Zara Tindall's surprising admission: 'I don't think of myself as royal'

She’s got the best of both worlds and it’s all thanks to her mum.

By Judy Kean
Most little girls dream of being a princess – the sparkly dresses, glamorous parties, palaces and castles. Zara Tindall is rather different.
Her favourite outfit is a sweat-shirt and jeans, her preferred entertainment is a TV box set, while home is a farmhouse with a large stableyard.
As for her fairytale prince, she's married to rugged (and decidedly middle-class) former rugby player Mike Tindall. And she is deeply grateful that her mother, Princess Anne, turned down the Queen's kind offer of a royal title.
Zara, who's just spent a chunk of the chilly British winter on Australia's Gold Coast as an ambassador for the Magic Millions horse racing carnival, is thankful for the life she gets to lead and knows she owes it to her mother.
Zara and Mike were in Australia promoting women's involvement in horse racing. Image:Getty
The Princess Royal, along with her ex-husband Mark Phillips (70), turned down titles for their children, Zara and Peter (41), which has allowed them to lead relatively normal lives.
"My life would probably have been very different if I'd been a princess," says Zara (37), who is mum to Mia (5) and Lena (seven months).
"My parents didn't give me or my brother titles, so we've been able to have a slightly more normal upbringing.
"As soon as you have got a title, it is very difficult to shed it. I'm very lucky that both my parents decided not to use the title. We grew up and did all the things that gave us the chance to do."
Zara says she doesn't really think of herself as royal.
"I am perfectly happy as I am. But then, they're my family, so obviously I kind of am."
Princess Anne did all she could to give her kids a normal childhood. Image:Getty
Former royal press secretary Dickie Arbiter agrees that Anne (68) did the right thing in refusing titles for Zara and Peter.
"It was a masterstroke of the Princess Royal. Growing up as a commoner allowed Zara to thrive as her own woman and there has never been any pressure on her to conform. She has benefited from it in all sorts of ways."
Of course, her royal links have helped Zara get ahead in many ways. For example, she most likely wouldn't have sponsorship deals with companies like Land Rover and Rolex based on her equestrian career alone.
But Zara gets the best of both worlds. She still gets to be present at major events like the Trooping the Colour and royal weddings but doesn't have to attend the openings of factories or visit charities.
That means she doesn't receive a single penny from the royal purse, but it does give her the freedom to pursue her own interests, including training horses, which contributes to her income.
She has her own jewellery line and it's been estimated that she receives around $2 million a year in sponsorship. Her biggest deal with clothing company Musto brings in around $1.5 million a year alone.
Meanwhile, husband Mike (40) is no slouch in the earning stakes. The former England rugby star also has six-figure endorsement deals and has made a tidy sum from property.
While he and Zara and their girls live in a cottage at Gatcombe Park – Princess Anne's country home – where Zara has her stables, they also own homes in England and Dubai that are rented out.
As well as being grateful that Anne has provided her family with an ideal home close to her adored horses, Zara credits her mum for fostering her love of all things equine.
"I started riding before I could walk, thanks to my mum," says Zara, who won an Olympic silver medal in eventing as part of the Great Britain team in 2012.
"I love eventing as it offers so much excitement, as well as discipline."
Zara celebrating Olympic glory with diver Tom Daley Image:Getty
Zara has openly spoken about being keen to compete again at the Olympics. She missed out on selection for the 2016 Rio Games, but could still be a contender for the Tokyo event next year. She says her aim is to be "back doing the full thing" this year in an effort to be chosen for the Great Britain team.
"I'd love to try to get back on the team," she reveals. "I'd love to do another Olympics. The way to prove yourself is by results, and going out there and getting on with it."
Going through childbirth took a toll on her body each time, and Zara admits being back in the saddle took a bit of getting used to after having each of her daughters. "The first time around my body was in so much shock. It was like, 'What the hell have you done to me?' But I have recently done a couple of competitions and it feels good, actually."
Zara is enjoying being back in the saddle. Image:Getty
Zara would have preferred to ride for as long as possible throughout her pregnancies but was particularly cautious when expecting Lena as she had been through two miscarriages.
One she kept quiet about as it happened at an early stage, but the second one was very public. She and Mike had just announced they were expecting a sibling for Mia when they lost the baby a couple of weeks later.
Talking about their heartbreak in a TV interview, a tearful Zara said, "I think that's the hardest thing in our situation, that everyone knew."
An outpouring of public support did help, however.
"I had so many letters saying, 'I'm so sorry, we've been through the same thing,' which was incredible – and thank you to all those people."
Being able to lean on her family, including her mother, also got her through. "It was a time when my family came to the fore and I needed them. I have a very supportive family."
Her grandmother, the Queen, showed her support in a most touching way.
Zara and Mike lost their baby just before Christmas in 2016, and then went to Sandringham for the annual family gathering. Their loss still raw, the couple wanted to stay out of the limelight, so while the rest of the royals headed to church they stayed behind, joined by the Queen (92), who comforted them.
Mike says, "She wasn't feeling very well and so she didn't go to church, and we'd obviously been through a lot with our pregnancy that we lost, so we did our own little private service, just the three of us."
While her family have been there, Mike has been Zara's rock.
"Mike's incredible and it's hard for the guys too. It's very different for us because we're carrying the child, but for guys, I guess it's kind of that helpless feeling, which must be horrible for them. At the end of the day, they've lost a child too."
Zara, Mike and Mia welcomed baby Lena to the family in June 2018 Image:Getty
Luckily, her pregnancy with Lena was straightforward and her second child was born on June 18 last year.
When it comes to motherhood, Zara says she has a role model in her own mum. "I would like to be as good a mother as she has been to us. Her advice, generally about life, has been invaluable."
She says she had a great childhood and while forced to contend with her parents' divorce at the age of 11, it wasn't too traumatic.
"When they separated it was obviously sad, but the way they did it was not harmful to us. I don't remember it as a painful time."
As a teenager, she was close to Anne, with her rebellious moments not too serious.
The Princess Royal wasn't too fazed when Zara got her tongue pierced at 18 – "my parents would have been much more upset if I'd had a tattoo," she says – but she did get a stern rebuke from Anne after hosting an Ann Summers party, selling saucy underwear and sex toys, at Gatcombe Park.
Those who know Zara well say she has inherited her mum's no-nonsense attitude and tendency to speak her mind.When she has to be in the public eye, she knows how to turn on the beaming smile and say the right things to people she meets. But she relishes the time spent out of the limelight.
"I don't think you ever get used to the attention," Zara admits. "You've just got to try to learn to deal with it."

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