queen had purchased as a wedding gift. It has been speculated that The Queen offered – and Phillips declined – a peerage upon marriage. (Note – this has never been confirmed or denied by any member of the Royal Family.)
The couple had two children:
- Peter Phillips (1977) – married to Autumn Kelly, two daughters
- Zara Phillips (1981) – married to Mike Tindall, one daughter
In 1989, the couple separated following several years of a very strained marriage, and numerous claims of infidelity. In 1991, following court-mandated DNA testing, it was confirmed that Phillips had fathered a daughter, Felicity, in 1985 as a result of an affair. The following year, in April 1992, Captain Phillips and The Princess Royal were formally divorced.
In the 1980s, Phillips began working with the US Equestrian Team, serving as Chef d’Equipe of the Eventing Team. It was through this that he met his second wife, Sandy Pflueger, a member of the US Dressage Team. They married on February 1, 1997, and have a daughter Stephanie born later that year. The couple separated in 2012. Since 2012, Phillips has been in a relationship with Lauren Hough, also a member of the US Team, who is 18 years his junior.
As well as his work with the US Equestrian Team, Phillips is a columnist for Horse & Hound magazine and has designed several courses, including the cross-country venue for the Red Hills Horse Trials, an Olympic qualifying event, in Florida.
Captain Phillips is also the Chairman and course designer of the Gatcombe Horse Trials, which is held on The Princess Royal’s Gatcombe Park estate. Begun in the early 1980s by Phillips and The Princess Royal, the event continues to draw equestrians from around the world.
From most accounts, despite their divorce, Phillips retains a friendly relationship with The Princess Royal. The two are, in fact, neighbors. Some years after their marriage, the couple had purchased the neighboring property of Aston Farm and incorporated it into their Gatcombe Park estate. Following their divorce, the Princess retained Gatcombe, while Phillips moved to Aston Farm where he still resides today. However, in recent years, he has been based primarily in the United States.