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Princess Anne’s former bodyguard opens up on royal kidnap attempt—’all changed overnight’

Queen's Jubilee: Princess Anne arrives at Epsom Derby

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The Princess Royal will live up to her status as hardest-working royal this week as the Queen’s daughter carries out a series of engagements across the country. After taking just one day off following Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, Princess Anne will return to her usual routine as she returns to handing out honours or attending functions on behalf of the 300 or so organisations she represents. On Tuesday, Anne is due in Manchester to attend the British Cardiovascular Society centenary conference in her role as Royal Patron. 

The princess entered public life in 1968 at the young age of 18 and has since proved herself as the Queen’s daughter by dedicating her life to royal service. 

Now, at the age of 71, Anne is a veteran working royal and there is little she has not experienced — the princess was even the target of a kidnap attempt shortly into her role. 

Back in 1974, Anne and her then-husband Captain Mark Phillips were travelling by car to Buckingham Palace after attending a charity event on Pall Mall. 

Another car suddenly blocked their route with the driver, Ian Ball, an unemployed schizophrenic, pulling a handgun on the princess. 

Jim Beaton, the royal’s security officer, was shot by Ball before he even had the chance to draw his own weapon. 

Ball, who was trying to kidnap the princess for a £2million ransom, also shot Anne’s chauffeur and a nearby tabloid journalist, who tried to intervene, before finally being stopped by a passer-by who just happened to be former heavyweight boxer Ronnie Russell. Luckily nobody was killed in the incident.

Earlier this year, Mr Beaton, whose courage earned him the George Cross, offered his insight into the night he was shot three times as he tried to save the Queen’s daughter’s life. 

Mr Beaton was a 31-year-old inspector who had been Anne’s bodyguard for a year when Ian Ball, 26, forced her car to stop on The Mall. 

Speaking to The Times, the former police bodyguard, now 79, recalled getting out of the car to see what was happening. 

He said: “I thought it was somebody who wanted to be a pain in the neck.

“There was no hint of what was to happen.”

Mr Beaton was shot in the right shoulder by Ball, who was holding a .38 in one hand and a .22 in the other. 

His wound meant that when he was able to fire his own gun, he missed. With his weapon jammed, when Ball threatened to shoot the princess if he did not put the gun down, Mr Beaton had no choice but to comply.  

However, he was not about to not give up and while Ball tried to force the car open from one side, he made his way round the other and got in beside the princess and her husband. 

Meanwhile, Anne proved her own impressive coolness under pressure — when Ball demanded she get out of the car, she famously replied: “Not bloody likely.” 

As Ball prepared to fire again, Mr Beaton put his arm up to deflect the bullet and was shot through the hand. 

Then Ball shot Beaton in the abdomen, he recalled in his statement later: “I felt tired and very drunk, although I hadn’t been drinking. I just wanted to lie down.”

Then Mr Russell, the boxer, punched Ball in the head causing the assailant to flee, only to be caught by police officers. 

At the time, Mr Beaton was Anne’s only police bodyguard — but all that changed after the kidnap attempt. 

He said: “I had nothing. There was no back-up vehicle. 

“The training was non-existent; but then again, [we thought] nothing was going to happen. 

“They are highly specialised now, highly trained.”

When Anne visited Mr Beaton in hospital, she was accompanied by two policemen.

He said: “From then on, that’s what it was.”

And, as he agreed, having a gun that jammed after one shot was hardly ideal. He added: “Which is why the Walthers were got rid of overnight.”

Mr Beaton worked for Anne for another five years and later worked for the Queen.

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