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Queen opened up ‘as a mother’ during emotional thank-you to man who saved Anne from kidnap

Princess Anne praises Scottish Rugby on 150th anniversary

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The Queen thanked Ronald Russell and awarded him the George Medal after he saved Anne in 1974. The former heavyweight boxer recalled receiving the honour after he helped to thwart Ian Ball’s attempted kidnap of Princess Anne, then aged 23.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph last week, Mr Russell said: “It was truly wonderful to receive a George Medal at Buckingham Palace from the Queen, who told me, ‘This medal is from the Queen, but I want to thank you as Anne’s mother’.”

Mr Russell earned this medal for the courage he showed on the evening of March 20, 1974.

As he was driving home to Kent after working in Princess Square on Pall Mall, Mr Russell noticed a car blocking a limousine.

Despite thinking at first this was an episode of road rage, he approached the area to provide support. 

Mr Russell said: “As a 6ft 4in, ex-heavyweight boxer, I decided I was well-placed to defuse the situation.

“I wanted to prevent this fellow from getting into any more trouble.

“So I stopped my car and walked towards him.”

Mr Russell didn’t hold back even when he saw one of the men on the scene, Ball, shooting PC Michael Hills. 

In fact, Mr Russell, who at the time boxed at the Repton Club in Bethnal Green, rushed to help and punched Ball in the back of his head.

In turn, Ball “swivelled around and fired at me”, the former boxer recalled.

As the bullet went over Mr Russell’s shoulder and into the windscreen of an approaching taxi, the boxer ran around the back of the limousine and finally saw Ball was trying to kidnap the Princess Royal. 

Thinking back to those chaotic moments before he could bring Anne to safety, he said: “I saw Ball reaching into the back seat of the limousine, his hand on the forearm of the young woman inside – only then did I recognise her as the Queen’s daughter.”

Reaching her, he “yanked Anne by her forearms” to get her out of the car.

He continued: “Ball ran around behind me. I thought, ‘It’s either you or me now,’ and I punched him really hard.”

Princess Anne also showed incredible bravery during Ball’s attempted kidnap, and famously replied to his pleas to get out of the car: “Not bloody likely”. 

Princess Anne’s saviour kept his George Medal as one of his most prized possessions for decades.

However, he was forced to put it up for auction on March last year to provide for his family.

He said: “Sadly, after falling into ill health, I had to auction the medal last year for £50,000, to support my family after I die.

“As a lifelong royalist, it broke my heart.

“But I’m still proud to have played the role I did on that remarkable spring evening.” 

The George Medal was instituted in September 1940 to mark acts of civilian courage.

Princess Anne, who was returning to Buckingham Palace after attending a charity event when Ball attempted to kidnap her, spoke to talk show host Michael Parkinson in 1980 about this ordeal.

Ball, she revealed, tore her dress while trying to get her out of the car.

She said: “I lost my rag at that stage.

“He started pulling my arm and Mark [Phillips] was holding onto me and we maintained the status quo for quite a bit, because I wasn’t going anywhere, put it that way.”   

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