Inside the Life of Zara and Mike Tindall — the Royals Next Door

Queen Elizabeth's granddaughter and her down-to-earth husband Mike raise their two girls out of the spotlight

zara and mike tindall
Zara and Mike Tindall .

With Prince William hoisting his goddaughter Mia Tindall onto his shoulders while his royal cousin Zara strolled alongside (as her husband Mike held little Prince George), it was easy to see the closeness between the young families as they enjoyed a day out at in the English countryside.

The special relationship between Zara (Queen Elizabeth's granddaughter) and William dates back decades. During childhood, the prince “rather liked the controlled chaos” of Zara’s country home of Gatcombe Park in contrast to the more formal palaces, former royal bodyguard Ken Wharfe tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. “Zara’s home was a well lived-in place.”

Today, Zara, 39, and her husband of nine years Mike, 42, raise their two girls, Mia, 6, and Lena, 2, out of the spotlight in a farmhouse close to that large childhood country home where she grew up.

Zara (who isn’t a princess, thanks to her mother Princess Anne deciding she should be title-free) and Mike may join Queen Elizabeth and other members of the Royal Family – during COVID-free times — on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. But they are more at home in muddy riding pants (her) and fancy golfing pants (him) and doing parenting errands like running eldest daughter Mia to school or heading to the local Waitrose supermarket.

zara and mike tindall
Zara and Mike Tindall with their daughters. Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Making their own way, they have separately flourished in the real world of professional sport. Zara was an equestrian Olympian in 2012 (like her mother Anne) and Mike ended up a World Cup winner for England in his sport of rugby in 2003.

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“You don’t get that response [from a horse] unless you are at one with it,” a source who has watched Zara ride for decades, tells PEOPLE.

zara and mike tindall
Zara and Mike Tindall.

And Mike “has stood at the top of the world in one of the world’s most exciting games,” says Will Cook, CEO of Cure Parkinson’s, a charity Tindall has been supporting in the wake of his father’s own battle with the condition. "That brings confidence. People respect that.”

The couple is “simply friendly and approachable,” adds Matt Hampson, whose foundation for young people injured in sports, is backed by Mike. “They don’t want a lot of the things that come with being in their position.”

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