Royal rebels: ‘We’re doing things our way’

Zara and Mike are calling all the shots as they contemplate staying in the real world or helping out the House of Windsor

When it comes to relatives who could help out the short-staffed royal family during a particularly tricky time, Zara and Mike Tindall tick a lot of boxes.

The King’s niece and her former rugby-playing husband are hugely popular and have an array of skills – including dealing with people from all walks of life – that would put them top of the list of candidates who could assist the decimated family firm by carrying out official engagements.

But will they be asked and will they say yes?

Royal experts have pointed out that the King may need to pull in extra support due to the health problems he and his daughter-in-law, the Princess of Wales, have been suffering since earlier this year.

His Majesty, 75, is allegedly considering asking his brother Prince Andrew’s eldest daughter Princess Beatrice, 35 – and possibly also her younger sister Princess Eugenie, 34 – to attend some events on his behalf, which suggests he might be looking to extended family to fill the gaps. And despite the fact that she’s never been a working royal, and doesn’t have a title, Zara, 43, along with her husband, 45, would be ideal, suggest royal commentators.

Whether they’re teeing off or dressed for duty, the couple are above par.

“Zara and Mike are very popular. They’re very nice, they’re jolly, they’re honourable, they’re loyal to all the royal family,” points out biographer Angela Levin. “Yes, Mike comes from an ordinary background, but he fits in beautifully with the royal family. He could do it very well.”

The fact the couple are very normal, despite Zara being the granddaughter of the late Queen Elizabeth II, makes them very likeable. For example, they recently posted pictures of themselves at a celebrity golf tournament Mike organises every year for two charities he supports and the informal, light-hearted shots of the pair endeared them to the public.

So did Mike’s comments in a TV interview about the tournament when he mentioned celebrating Zara’s birthday two days earlier and possibly overdoing his alcohol intake. After explaining how they went out for lunch then had friends over for dinner on her big day, he added, “Probably why I had a quieter night last night because I might have had a few the night before.”

PR expert Giles Kenningham says Zara and Mike have the skills to carry out official duties, thanks to their backgrounds as high-profile sports stars and experience as brand ambassadors for companies like Range Rover and Rolex. They have also been associated with numerous charities, including those raising money for Parkinson’s disease (Mike) and cancer research (Zara), and are adept at mixing
with a range of people.

“They both have big followings, so they have credibility,” Giles says. “They’re often pictured out with their children. They seem more like a normal family than a royal one, making them relatable and marketable.”

As perfect as they seem on paper, there may be one small snag when it comes to signing them up to be substitute royals. They just might not want to do official engagements, even on a casual basis. Zara has previously told interviewers she’s glad she and her brother Peter Phillips weren’t expected to become working royals.

“I was lucky my mother didn’t give us any titles, so I really commend her on that. We were very lucky that we got to do things a bit our way.”

Meanwhile, journalist Brenda Emmanus says even if they do want to be of some assistance to the King, with whom Zara has a very close relationship, helping out might not fit into their timetable. The pair both already have busy lives, and they have to do a certain amount of work to sustain their lifestyle, which includes competing as an equestrian (Zara) and hosting a podcast (Mike).

“They have sponsorship deals that are carefully curated to support Brand Tindall,” says Brenda. “They live their own lives and make their own decisions – the government doesn’t pay for them. They’re keen to do their own thing and pay their way.”

That might mean focusing on Brand Tindall rather than the House of Windsor. That would be a shame, says a palace insider. Because Britain is still feeling the loss of Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and could do with positive, encouraging royals like Zara and Mike.

“Even if they only stepped in occasionally. Whatever they do would help to win the public over, because they are really engaging people. And surely they would be only too happy to help out Uncle Charles and Cousin William.”

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