LONDON — Buckingham Palace revealed Saturday that Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth II's only daughter, will marry again. The groom will be Cmdr. Timothy J.H. Laurence, a naval officer.
Never before in British history has a monarch's son, daughter, brother or sister remarried after a divorce.
Initial reactions indicated that news of a new royal wedding is likely to give a lift to the beleaguered Royal Family, which has lately been under unprecedented criticism about matters ranging from the royals' behavior to their exemption from taxes.
The Palace provided no details, but the forthcoming wedding, the Princess Royal's second, will be a private Church of Scotland ceremony since, as a divorced royal, she could not be married in the Church of England.
Prime Minister John Major said Saturday night that he was "delighted" by word of the betrothal and offered his "warmest congratulations" to the princess, 42, and Laurence, 37.
The revelation was also welcomed by members of Parliament. As Conservative Geoffrey Dickens put it: "This is wonderful news. The princess has always been a splendid member of the Royal Family and has done a lot for children around the world.
"We all wish her and her new husband great happiness in her second marriage. Everybody is ready for a royal marriage to lift the gloom that has shrouded the family for the last few months."
Anne was divorced in April from her first husband, Mark Phillips, father of their two children, Peter and Zara Anne, after three years of separation and 18 years of marriage.
Laurence is a serving Royal Navy officer, recently in command of the frigate Boxer. He met Anne when he was serving as an equerry, or aide, to Queen Elizabeth's royal household.
The forthcoming marriage recalls to the British public the ill-fated romance 40 years ago between Princess Margaret, the queen's only sister and Princess Anne's aunt, and Group Capt. Peter Townsend, a World War II pilot and an equerry to King George VI.
They fell in love, but because Townsend was divorced the Royal Family frowned on a marriage, and the couple did not wed. He subsequently married and lived abroad, and Princess Margaret wed society photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones, later Lord Snowden. They were divorced. Snowden remarried, apparently happily; she did not. By all accounts, she has lived a lonely existence since.
Princess Anne first came into the public eye as a rather dour, brittle and sarcastic figure who did not suffer fools gladly. In that, she resembled her father, Prince Philip, a former British naval officer.
She was perceived as being more interested in horses and country sports--like her mother--than in people. She married a fellow Olympic equestrian, Capt. Phillips, dubbed "Smog" by royal insiders because he was reputedly "thick."
However, as her marriage curdled, Anne turned increasingly to supporting worthy causes, such as the Save the Children Fund, and devoting herself to various royal duties. As a reward, the queen in 1987 granted her the title Princess Royal.
The quiet-spoken Laurence has risen in the navy because of his abilities rather than family background. He is the son of a marine engine salesman.
In 1986, Laurence was assigned to the royal staff and met the princess. Their romance was first publicized in 1989 when "affectionate" letters from him to the princess were stolen from her briefcase and leaked to a newspaper.