Captain Mark Phillips turns 75 today. Who is he, and what was his part in the scandal that brought sadness to the heart of the royal family?

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  • Captain Mark Phillips was born on this day, September 22,  in 1948 
  • He was Princess Anne’s first husband and is father to Peter and Zara
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When Princess Anne married Captain  Mark Philips at Westminster Abbey – on colour TV! –  they set the template for many royal marriages to come, and the public lapped it up.

Anne, then 23, was at the height of her glamour while 25-year-old Mark Phillips, was every inch the dashing officer from the Queen’s Dragoon Guards and came from a long line of military figures.

Phillips turns 75 today.

He was also – and is, still – a highly accomplished equestrian, which is how he met the Princess Royal, a fellow horse enthusiast. 

Mark Phillips won gold with the British three day eventing team at the Munich Olympics in 1972. 

Captain Mark Phillips, pictured in 1991, is the first husband of Princess Anne and a former Olympic equestrian. He turns 75 today

Captain Mark Phillips, pictured in 1991, is the first husband of Princess Anne and a former Olympic equestrian. He turns 75 today

The couple met through the equestrian circuit and announced their engagement in May 1973

The couple met through the equestrian circuit and announced their engagement in May 1973

Heather Tonkin, pictured with Felicity, said she wanted to get Mark Phillips to accept he had fathered the child and to have his name on her birth certificate

 Heather Tonkin, pictured with Felicity, said she wanted to get Mark Phillips to accept he had fathered the child and to have his name on her birth certificate

They announced their engagement in May 1973 and were married that November, in a ceremony watched by a worldwide audience estimated at 500 million people.

In 1977 they had a son, Peter Phillips, then in 1981, Princess Anne gave birth to  daughter, Zara.

But storm clouds came to gather round the marriage and in 1985, Phillips fathered a love child, Felicity, with New Zealand art teacher, Heather Tonkin.

Today, Felicity Wade, née Tonkin, is 37, half-sister to Zara, 42, and Peter, 45.

She was reportedly conceived after a brief liaison in 1984 – while Mark was still married to the princess, of course.

Anne and Mark then separated, with Mark continuing to live on the family’s sprawling Gatcombe Park estate. 

Felicity’s mother, Heather, had met Captain Phillips in 1983 when she took one of his riding clinics in New Zealand.

They became friends, meeting again when Mark returned to Auckland the following year.

He invited her to his room, and Heather, who was apparently infatuated with the former army officer, accepted.

Their time together resulted in Heather falling pregnant – to Mark Phillips’s dismay.

She later claimed he told her to have an abortion.

Heather chose to keep the baby, however; Mark refused to be named on Felicity’s birth certificate as her father.

Felicity would grow up thinking her father was dead, a lie her mother had reportedly gone along with on the advice of one of Mark’s aides.

It wasn’t until the child was eight, and conducting a school project on her family history that Heather felt compelled to tell her daughter the truth, showing her a biography of Mark Phillips written by newsreader Angela Rippon.

It was a love of horses that brought Felicity's mother, Heather, into contact with Captain Phillips. He is pictured in 1987

It was a love of horses that brought Felicity’s mother, Heather, into contact with Captain Phillips. He is pictured in 1987

Princess Anne and Captain Phillips were married that November at Westminster Abbey - watched by an audience of  500 million

Princess Anne and Captain Phillips were married that November at Westminster Abbey – watched by an audience of  500 million

The child was reportedly conceived after Mark had a one-night stand with New Zealand art teacher Heather Tonkin in 1984 - while still married to the princess. Pictured: Anne with her two children Peter and Zara at the Windsor Horse Trials in 1985)

The child was reportedly conceived after Mark had a one-night stand with New Zealand art teacher Heather Tonkin in 1984 – while still married to the princess. Pictured: Anne with her two children Peter and Zara at the Windsor Horse Trials in 1985)

Felicity, pictured in 2011),shares her half-sister Zara Tindall's love of horses and has been described as a  skilled and dedicated specialist equine vet

Felicity, pictured in 2011),shares her half-sister Zara Tindall’s love of horses and has been described as a  skilled and dedicated specialist equine vet

Zara, who is just four years Felicity's senior, is famous for her love of horses, even becoming an Olympic medalist (pictured: Zara during the 2022 Burghley Horse Trials

Zara, who is just four years Felicity’s senior, is famous for her love of horses, even becoming an Olympic medalist (pictured: Zara during the 2022 Burghley Horse Trials

Mark Phillips started paying Heather £6,000 a year through an associate for what his accounts described as ‘equestrian consultancy’.

However, when Felicity reached school age, the payments reportedly started becoming erratic. This prompted Heather to engage lawyers, and finally, to speak out in public.

Curtiers feared the scandal could affect the monarchy, already reeling thanks to the  warring between Princess Diana and Prince Charles.

After going public, it emerged that Mark’s aides had tried to keep Heather quiet,

On advice from her lawyer, Heather taped five phone calls with Mark’s business agent, in the course of which he threatened to sue if she tried to put Mark’s name on the birth certificate.

In one of the phone calls, the agent told Heather, ‘if you want to cause a flap, everyone’s just going to deny it’.

He went further saying ‘when this thing hits the fan, your daughter’s life will be ruined’, and adding that that the ‘clout’ lay with Mark.

The agent referred to the £6,000 a year payments as a ‘gentleman’s agreement’; Heather preferred to call it ‘hush money’.

Speaking in 1991 about why she went public, and why she threatened Mark with legal action, Heather said she was ‘doing what [she was] doing for [her] child’.

‘I hope and pray Mark will do the right thing and make a proper and legally-binding settlement on her, she added.

‘I wish I could wake up one morning in the knowledge that the record had been put straight and I don’t have to worry any more.’

A DNA test that year proved that Mark was Felicity’s father, leading to a settlement worth a reported £350,000.

This is believed to have been used to pay for fees at one of Auckland’s finest private schools, as well as for property investments to secure the future for Felicity, nicknamed Bunny.

It wasn't until Felicity was eight, and conducting a school project on her family history, did Heather feel compelled to tell her daughter the truth, showing her a biography of Mark Phillips Pictured: Felicity Tonkin on her 18th birthday in 2003

It wasn’t until Felicity was eight, and conducting a school project on her family history, did Heather feel compelled to tell her daughter the truth, showing her a biography of Mark Phillips Pictured: Felicity Tonkin on her 18th birthday in 2003

Heather pictured shopping with her daughter, Felicity. She said the child deserved to know the truth about who her father was

Heather pictured shopping with her daughter, Felicity. She said the child deserved to know the truth about who her father was

Heather had spoken about the stresses of raising a child alone, revealing that ‘nothing can compensate for the tears [she had] cried while trying to plan for Bunny’s future, when at any moment [she] could find [herself] penniless’.

She added that her ambition had been to ‘get Mark’s public acceptance of [Felicity] and to be able to enter his name on her birth certificate’, and said that her daughter had believed that her father was dead.

‘She is entitled to know the truth,’ Heather said.

Even after the story went public, Mark wanted nothing to do with Felicity, and would never send her a birthday card or enquire about her health.

Princess Anne and Mark eventually divorced; even so, father and daughter are understood not to have been in touch.

It has been reported that Heather and Felicity were spectators at a riding event also attended by Mark Phillips, who was the course designer.

The three are said to have been within 15 yards of each other, in fact

But the Captain had appeared oblivious to their presence and, when asked by a journalist if he would meet them, had brusquely replied: ‘Wrong subject.’

Captain Mark Philips is the father of Princess Anne's daughter Zara Tindall, as well as Felicity Mark is pictured with Zara Tindall at the Cheltenham Festival in 2022

Captain Mark Philips is the father of Princess Anne’s daughter Zara Tindall, as well as Felicity Mark is pictured with Zara Tindall at the Cheltenham Festival in 2022

While New Zealand-based Felicity may be 12,000 miles away from her half-sister Zara, and a social world away, the half sisters seem to share some things in common in addition to sharing the same father.

Zara, who is just four years Felicity’s senior, is famous for her love of horses, even becoming an Olympic medalist, winning silver when competing with the British Equestrian team for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

And Felicity too is reportedly a lover of all things equine and is a keen rider and a specialist equine vet, whose clients speak highly of her, praising her skills and dedication.

Meanwhile, her husband Tristan Wade is an accomplished polo player, who has played in front of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor.

The couple are believed to share a ten-acre, £1.5 million property in Auckland, where they keep a number of horses.

Despite their shared interest in all things equestrian, it is thought that Felicity and her half-sister Zara have never exchanged a word.

And in a further twist, because Felicity’s husband Tristan plays polo, he played the sport on some of the very same fields as Princes William and Harry. His handicap of three is two above the royal brothers’.

Felicity Wade (née Tonkin) with her husband Tristan Wade and their son James who was born in 2017

Felicity Wade (née Tonkin) with her husband Tristan Wade and their son James who was born in 2017 

Not long after the pair tied the knot, Tristan – one of three polo-playing brothers from Sussex (his elder brother Adrian is a professional player and coach who has represented England many times) – headed back to Britain where he played in a several tournaments.

They included the Royal Windsor Cup at the Guards Polo Club, where many of the matches were watched by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh.

It is not known whether Felicity accompanied him to the UK, and was also among the spectators as he played.

Two years after their wedding, in 2017, the couple welcomed their son in 2017. 




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