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Princess Royal kidnap medal fetches £50,000 at auction

The medal was awarded to Ronnie Russell, a former heavyweight boxer, for his bravery.

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Ronnie Russell with the George Medal he was awarded for saving the Princess Royal from a kidnap attempt in 1974 (Victoria Jones/PA)

Ronnie Russell with the George Medal he was awarded for saving the Princess Royal from a kidnap attempt in 1974 (Victoria Jones/PA)

Ronnie Russell with the George Medal he was awarded for saving the Princess Royal from a kidnap attempt in 1974 (Victoria Jones/PA)

The George Medal awarded to a former heavyweight boxer for helping to thwart an attempted kidnap of the Princess Royal has sold for £50,000 at auction.

Ronnie Russell, 72, punched Ian Ball twice in the head as he tried to kidnap Anne at gunpoint in central London in March 1974.

For his bravery, he was awarded the George Medal by the Queen, who told him: “The medal is from the Queen, but I want to thank you as Anne’s mother.”

Ronnie Russell was thanked by the Queen after helping to thwart the kidnap attempt of Princess Anne (PA Archive/PA Images)
Ronnie Russell was thanked by the Queen after helping to thwart an attempt to kidnap the Princess Royal (PA)

Mr Russell, who now lives in Bristol, has treasured the medal ever since but put it up for auction to pay for his funeral costs after suffering ill-health.

He was at auction house Dix Noonan Webb in central London on Wednesday to see the medal, which had been expected to fetch up to £20,000, sold for £50,000 to a private collector in the UK.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Russell said: “For something I thought that I would never sell, I never believed it would sell for this amount.

“I am absolutely blown away with this price and it gives me opportunities to do things that I never thought we could.”

The medal was sold with related items, including a letter from 10 Downing Street informing Mr Russell of the award, a telegram from the Princess Royal and a letter from the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.

Mr Russell, who boxed at the Repton Club in Bethnal Green, east London, was an area manager for Exclusive Office Cleaning in the capital at the time of the kidnap attempt.

He had been working in Princess Square on Pall Mall on the evening of March 20 in 1974 and set off back home to Strood, Kent, at about 8pm.

Ball had blocked the princess’s car with his own as it drove along the Mall towards Buckingham Palace, and fired a series of shots through the rear window.

Mr Russell, who is 6ft 2in and weighed 17 stone, at first thought it was a road rage incident but rushed to Anne’s assistance when he realised what was happening.

He later recalled how the princess told Ball “Just go away and don’t be such a silly man” as he tried to drag her from the car.

“I hit him as hard as I could – if he had been a tree he would have fallen over – and he was flat on the floor face down,” Mr Russell said.

Anne and her then husband, Captain Mark Phillips, were unhurt during the ambush.

But the princess’s personal detective, chauffeur, a police constable and a journalist were all shot by Ball, who was armed with two revolvers.

Ronnie Russell pictured in 1974 (PA Wire/PA Images)
Ronnie Russell pictured in 1974 (PA)

Ball was later sent to a psychiatric hospital by an Old Bailey judge.

Auctioneer Oliver Pepys, associate director of Dix Noonan Webb, said the price fetched by the medal reflected Mr Russell’s remarkable story.

“Ronnie Russell displayed an outstanding act of gallantry, and it is fitting that his George Medal achieved such a fantastic price at today’s auction – a price that not only reflects the wonderful story of courage behind the medal, but also shows how strong the market for medals currently is,” Mr Pepys said.

PA