Friday, May 8, 2015

Princesses and Horses, From Diana to Queen Elizabeth

Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, the new royal princess born to Prince William and Kate. Princess Diana.  Brings back memories, doesn't it?

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting with my horse crazy grand-daughter, Sophie, and my other horse-crazy-in-training grand-daughter, Catherine, talking about the royal birth.  (My "in-training" GD shares the same name as Kate aka Catherine, which made her very happy).

As I explained the three portions of the new baby's name, it occurred to me they had no idea whom Diana was.  None.  So, I started to explain to them about the wonderful Princess Diana that I remember from childhood--she helped the sick, she was a good mom, she was shy, she was beautiful, she was unloved by her husband, and we were all heartbroken when she died at age 36.  I told them about how I woke up early in the morning as a teenager (I was living Maine) to watch her royal marriage to Prince Charles.

My "in-training" GD, Catherine, would like to be a princess and, recently, also a horsewoman, so she asked, "Did she ride horses?"

I told her that I thought she did.  In the back of my mind I could remember seeing a picture of her on a horse.

But I wasn't sure.  When I got home, I looked it up and found the relationship she had with horses was actually complicated.  She had grown up on a country estate with animals and horses, and had a deep love for animals, but in her teens, she experienced a traumatic fall from a horse that left her fearful of riding.

However, she had married into a royal family who were passionate about horses: Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, and Princess Anne, and her boys loved riding, as well.  From what I read, Diana decided to take lessons alongside her boys so that she could get over her fear.  In fact, her riding instructor was James Hewitt with whom, and who could blame her, she fell in love.

"He had initially been summoned to instruct William and Harry, but as the relationship ensued, Diana herself gathered the courage to overcome her childhood fear of riding. The affair started in 1987 and lasted 5 years."

While Diana never looked totally comfortable riding, it was brave of her to start the journey of overcoming her fear.

Speaking of fear, I found a great article about her ex-husband, Prince Charles, and his own original fear of riding.  He credited his sister, Princess Anne, with helping him overcome it.

As for Princess Anne, now there's a horsewoman.  I believe she competed in the 1976 Olympics, as did her daughter, Zara Phillips, later.  Apparently, they inherited Queen Elizabeth II's love of horses.  (Photo below Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Anne.)

(Princess Anne)

(Queen Elizabeth II, then Princess Elizabeth, with her sister, Princess Margaret.)

 (Queen Elizabeth II)

 (Queen Elizabeth II and Ronald Reagan, another of my favorite horsemen.)

(Queen Elizabeth II riding with Princess Anne.)

(Horsewoman, Zara Phillips, daughter of Princess Anne)

(Zara at the 2012 Olympics)

Maybe Elizabeth, Anne, and Zara inherited the horse gene from this famous namesake, Queen Elizabeth I of England.

"Elizabeth loved to horse ride. She would spend many an hour riding fast through the Palace grounds. Her love for the sport terrified her Councilors, who feared that she would seriously injure, or even kill herself, from a fall. But Elizabeth was undaunted, and continued to ride long distances and at great speed until the end of her life. Even in her sixties she could ride a distance of ten miles, which she once proved to a courtier who advised the aging Queen to take the carriage. Elizabeth would tire out her ladies by riding hard, and early in her reign, Robert Dudley, her Master of Horse, had to bring over some new horses from Ireland, as the Queen's own horses were not fast or strong enough for her. Elizabeth and Dudley would ride together often. He was probably the most accomplished horse-man in England, and could match the Queen's speed and vigor. In the summer of 1560, Elizabeth and Dudley rode together almost everyday, while some of her ministers bewailed that the Queen was neglecting matters of state."  (

Do you know of any other famous princesses who loved horses?  I'm making a list for my princess loving, recent horse convert, Catherine, and I could use some help.  Of course, we all feel like princesses when we're in the saddle, don't we?


  1. Don't most Princesses ride?
    I know that when I ride, I feel like a Princess!

    1. I would think that most princesses ride, or least used to, but Kate is allergic to horses, apparently.

      Yeah, when I ride I feel like that scene in the Titanic--"King of the World!!"

    2. Oh pish posh... Take some Claritin.

  2. The royals seem to have horses in their blood. I don't know of any other princesses who ride but it would be interesting to do some research and find them.

    Of course, I feel like a princess when riding, doesn't everyone!

    1. P.S. I just remembered that Jacqueline Kennedy was an accomplished horsewoman. While not a true princess I think it's the closest we'll get to one in this country. The children had a pony at the White House called Macaroni Pony I think.

    2. I think you're right, at least the concept that to be a true "blue blood" you have to ride has existed for a long time. I'm curious if any of them ride western or do cow work? I'll have to look into that. Do you watch Mad Men? There were a few episodes where all the ladies were trying to be like Jackie Kennedy and many of them took up horse back riding at expensive barns.

  3. Wasn't there a princess who was on the judging panel for some major horse event- Olympics maybe- I can't recall who she was , a dark haired beauty who was supposed to be an accomplished horsewoman. I think a lot of royals ride, and why not, they can afford the best horses!

    1. True. As I was searching around it did appear that most of their horses would be out of my price range. ;) Which is fine because I love my own horses just the way they are. But, yes, to have well trained horses, stables, groomsmen ready to saddle them whenever you want to ride, palatial grounds to explore...hmmmm...why wouldn't you want to do that?

  4. I loved Princess Diana for all the reasons you stated -- so I loved this post.

    1. I loved Princess Diana, too. She came along at a time when I was young and she seemed so normal and kind. Then, her death, which was so sudden and TRAGIC. Generally, though, royals or talking about royals makes me just a little nauseated. She was the exception.

    2. BTW, I was not a kid who dreamed of being a princess. In my fantasy playtime I was always either a mom playing house or a cowgirl playing (the politically incorrect game) of Cowboys and Indians. LOL.

  5. Speaking of TV shows... have you seen The Royals? WOW.

  6. I loved this post, and I loved Princess Diana as well...very tragic death. I believe she had a good heart and I always felt sorry that she was married to a royal putz. Can you imagine being in a loveless marriage? How lonely she must have felt living in that "house". LOVED all the pics!! So funny, when I was younger I detested history. Thought it boring, but now I find it fascinating! So many things change when we age...I don't know of any other princesses either, but believe that most, or all do become accomplished horse women. It is expected as part of being in their social realm, blue blood and all that. And yes, when you have the best horses, awesome stables, groomsmen and grounds to explore - why not?? So you've given me yet another reason to admire Princess Diana. I did not know of her fear of riding, and her being an overcomer of her fears. Bravo!! I can so relate. I was once a fearless rider, but am not now. It's not an easy thing to beat. And that horseman that she studied under - well then, there's some incentive!! Right??? :)
    p.s. very interesting that we share the same doc is a horse vet though, not a people doc. What about yours???

    1. Ha! A "royal putz"! It was painful watching that marriage unfold, and no one blamed her for falling in love, but, sadly, James Hewitt wrote a tell all book and joined the ranks of putzes. One more tragedy in her life.

      I work in a psychiatric clinic. It's actually pretty fun (except working with insurance companies), but I'm beat at the end of the day. In fact, I'm here now. We don't get off until 7 tonight. I would LOVE to work in a vet clinic.

  7. This is great! Thank you for all your informative research. I have no doubt that horse fever gene came down through Elizabeth I .

  8. Dear Sirs
    I am trying to find out who has the copyright for the picture of Elizabeth 1 on horseback?
    Stephen Wallis
    National Horse Racing Museum


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