Friday 24 February 2017

Champagne on ice as royal rebel accepts proposal from 'The Fridge'

Laura Elston in London

Zara Phillips and her fiance Mike Tindall. Photo: PA
Zara Phillips and her fiance Mike Tindall. Photo: PA

He is the hulking rugby star once described as "pug-nosed", she is Princess Anne's feisty daughter.

The romance between Mike Tindall and Zara Phillips -- Queen Elizabeth's granddaughter and 12th in line to the British throne -- always looked like ending in marriage.

The pair -- both former world champions in their respective sports -- fell for each other after meeting in a Sydney bar during the 2003 Rugby World Cup through Phillips' cousin Prince Harry.

Tindall (32), who plays centre for Gloucester, was reported to have been the only single man in the England squad -- but not for long after encountering leading horserider Phillips (29).

The sporting couple initially denied they were in a relationship, but it gradually became clear they were romantically involved when they were spotted hand in hand.

The Queen's granddaughter and one-time royal rebel has talked openly of the importance of her relationship with Tindall.

"He met me just after I'd found out my horse had injured himself, so I was quite low and vulnerable," she said previously.

Nervous

Tindall admitted he was nervous being introduced to Phillips' famous relatives, revealing: "But Zara's mum is a legend and her father is lovely too. My mates are forever asking how on earth I fit in among the Royal Family, but they are really down to earth."

He claimed that it was his "pure charm" that had won Phillips' heart and they were "best mates".

They moved in together, sharing The Bothy on Princess Anne's Gatcombe Park estate, but in April 2009 bought their own regency townhouse in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

In August 2009, Tindall admitted it was not about whether they would wed, but when.

He told 'Hello!' magazine that there was "no doubt" he loved Phillips and that he would like to have children. But he said the time had to be right for them to walk down the aisle.

Tindall revealed: "Yes, it probably would be a white wedding -- although sometimes I can see the attraction of sneaking away without telling anyone."

In laid back Yorkshire-born Tindall, Phillips has chosen a commoner and a sportsman as a companion, rather than seeking out a husband from blue blood stock.

It is a direction similar to the one Princess Anne took in marrying her first husband, Captain Mark Phillips.

Headstrong Zara, Anne and Mark's second child, had her tongue pierced as a teenager.

She cultivated a reputation as a gregarious royal "ladette" in the past and was once spotted drinking beer out of a bottle in a pub.

She is known for being one of the most fashion-conscious royals. Short skirts and knee-high boots go with Phillips, who was the first in the family to have her own stylist.

Her penchant for the latest trends is something that never seems to have bothered her mother, who has sported the same hairstyle for many years and is not averse to digging out decade-old clothes for another outing.

One year, Phillips turned up at Ascot wearing a one-shouldered Gharani Strok dress decorated with a pattern of large burnt orange and white flowers and split to the hip. She said later of the head-turning outfit: "I knew I was going to get attention, but I didn't think it would get quite so much attention. It was cool."

Stormy

Another year, she changed into a silk dress in a public loo in the car park opposite the Ascot course.

Her on-off previous relationship with leading jump jockey Richard Johnson was often a stormy affair but there were no such dramas with Tindall.

The pair can often be seen giggling and laughing together as they enjoy outings to the races.

Phillips' passion for horseriding has seen her triumph in the sporting world, following her parents into the equestrian arena.

In September 2005, she won two gold medals at the European Eventing Championships, winning the individual title as Britain clinched a sixth consecutive team win.

She went on to win the individual gold medal at the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Germany.

It made her only the third rider to hold both World and European championship titles consecutively.

She dreamed of competing in the 2008 Beijing Olympics after missing out in 2004, but her hopes were dashed when her horse was injured shortly before the Games and she was forced to withdraw. She has now set her sights on 2012.

Like her mother, Zara was crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2006 by the British public.

Possessing something of her no-nonsense mother's fiery streak, she admitted once: "I suppose I'm quite feisty. I'm not all that good at being told what to do."

Tindall was born in Otley in 1978 to mother Linda and father Phil. He became a Bath player in 1997 and joined Gloucester in 2005. Rugby skills run in the family. His father Phil captained Otley, but a knee injury halted his career.

Tindall helped England triumph in the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia, but missed the 2007 tournament after failing to recover in time from a broken right leg and then suffering a serious liver injury in a Six Nations match against Wales.

Tindall is said to be mild-mannered, easy going, unpretentious and nicknamed 'The Fridge' for his sheer size.

Legend has it that on the way back from the 2003 World Cup Tindall broke cricketer David Boon's in-flight record of 52 for the number of beers consumed.

In January 2009, he was banned from driving for three years for getting behind the wheel of his car the morning after a day of drinking at the Cheltenham races.

His barrister said he was "shocked and embarrassed" when the breath test proved he was over the limit.

He has a previous conviction for the same offence dating back to 2000 and was disqualified for 16 months.

Irish Independent

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