Zara Phillips, the daughter of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips, may be 20th in line to the British throne, but she is tops in athletic achievement. A celebrated equestrian who won silver at the 2012 London Olympics, she has met her match in former rugby star and sports personality Mike Tindall, who has become her partner in life and in sport.
Since their romance became public in 2004, Zara and Mike have delighted royal watchers with their modern, supportive, and fun-loving relationship and rambunctious and cheeky children. “We became mates, really,” Mike has said. “Eventually, it was one of those things where you realize you’re spending all your time with someone, and it went to the next level.”
November 2003: Zara and Mike meet
According to Brian Hoey, author of the biography Zara Phillips, during her gap year, Zara and her older brother Peter—both massive rugby fans—traveled to Australia to watch England play in the Rugby World Cup.
After being booted from the starting line-up for England, Mike went to a local pub to drown his sorrows. “I was at the World Cup, she was out watching,” Mike recalled. “I got dropped from the semi-final. I was pissed off, and so I went for a beer with another guy who got dropped and a guy who was over [in Sydney].”
When Zara and Peter dropped by the pub, his teammates introduced her to rough and tumble Mike, whose nose has been broken countless times. “They’d met her before and they introduced us,” Mike said, “and then got chatting.”
2004–2010: A winning team
“First actual date, just went out for lunch locally,” Mike has said of their first time out together. “And ended up being quite a boozy one. Then we figured out that we both quite like getting smashed. It was a good start.”
The two found a shared connection in their professional sporting careers—and the highs and lows that come with it. “He met me just after I’d found out my horse had injured himself, so I was quite low and vulnerable,” Zara recalled. “He understands the pressures and vice versa, which obviously helps, but it actually started from becoming very good friends.”
Their relationship soon became serious, and the couple began supporting each other on and off the field. “Being with Mike really helps Zara because he is a dedicated sportsman,” former Great Britain Olympic Equestrian Team performance manager Yogi Bresiner observed, per Hoey. “They inspire each other.”
December 2010: A low-key proposal
Long known as the “royal rebel” for her free-spirited ways, Zara bucked royal convention when Mike moved in with her. The couple dated for over five years before he popped the question at their home. “I was upstairs, plucking up the nerve to do it, while Zara was downstairs watching television,” he recalled. “It was all about shock value—I wanted to catch her when it was quiet, and she wasn’t expecting anything… She was completely in shock. Then, when she stopped laughing, she said, ‘Yes.’ That was a relief.”
July 2011: Zara and Mike marry
On July 30, 2011, Zara married Mike at Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh. The bride wore the Meander Tiara and a gown by Stewart Parvin as the couple exchanged vows in front of guests including Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Princess Anne, Prince William, Kate Middleton, Prince Harry, and numerous sports personalities including racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart.
January 2014: Mia Grace Tindall is born
On January 17, 2014, Zara gave birth to Mia Grace Tindall at the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital. The proud father has called the day of his first daughter’s birth “definitely the best day of my life.”
June 2018: Lena Elizabeth Tindall is born
While trying to expand their family, Zara and Mike suffered two miscarriages. “It was a time when my family came to the fore,” Zara told The Sunday Times. “And I needed them.” But the Tindalls’ heartbreak turned to joy on June 18, 2018, when their second daughter, Lena, was born.
March 2021: Lucas Philip Tindall is born
In 2020, it was announced that Zara and Mike’s family was expanding again. “I've got two girls; I would like a boy,” Mike said on his podcast The Good, The Bad & The Rugby. “I’ll love it whatever, whether a boy or a girl—but please be a boy.”
He got his wish on March 21, 2021, when Lucas Philip Tindall was born. With labor progressing too quickly, the baby was born in the bathroom at the family’s home in Gatcombe Park, with Mike and a midwife in attendance. “I literally was like, ‘Yep, snip-snip-snip!’” he said. “I’ve got my boy. I’m out. I’m out of here!” After the surprise birth, Mike had nothing but praise for his wife. Zara was a “warrior as always,” he said.
December 2022: I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here
In the fall of 2022, Mike surprised the world when he appeared on the popular reality show I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here. Royal watchers were even more shocked when Zara appeared on camera to greet Mike after he had been voted off the show after coming in an impressive fourth place. The two had a touching reunion, wrapping each other in a giant hug.
According to Hello magazine, in the limo after his exit, Mike told Zara, “I’m sorry I had a camp wife in there (Sue), but she was brilliant.” Zara replied jokingly with, “Cheating on me.” Zara then made fun of her husband rapping on the show, exclaiming drolly, “You went in early with that on day two, teed yourself up for it, and that’s your repertoire gone.”
But their true affection was revealed later that night when Zara reportedly reflected on her husband’s month-long absence, “It’s just too much, let’s never do this again.”
January 2023: Zara Appears on Mike Drop
The Tindalls continued to open up about their relationship in January 2023, when Zara appeared on the inaugural episode of Mike’s YouTube series Mike Drop. The couple’s playful rapport was on full display as they referred to each other as “my love.” “In 2012, you married a legend,” Mike said, causing Zara to cut in. “Who said that?” she replied slyly. “Didn’t we get married in 2011?” Mike realized his mistake and said, “Sorry, yes, we did.” At that, Zara laughed. Twenty years later they’re still a winning team.