Wednesday, December 22, 2010

That's a lovely ring you've got Zara... now how about visiting the manicurist?

By Daily Mail Reporter

-Hastily arranged photos to show off sparkler as Queen's granddaughter is left 'astonished' by proposal

Understated: Zarah Phillips and her fiance Mike Tindall after they announced their engagement

Zara Phillips is to marry her rugby player boyfriend Mike Tindall in a move that could make 2011 the year of royal weddings.

The Queen’s 29-year-old granddaughter said she was astonished by Monday evening’s proposal – despite a seven-year courtship.

And the level of her surprise was evident as she and Tindall, 32, posed for hastily arranged photos outside their Gloucestershire home.

As she showed off her diamond and platinum engagement ring, it was painfully clear that Zara had not even had time to have her nails done in preparation for the big announcement.

But while it seems a trip to the manicurist might be on the cards for the second royal bride to be – their engagement comes five weeks after that of Prince William and Kate Middleton – many were asking last night whether the couple would sell the rights to the ceremony in a deal that could be worth up to £1million.

Juniper Sport, the company which rather than Buckingham Palace handles Zara’s PR and her sports sponsorship deals, refused to rule out the possibility.

'Very happy': The 29-year-old daughter of the Princess Royal showed off her diamond engagement ring

The spokesman said: ‘With regards to the selling of the rights to the wedding – it hasn’t even been discussed. They’ve only just got engaged and we’re not even at the when and where stage yet.’

Zara’s brother Peter Phillips and his Canadian-born wife Autumn Kelly were paid £500,000 by Hello! magazine for the exclusive rights to their ceremony at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, in 2008.

The intimate pictures were taken without the Queen’s full knowledge and Buckingham Palace later made clear it regarded the sale as a serious error of judgment.

Emotional: The Queen’s granddaughter said she was astonished by Monday evening’s proposal, despite a seven-year courtship

If Zara, who is 12th in line to the throne, copied their decision it would not be the first time she has taken advantage of the fees offered by celebrity magazines.

In 2002, the international event rider and her then live-in boyfriend, the jockey Richard Johnson, invited the Hello! cameras into their Cotswolds home for a £125,000 fee.

And in August, Tindall – who is 16st and 6ft 1in – gave an interview to the same magazine.

Relaxed: While Kate Middleton's blue Issa dress sold out within hours, right, Zara's informal style is unlikely to spark any new trends

Any money from a magazine might be welcomed by Zara. Her mother Princess Anne declined a royal title on her behalf, so she has never been entitled to any money from the Civil List.

Zara makes hundreds of thousands of pounds a year in lucrative commercial deals with firms such as Rolex, Land Rover and the sportswear label Musto.

But the cost of caring for her 12 horses is thought to be up to £500,000 a year, and she and Tindall have spent £250,000 doing up their Regency townhouse in Cheltenham.

The Queen is expected to chip in by offering a venue for their reception, such as Frogmore, near Windsor Castle. And Zara’s parents are likely to cover much of the costs.

Zara and Tindall expressed their joy in a typically understated way.

She said: ‘I was really shocked when Mike proposed but I am very happy’, while he added: ‘I am delighted that Zara has agreed to marry me. We are both very excited about the next stage in our lives together.’

Love of racing: Zara and Mike Tindell pictured together at the 41st British Grand Prix at Silverstone Motor Racing Circuit

Public appearances: Tindall was by Zara's side at the Cheltenham Festival in 2005

Magazine deal: Zara, pictured far left, front row, as bridesmaid at the 2008 wedding of her brother Peter Phillips to Autumn Kelly. The couple sold the picture rights to the event for £500,000

Red carpet moments: Zara with Tindall at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards in 2007 (left) and at a celebrity charity poker tournament in Monaco in 2009 (right)

The Queen and Prince Philip told of their ‘delight’ at the news.

A spokesman said it was a ‘private matter’ as to whether Tindall had asked Captain Phillips for Zara’s hand in marriage, though sources said this was likely.

No date has yet been set, but royal sources said it was unlikely to be arranged before or close to William and Kate’s wedding on April 29.

Family ties: Zara's mother, The Princess Royal, has maintained a good relationship with her former husband and father of her children, Mark Phillips (centre) and husband Tim Lawrence (right) at Gatcombe Park in 2003

Welcomed into the fold: Tindall and Zara meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace reception in 2006

Like mother like daughter: In marrying a commoner, Zara follows in the footsteps of Princess Anne, who wed Captain Mark Phillips in 1973

Understated: Zara and Tindall, who have been together for seven years, lead a quiet lifestyle in Gloucestershire

Meeting the in-laws: Tindall with Zara and her mother Princess Anne and step-father Vice Admiral Timothy Laurence at Buckingham Palace in 2007

Lovenest: In 2009 the couple bought an £800,000 regency townhouse in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire


Even their places of birth speak volumes of the social chasm between Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall.

Princess Anne's daughter was brought into the world in the splendid, Grade II Listed St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, home to the laboratory where Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin.

Mike, in contrast, was born in the decidedly more pragmatic surroundings of Yorkshire's Wharfedale General Hospital, founded in the 19th century as a workhouse - the last refuge of the desperate and destitute.

It is here, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, that the Tindall family is rooted. Blue-blooded they most certainly are not, yet they have worked hard to become a paragon of hard-working, middle-class achievement. Mike's parents are Phillip, 64, a retired bank official, and Linda, a 63-year-old social worker.

While his fiancee grew up on the 730-acre Gatcombe Park estate in the Cotswolds, Mike spent his early years shuttling between modest homes in Otley, Ripon, Pontefract and Wakefield because of his father's job.

Along with his older brother, Ian, he had a happy childhood and excelled at rugby from an early age at Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School in Wakefield - and he has always been described by friends and colleagues alike as being very down to earth.

At school he also worked in a van selling fish and chips, describing it as 'the worst job I ever had. It was just a lot of rowdy Northerners complaining about the size of the fish'. Yesterday, as his mother spoke to the Mail, it quickly became apparent that it is she who has kept her son's feet firmly on the ground.

'We are very pleased about the news. Zara is a lovely girl,' she said from the family home in Crigglestone, a smart yet modest new-build detached house bordering an area of moorland. 'But we have Ian's wedding in May next year, so we're having to deal with that first.'

As for one day becoming a grand mother to a Royal baby, Mrs Tindall added: 'I'm not quite so sure children will be on the horizon just yet as I'm sure Zara will be thinking about the Olympics and Mike will be thinking of the World Cup.'

Sport is in the family's blood. Mike's father played rugby for Otley for ten years before retiring as club captain in 1973 when a nasty knee injury curtailed his career.

Mike's four uncles also played rugby, while his cousin Andrew has turned out for Otley on a regular basis. To this day many of the Otley members remember the Tindall sporting dynasty passing through their club. Mike's uncle Steve Tindall, who still lives in the town and used to coach for the club, says: 'The family has a long tradition of playing rugby. 'My father Doug - Mike's grandfather - played for Skipton in the Thirties and was captain there.'

As with all families, however, there are surprises. In this case it is in the form of Mike's uncle Stuart, who lives in Oxfordshire with his wife Paula.

Together with their daughters Sarah, 18, and Kathryn, 15, they perform as the Tindalls, a folk band.The group has been performing together since 2005, with gigs at clubs and festivals across the Midlands and Home Counties. Whether they will be performing at the Royal wedding remains to be seen, however, as Stuart declined to comment on the happy news yesterday.

Mike has long credited the support of his close-knit family for helping him reach the heights of his sporting career. 'Now I think my dad lives the sport through watching his kid,' he said recently. 'He and Mum travel to most games. They carry all the nerves.'

Of his mother, he says: 'I'm a bit of a mummy's boy. She's just very similar to me. We've got a similar sense of humour and personality. She's very easy to talk to.
Some people find it hard to talk to their parents, but I pretty much tell her anything. Well, anything I think she'd want to know.'

The family has also suffered its share of tragedy. Mike's grandmother, Margaret Shepherd, died four years ago after being knocked down by a car close to her home.

The 88-year-old, who lived in Otley all her life, was a keen rugby and cricket fan who had been enormously proud of her grandson's achievements. Shortly before this, the family suffered another blow when Mike's father was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

When Mike won ITV's All-Star Poker Challenge in 2005 he donated his £25,000 winnings to the Parkinson's Disease Society, saying: 'I know what an impact Parkinson's can have on a person and their family.'

Yet since retiring from Barclays, Phillip has shown the same fighting spirit which has marked out the Tindall family for generations.

Linda said last night that her husband had become bored with being retired and begun working in the finance department of nearby Newhall Prison.

They may not have blue blood, but there is little doubt that this extraordinary family will prove a welcome addition to the Royal fold.



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