The Doer

updated 10/10/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/10/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

In Thoroughbred racing, impeccable bloodlines, the will to win and a tendency to be headstrong out of the gate are the attributes of champions. These qualities also mark Anne, one of the horsiest Windsors. In a world where watching tea steep makes pulses thrum, the second child and only daughter of the Queen lives at a gallop. Finding a second wind after stumbling over both public and personal hazards, she has now, turning into the backstretch of her life—she hit 40 in August—become among the busiest and arguably the most admired member of the Firm.

For years the Princess, known as Her Royal Haughtiness, turned on Fleet Street snoops and paparazzi with flared nostrils and earthy expletives. But, with her natural wit and whip-crack intelligence, Anne has lately learned to perform her public duties with a compelling verve and passion. Last year, Anne clocked 455 British engagements, just behind the Queen's 488. Last May, as the first Windsor emissary since the execution of the Czar, she spent 17 days in the Soviet Union, including 45 minutes jawing with Mikhail Gorbachev.

President of the Save the Children Fund for 20 years, Anne has logged tens of thousands of gritty miles in the Third World with no primping or grandstanding. Asked to pose with an Ethiopian baby suffering from malnutrition, she snapped, "I don't do stunts." In 1987 the Queen bestowed on her the discretionary title Princess Royal, and this year her commitment has won a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. Says Anne of her work: "You have to decide at the end of the day if you can live with yourself."

Marital problems as much as philanthropy may have spurred Anne to become the Windsor workaholic. She officially separated a year ago from Capt. Mark Phillips, her husband of 16 years. At first, the two equestrians shared a love of horses, but Phillips was set on becoming a millionaire squire, and Anne was expanding beyond competitive riding. Each began to graze in lusher pastures. Phillips's name has been romantically linked with, among others, a stable girl and a former Miss India. Anne reportedly tested her own charms on several men. Although she inherited the endearing royal overbite and disappearing chin, Anne, says a friend, "can be terribly sexy, really turn it on." She allegedly beamed her light at actor and family friend Anthony (Brideshead Revisited) Andrews and her bodyguard, Peter Cross. Currently, Navy Commander Tim Laurence, 36, is the front-runner. Several of his love letters, addressing her as "Darling," were stolen, and the incident splashed in the press last year. Some observers bet that Laurence will be more in evidence after August 1991, when Anne can get an uncontested divorce.

The Princess tends to avoid family get-togethers. She admires Charles for his views on the environment but snubbed the christening of his son Harry because she was hosting a shooting party in Gloucestershire. But Anne is as close to her mother as any of her siblings. She has, says an observer, "a loving, loving relationship" with the Queen. After Michael Fagan broke into Buckingham Palace, Anne gave up her schedule to stay with Mum for several weeks.

Anne is a robust royal who favors jeans over Hardy Amies suits. She refused to allow the Queen to issue royal titles to their children, Peter, 12, and Zara, 9. Amid the priceless antiques in the front hall at Gatcombe Park, her $7 million estate in the West of England, rest muddy riding boots and dogs' drinking bowls. Says an insider: "There is more laughter here than in any royal household." Recently she danced until the wee hours at the Royal Caledonian Ball in London. "She looks great," says a friend. "Her sense of fun is back on show." It's a show that makes the whole family look better.

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