Princess Anne branded ‘cruel’ after she upset royal fan with brutal comment

On Christmas Day, the Royal Family always attends a church service in Sandringham, Norfolk. A crowd of well wishers usually stands outside St Mary Magdalene church and people offer the royals flowers and gifts as they emerge after the service. On Christmas Day in 2000, loyal royal watcher Iris Halfpenny, 75, had made her way down to the church for 10 o’clock with a basket of flowers she had arranged herself.

According to the 2002 Channel 4 documentary ‘The Real Princess Anne’, Anne took it upon herself to collect most of the flowers and tokens of good will.

Iris reportedly handed her flowers to Anne and told her: “I’ve arranged them all myself.”

However, instead of thanking her, Anne simply said: “What a ridiculous thing to do.”

Iris was deeply upset by the comment and did not come for any royal watching for several weeks.

Former royal reporter for The Sun, Harry Arnold, said: “Now, how cruel can you be?

“Whether it was a ridiculous thing to do or not is quite beside the point ‒ this old lady thought it was a nice thing to do.

“You would never in a million years have heard the Queen mum use a phrase like that.”

Iris, who often made floral tributes for the Royal Family, was incredibly offended and Anne was accused of forgetting the meaning of Christmas.

Iris, from Leicester, had waited out in the cold for five hours in order to catch a glimpse of the royals.

Iris said at the time: “It was a really hurtful thing to say. I’ve made baskets of flowers for the Queen and she has always said how nice they are.

“It takes a long time, about three hours, to make a basket of flowers, and it cost me £10.

“I wanted Prince Harry to give the basket to the Queen for me but Princess Anne just snatched it very roughly.”

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A fellow royal fan Mary Relph told the documentary: “That was a very sore point with Iris. She didn’t come for many weeks after that.

“I think she was quite a bit upset over it, you know, but she didn’t come.”

She added: “Anne is known to be abrupt, anyway.

“But I mean, that is her manner and we’ve just got to live with it.”

Meanwhile, the press were apparently “delighted” that bad-tempered “naff off” Anne was back.

She was lampooned in the Daily Mail a few days later by columnist Lynda Lee-Potter, who accused the princess of being rude, unkind and having a “filthy temper”.

However, a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman insisted there had been a misunderstanding.

She said: “The Princess Royal meets thousands of people every year and it is clear that today there has been a misunderstanding of some kind.”

However, Iris was not the only royal fan bent out of shape by Anne’s perceived rudeness that Christmas.

The Princess Royal apparently told her nieces Princess Beatrice, 12 at the time, and Eugenie, 10, to “get a move on” and not take flowers from well-wishers.

One young woman, who had spent £2,000 to come from California to see the royals at church on Christmas morning, was apparently close to tears.

Just a week after the incident, Anne was found laughing about it, according to the BBC.

She was offered flowers again after she left the same church a week later and she reportedly told Mary Hallam, 88: “You are taking a big risk, you know.”

Ms Relph, reflecting on Christmas Day at Sandringham, said: “[It’s] the best place you will ever see all the members of the Royal Family together.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s rain, snow or what ‒ I’m always there.

“And the gates open at 10 o’clock and there’s a mad rush down to the corner to get to this special point to see the members of the Royal family come down the steps. That’s really a lovely sight.”

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