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Princess Anne guest edits Country Life to mark 70th birthday

Princess Anne discussed green energy, her irritation with fly-tippers and a deep-rooted passion for the environment that stems from her mother the Queen in a leader article for Country Life magazine this week – almost a year after Meghan Markle guest edited British Vogue.

In a wide-ranging call to arms on how to secure the future of the countryside, the no-nonsense Princess Royal also spoke of her frustration at the lack of affordable rural housing.  

Anne guest-edited Country Life magazine this week to mark her 70th birthday on August 15, with her magazine stint fittingly down-to-earth for the famously hard-working royal.  

Unlike the Duchess of Sussex, who was not photographed for her Forces For Change September issue of British Vogue last year but did feature in behind-the-scenes videos shared to the publication’s Instagram channel, the Princess Royal is also pictured on her Gatcombe Park home estate.

Meghan’s controversial Vogue issue saw her list 15 women she admired, including celebrities, politicians and activists known for championing issues such as diversity, body positivity, transgender rights and climate change.

However, she was criticised for failing to include the Queen and faced allegations of ‘politicising’ the Royal Family. 

Princess Anne had a narrower focus for her own stint as a magazine guest editor, sharing a tour of her 500-acre Gloucestershire estate and farm and highlighting the organic farming methods she uses. 

She is seen tending to pigs, dogs and horses and a more formal portrait of the royal also appears on the front cover.

The only daughter of the Queen and Prince Philip paid tribute to her parents for instilling her lifelong love of nature, and wrote that she sees herself as a ‘classic Jack of all trades’. 

She also criticised solar panels and wind turbines, claiming more imaginative energy sources are required, but controversially suggested that ‘small nuclear reactors could have their place’.  

In the special edition of the magazine, which hits shelves today, the Princess Royal gives a tour of the 500-acre Gloucestershire estate and farm where she has spent lockdown.

She discusses the organic farming methods she uses and the rare breeds she keeps. Anne also reveals her favourite recipe: devilled pheasant.

In her role as ‘campaigning editor’, Anne sets out her vision for the countryside in a 2,000-word leader column entitled ‘Waste not, want not’, urging everyone to be more careful about waste. 

She said failing to dispose of rubbish properly is a ‘major irritation’ to her and insisted we all needed to get better at reducing it.

‘If you want to help the planet, controlling our waste is something everyone can do and it will make a difference,’ she said. 

‘We will always produce waste, however efficient we become, so we must get better at reducing it at every stage and dealing with it better at the end.

‘That means making things such as clothes, furniture, vehicles and supermarket trolleys that can be recycled safely and economically and not dumped on someone else’s ground. 

‘Everything about life today seems to be about convenience and waste is seen as inconvenient; we must help make it more convenient to deal with. 

‘Raising the profile of the country code might help, especially as the post-coronavirus getaway to the country seems to have resulted in an increase of littering and vandalism.’

The Mail and Keep Britain Tidy is urging the public and businesses to help pick up litter from September 11 to 27 as part of the Great British September Clean. Everyone is encouraged to hit the streets, parks and beaches to fight the scourge of litter.

On green energy, Anne said ‘covering the countryside with solar panels and windmills’ is not the answer. 

‘Using water better, using waste from crops, using waste from woodlands and the ability to store energy, possibly as hydrogen, can all help, but will require a more flexible grid and, therefore, the technology to make that work,’ she explained.

‘Small nuclear reactors could have their place, but perhaps there is not the space to pursue that now.’ 

She also issued a plea for ‘quality, appropriate housing of the right type and the right numbers in the right places’ – arguing the young, retired and local families too often find themselves priced out in rural villages. 

She called for a greater appreciation of small housing developments that are ‘built to last’.

‘All of them could make the difference to having a viable school, shop or pub in the village. Importantly, these housing developments should be small and remain in the control of the local parish council, either for rent or shared ownership,’ Anne said.

The Princess Royal also refers to the instability of her father’s childhood before he was introduced to the ‘wilds of Scotland’ at Gordonstoun School in Moray.

Philip moved between relatives in France and Britain, and rarely saw his parents – with his mother, who suffered from mental illness, being confined to an asylum.

Anne wrote: ‘I was equally fortunate that both my parents had a love and understanding of the natural world through their own experiences.

‘Perhaps even more so for my father when, during his rather disjointed young life, he ended up at school at Gordonstoun and was introduced to the wilds of Scotland, both land and sea.’

She added: ‘Scotland had its influence on my mother, too, as did the big skies of Norfolk, and the huge fields and marshes of the Sandringham Estate. Windsor’s Home Park and Great Park were a constant presence for her, as they were for all of us.’

The Queen and Philip are preparing to head to Scotland soon, to stay at Balmoral in Aberdeenshire for their much-loved annual summer break after spending the last four months of lockdown at Windsor Castle.

Anne said of Windsor: ‘Windsor was and is a haven of peace, although not so quiet since the growth of air travel – until the lockdown.’

She acknowledged her father was a ‘very hard act to follow’ after she took over from him as president of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, which was set up by Prince Albert.    

Anne’s husband, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, 65, has written two pieces for the edition: a light-hearted My Week column on tree-planting and dry-stone walling, plus – in his role as chairman of English Heritage – an in-depth feature on saving country houses.

The magazine’s frontispiece features a set of images of Anne from editions over the years.

Country Life editor Mark Hedges said: ‘It was an absolute delight to have the Princess Royal as our guest editor. 

‘Her passion for the countryside shines through with every feature, combined with her concerns that the right action is taken to safeguard the rural way of life for future generations, from providing affordable housing to dealing with fly-tipping. We do hope our special edition makes a very fitting 70th birthday present.’ 

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