Angela Rippon has revealed she faced a tough time in her past when she was being judged on her character rather than her dancing, after she was accused of having an affair with a man married to a Royal.
Recounting the troubling time, the former newsreader turned Strictly Come Dancing star recalled how when she was tasked with writing the biography of Captain Mark Phillips in the early 1980s it sparked rumours of a torrid affair.
Captain Phillips was then married to Princess Anne and Ms Rippon says speculation, which was completely untrue, took hold when she spent time with the couple at their Gatcombe Park home.
Ms Rippon, who was also married at the time, said: “I was spending a lot of time with him so these dirty-minded reporters decided we must be having an affair.
“Suddenly the papers were full of these stories that I was having an affair with Captain Phillips. I went through the most dreadful time.”
In an interview with the Scotsman, Ms Rippon branded the speculation “sexist” and called the journalists who fuelled the rumours “dirty-minded”.
She looked into taking legal action but did not have enough grounds to do so.
She said: “It was one of the most awful times of my life, really creepy. I was there doing a professional job and it was deeply embarrassing and incredibly upsetting.”
Princess Anne met her first husband on the equestrian circuit and they wed at Westminster Abbey in November 1973, watched by an estimated 500 million people around the world.
At the time, Captain Phillips combined his career in the army with competitive riding, winning a team gold Olympic medal for eventing in 1972.
The couple had two children, Peter and Zara but after the birth of their daughter in 1981 the marriage fell apart, with both rumoured to be having extramarital affairs. Princess Anne was famously linked to her bodyguard, Sergeant Peter Cross.
While Captain Phillips didn’t have a relationship with biographer Ms Rippon he fathered a love child with New Zealand art teacher Heather Tonkin in 1985.
By 1991 it was all over and Princess Anne, now 72, and Mr Phillips, now 75, divorced and both went on to remarry.
Princess Anne wed Commander Timothy Lawrence and her former husband tied the knot with fellow equestrian Sandy Pflueger, with the latter couple later divorcing.
Newsreader Ms Rippon was married to engineer Christopher Dare for 22 years, divorcing in 1989.