In the Press: Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall
The Gloucester player proposed to the Queen’s eldest granddaughter following years of speculation. The news came hot on the heels of the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton last month.
Accomplished horse rider Zara, 29, who lives with her long-time partner in Cheltenham, said she was left “shocked” but “very happy” when he proposed. Mike, 32, who has been capped 66 times, was ecstatic and said: “I am delighted Zara has agreed to marry me. We are both very excited about the next stage of our lives together.”
People in Gloucestershire were quick to congratulate the couple, who have become familiar faces to many in Cheltenham. Jeremy Shaw, owner of Monty’s Brasserie, said the pair were regulars at the St George’s Road eatery. He said: “They are a delightful couple whom the staff are very fond of. We wish them all the best and send our congratulations.”
Belinda Keighley, 36, who is a good friend of Zara’s and lives in the Cotswolds, heard the news on the night of the engagement. The pair have been friends for years and Zara was bridesmaid for Belinda when she married Condicote-based racehorse trainer Martin Keighley in 1998. The mum-of-two said: “We are very excited. Zara and I are still good friends. They seem very happy and very well matched.”
Royalist John Fogarty, who ran Bakery Stores in Prestbury High Street for almost 50 years, said he could not be more pleased for the couple. The 84-year-old used to decorate the shop with the Union Flag as a tribute to the Queen Mother, who went to the store during visits to Cheltenham Festival. He said: “Zara is a lovely girl and is ideal for him – she is quite an outdoors person. Zara sees people as equals – you can’t get anybody nicer. I wouldn’t be surprised if they got married in Gloucester Cathedral.”
The couple have not yet set a date but it seems likely they will tie the knot in 2011 – setting up the prospect of two royal weddings next year.
Zara modelling the ZP176 collection
The pair fell for each other after meeting in a Sydney bar during the 2003 Rugby World Cup through Prince Harry, who is Zara’s cousin. Mike was reported to have been the only single man in the winning England squad, but not for long after encountering leading horserider Zara. Their friendship blossomed into a romance and Mike has claimed it was his “pure charm” that won her heart.
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. They moved in together, sharing The Bothy on Princess Anne‘s Gatcombe Park estate, which was a gift from her, but in April 2009 bought their own £800,000 regency townhouse in Cheltenham.
Nick Hurst, chairman of Minchinhampton Parish Council, the village where Zara and Mike lived until recently, wished them luck. “As far as I am concerned they are folks who lived down the road,” Mr Hurst said.
Zara wearing her own line of equestrian clothing
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh are said to be “delighted” by the news. A Buckingham Palace statement said: “The Princess Royal and Captain Mark Phillips are pleased to announce the engagement of their daughter Zara Phillips to Mr Mike Tindall, son of Mr Phillip and Mrs Linda Tindall.”
Zara is a former winner of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, following in the footsteps of her mother.’
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