Princess Anne of England, her face set in a crisp royal smile, today unveiled a life-size, bronze statue of her namesake, Queen Anne, and briefly returned this sleepy Eastern Shore town to its very British past.

She looked out into a sea of Union Jacks and straw hats as she addressed the crowd at the Queen Anne's County Courthouse, the country's oldest courthouse in continuous use.

"Her Royal Highness is very much among her own people here," said Acting Maryland Gov. Blair Lee III. The princess, he said, is in a "place where roots go deep."

Anne looked-cool in a knit green maternity dress, satin ribbon hat, pearls and clutching a beige purse and globes. "You have managed to find a happy medium of being able to live efficiently in this energetic country and still have time for each other " she remarked.

In Centreville, on their first visit to Maryland, Princess Anne and her husband, Capt. Mark Phillips, became honorary citizens of the state and received what is believed to be the first symbolic key to the town given out.

"It's all very fitting," remarked Kenneth Hunt, a 26-year-old anglophile who drove here from Pittsburgh to see Anne just as he traveled to Virginia last year to view Queen Elizabeth. "The royal family likes to mix with the people."

Princess Anne arrived in a shiny black Daimler, the lead auto in an eight-car entourage, punctually at 12 noon as the town clock was chiming. She left promplty at 12:35 as scheduled.

After strolling around the flattering statue of Queen Anne, an obese 18th century regent horse-woman and mother of 17, the princess made small talk with various escorts, signed a few autographs, put her name in the town's guest book and received a bouquet from Doria Frances Collier, a plump 5-year-old from nearby Grasonville. She was also given a book containing names of county residents who signed it in time.

The princess, said British Embassy spokesman David Walker, "is behaving very well."

There were definitely at least two schools of thought in Queen Anne's County about the visit of Princess Anne, positive and negative.

"This is the greatest event in the history of our county," declared County Administrator George W. Aldridge Jr. representing one of those view-points.

This is "a monumental ego trip" for Arthur Houghton, said an alternate press release put out by William Rodgers, an unhappy local. It is "a big waste of time," he said.

Arthur Houghton Jr. is board chairman of Steuben Glass and is footing many of the bills for the princess's weekend here. The princess agreed to come to the county, according to an embassy embassy spokesman, because she knows Houghton's daughter and son-in-law through equestrian activities.

Houghton, who runs Wye Institute research center here, also commissioned the statue by Elizabeth Gordon Chandler of Old Lyme, Conn.

Houghton lent his head garderner, who tends part of the 1,400 acre Wye Plantation, to decorate the county with flowers. He placed 80 hanging baskets of pink and white petunias, 150 flowering potted plants and assorted green foliage in choice locations.

Houghton's mansion, where the royal party is staying, is blooming with a hundred orchids, and other exotic flora, said Jack Covert, the gardener.

The county did pay for $16,000 worth of brick work to replace the concrete pathsg through the courthouse yard. Aldridge, the administrator, said that there were 30,000 bricks and 11.7 miles of mortar. "I've figured it out on my computer," he said.

Some of the women of Centreville fit, with Rodgers, into the category of grumblers, complaining that they were getting a bit "tired of it all," referring to the influx of outsiders that accompanied the princess' visit.

Jean Tubman, a gift shop operator, was irritated by the gawkers. "My God, what do they expect us to look like?" she said.

"You can spot them immediately. There goes one now.And all those vans and trailers coming through. We never see these. The local people I know are getting out of town until this is all over, going to their boats for the weekend. With several thousand people expected, they figure they'll never see her anyway."

There are those here who say the county should be honoring its own outstanding citizens, like teachers, rather than fussing over a foreigner.

"I can't understand," the negative attitude held by some county residents said Den Tabler, editor of the Queen Anne's Journal, "This is the greatest thing that's ever happened here."

He has put out a special 20-page tabloid insert for the occasion. "I'm milking it for all it's worth," he said.

Tabler's enthusiasm was shared by most of the people interviewed here. Merchants chipped in money to spruce up their shops, paint, now lawns and plant trees. Urns and hanging baskets decorated the sidewalks and residents of the large rambling white or dark wood houses with wrap-around porches have groomed their yards and flower beds especially for the occasion.

Bands and choirs from schools all over the county sang at various events and the county high school national honor society distributed programs at the unveiling ceremony alongside men from the American Legion and VFW Posts who were ushers.

"Frankly, we're doing this for the school," commented Mrs. Harry Duffey, an elderly virginian, who has lived here for 30 years and is vice president of the posh private girls' school. At Gunston School students pay $4,400 each year plus $800 to board their own horses.

"We feel it gives the school a certain prestige and exposure that the big girls' schools always get," she said. At Gunston, the jousting and jumping contests are scheduled Sunday in conjunction with the princess's visit. Four of the 12 equestrian performers are U.S. Olympic gold medalists.

"It's all very fitting, really, for the school, because it's always been a riding school," Mrs. Duffey remarked of the 63-student institution.

ADD 9 - PRINCESS - AR

The heritage of the county's 20,000 residents is proud, clannish, and self-sufficient. The royal namesake, Queen Anne, is said to have told her people at the start of her reign that her "heart was entirely English." Here, the soul is completely Eastern Shore.

Except for the namesake, affinity with Britain stopped about 200 years ago when suspected Tories were tried for political heresy in Queenstown. Rivers and communities like Wye, Chrster and Kent recall the lineage.

"You have to understand," said T. F. Hard, a Vermont native who as never managed to leave, "an Eastern Shoreman is like a Bavarian. He knows there is more to Germany but he just doesn't give a damn."

Consequently the people from all over the nation who have been calling for tickets and reserved seats have been politely turned down. "We told them that it was free to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis," Aldridge said.

"We printed 2,000 tickets for the bleachers and distributed them to our seven election districts. Any vacant seats are open to anyone."

In the same manner, the 385 special chairs on the courthouse lawn under the expansive 100-year-old trees were reserved for "our citizens, those who serve on the county boards, the planing commission, and so on," Aldridge said.

"They serve at no compensation. They work at night, and we think they should be guaranteed a seat for something as big as this."

Out-of-state bus tour organizers who calleld Sonny Schultz' Fisherman's Inn for meal reservations were turned down. "Hell, I can't handle them," said Schultz. Hawkers were-prohibited from vending within two blocks of the courthouse. The only imported services were a caterer and a sound system from Washington.

"Look," said Schultz, a tall, muscular, cigar-smoking boatman with large chrome-rimmed sunglasses and slicked back hair, "we even got mentioned in Newsweek, nor for murder or rape, but something nice, this. And it'll be nice for her," he said of the princess. "She gets to Washington, but when does she get to see an American community like this?"

Appropriately, the county is turning over proceeds from the festivities to its people. Fifty cents of the $2 from sales of each commemorative brochure will go to the Lions' Club eye bank and food gold at the public luncheon Sunday at the Gunston School outside town will be plowed into a scholarship fund.