Zara and brother Peter Phillips have "been able to live their own lives" because they weren’t raised as royals, father-in-law Phil Tindall tells The Sunday Times

By Phil Boucher
June 29, 2020 03:34 PM
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Zara Tindall is not your average royal.

Growing up in Queen Elizabeth's family, the Olympic silver medallist has constantly been surrounded by princes, dukes, lords, and princesses, yet she has always been just Zara — and that's just the way she likes it.

"Zara always says she’s so pleased she wasn’t given a title," Phil Tindall, the father of her husband, Mike Tindall, tells the Sunday Times, adding that the lack of a title has enabled Zara, 39, and brother Peter Phillips, 42, "to live their own lives."

"They have quite a number of really good friends — people they can be sure of," he adds about Mike and Zara’s friendship circle. "They’re people they trust and rely on completely."

Zara's mother, Princess Anne, broke with decades of royal tradition by opting to raise Zara and Peter without an HRH or title. While they were not entitled to royal status by birth, the Queen extended a courtesy title to Anne’s children, which she politely declined in the hope that this would allow them to have more regular childhoods than the likes of Prince William and Prince Harry.

Their father, Captain Mark Phillips, also turned down a title that would have been given to him as a wedding gift from the Queen when he wed Princess Anne in November 1973.

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“I think it was probably easier for them, and I think most people would argue that there are downsides to having titles,” Anne told Vanity Fair about her decision in April, shortly after Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announced that they too would be giving up their royal status. The couple also decided not to give their son Archie a royal title upon his birth in May 2019.

Princess Anne with Phil Tindall at Mike and Zara's wedding
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Zara and Mike — who married in July 2011 — have since followed the same path with their daughters Mia, 6, and Lena, 2 — even if it has meant learning to become expert homeschoolers during the coronavirus lockdown.

This ability to lead a more normal life has enabled Zara to become a champion horse-rider and secure brand ambassador deals for companies including Land Rover, Rolex and new COVID-19 immunity tracking app V-Health Passport.

Mike and Zara Tindall, with daughters Mia and Lena (in stroller)
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Unlike previous generations of royals, it also gave her the freedom to develop a romance with former England rugby player Mike — even though his entirely non-royal family had their reservations.

"He (Mike) started playing for England in 2000 and it wasn’t too long before he met and moved in with Zara," Phil Tindall tells The Sunday Times about their blossoming romance.

"Linda’s mum (Mike's grandmother) was dead against it," he continues. "In her day, royalty married royalty and she thought the wedding would be shunned."

Despite this, Phil reveals that the rest of Zara's family "was just lovely" – and that includes rugby enthusiasts William and Harry, who are Zara's cousins.

"Sometimes we’d all go out for lunch with Zara’s mum on Sunday," adds Phil. "We spent quite a bit of time with her dad too.

"Harry would often be round watching the rugby, so, slowly and quietly, we got to meet them all — and that’s how it went on for quite a few years."

Mike and Zara Tindall
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This is also how Mike remembers it. "By the time Zara and I got together in 2003, they’d already met William and Harry," he tells the Sunday Times about his parents.

"Those boys were huge England fans and they’d come in after every game. Mum and Dad met Princess Anne early on too and it was incredibly relaxed. Zara was living in a little two-bed flat in Nailsworth (Gloucestershire), so it wasn’t exactly grandiose."

On Sunday, Mike completed the arduous Raid Local cycling fundraiser in aid of The Cure Parkinson's Trust, a disease which Phil has tragically suffered from for two decades.

This saw riders from all over the world leave their homes and attempt to cycle 12,000 feet uphill and complete a distance of at least 85 miles in aid of the charity, which funds research into a cure.

"I don't want to see another son or daughter have to watch what I've had to watch," Mike revealed in an Instagram post on Saturday, midway through a training run. "I've watched a strong, purposeful role model slowly get eaten away," he added.