A family affair: The royal visit that wound up at the 1976 Olympics

Princess Anne was a member of the British equestrian team at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, and her whole family came to see her performance after her mother, the Queen, visited the U.S. and other parts of Canada.

Princess Anne was an athlete competing for the British equestrian team

The Royal Family assembles for the cameras at an estate near Bromont, Que., during the 1976 Olympics. Left to right: Prince Philip, Princess Anne, her husband Mark Phillips, Prince Edward, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Andrew and Prince Charles. (Wally Hayes/The Canadian Press)

Visiting Canada was nothing new for Queen Elizabeth in 1976: it was the ninth time she was making an official visit as monarch. 

And it was the first time she was coming to watch one of her four children compete in the Olympic Games.

Princess Anne, who was 25 at the time, was a member of the British equestrian team. And as any proud family would, hers came to watch and cheer her on, including the Queen, Prince Philip, Princes Charles, Andrew and Edward, and Anne's husband Mark Phillips.

It was also a big year for the United States: 1976 was 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which severed the political connections between the 13 American colonies and Great Britain.

And so before coming to Canada, the Queen and Philip travelled to the U.S. to mark the occasion.

CBC reporter Larry Stout covered the royal visit to both countries for a CBC-TV news special that aired on July 26, 1976. 

"Perhaps subconsciously, Americans covet the monarchy," said Stout. "At least that was the impression I got on one of the most triumphant royal tours the Queen and Prince Philip have ever undertaken."

Royal Family visits United States in 1976

46 years ago
Duration 2:41
Crowds of Americans fascinated by the monarchy turn out to see the Queen in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and New York.

The royal yacht Britannia docked in Philadelphia two days after the Fourth of July, and the pair began a seven-day tour of the United States that also took them to historic sites in Washington, D.C., New York City and Boston.

"It seems to me that Independence Day, the Fourth of July, should be celebrated as much in Britain as in America," said the Queen in a speech in Philadelphia. "Not in rejoicing at the celebration at the separation of the American colonies from the British crown, but in sincere gratitude to the Founding Fathers of this great republic for having taught Britain a very valuable lesson."

At the White House, the Queen met U.S. President Gerald Ford as enthusiastic onlookers waved Union Jacks.

And Wall Street in New York City was packed with thousands of people, who "nearly mobbed the Queen," according to Stout.

Mixed messages from Montrealers 

Polite reception for the Queen in Montreal

46 years ago
Duration 1:30
Despite the separatist tensions of 1976, the Queen is confident enough to ride in an open car while travelling in Montreal.

After stops in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the Queen and Prince Philip arrived in Montreal.

Stout's report showed the cover of an edition of the Journal de Montréal newspaper, which asked, roughly: "Yes or no: the Queen at the Olympic Games? It's your call."

The Queen's visit to the province in 1964 had been marred by demonstrations in Quebec City and separatists chanting slogans in the street as the royal procession passed, according to the Globe and Mail. 

The invitation to officially open the Games had been extended to the Queen in January 1976 by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and she accepted.

The Globe and Mail reported 90 per cent of respondents to a survey it conducted had said "No" to having the Queen come to the city.

But once she arrived, the city was welcoming, said Stout.

Police massed along the motorcade route as the Queen arrived at City Hall to meet Mayor Jean Drapeau and crowds were sparse — though as Stout pointed out, the route had not been announced in advance.

"She, Prince Philip and Prince Andrew paused briefly to acknowledge the cheers of the friendly crowd, most of whom were either English-speaking or tourists," said Stout.

The family reunites

Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Family unite in Canada

46 years ago
Duration 2:13
The family visits Montreal when Princess Anne competes with the British equestrian team at the 1976 Olympics.

The entire family was reunited with the arrival of Prince Charles and 12-year-old Prince Edward.

Charles was overheard giving some advice to young Edward as the cameras clicked.

"Be careful what you say," he said, after 16-year-old Andrew bounded off the Britannia to greet his brothers, who had arrived at the port by helicopter after an overseas flight

According to the Globe and Mail, Charles and Edward were not originally planning to join the family.

But then Charles, who was in the Royal Navy at the time, "found he'd have some leave," according to the paper, and Edward's boarding-school term was over, so they made the trip.

Prince Philip gives Princess Anne a few words of advice while Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and Prince Andrew listen intently prior to her starting in the cross-country three-day equestrian event at Bromont on July 24, 1976. (Chuck Mitchell/The Canadian Press)

Anne competed on the second day of the three-day equestrian event, which was held in Bromont, Que.

According to the Globe and Mail, she was docked 3¼ points for taking too long to make 12 jumps over a cross-country course with her horse, Goodwill.

The horse fell on one of the jumps, taking Anne with him. She told reporters she was unhurt.

With two injured horses, the British team had to pull out of the competition partway through. The United States took gold, Germany silver and Australia won bronze. 

Princess Anne joined the International Olympic Committee in 1988.

In 2012, her daughter, Zara Phillips, competed for the British equestrian team at the Summer Olympics in London, winning silver. Her medal was presented to her by her mother. 

Zara Phillips, right, receives a silver medal from her mother Princess Anne, left, after Britain won silver in the team equestrian eventing competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. (David Goldman/The Associated Press)