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How Zara and Mike Tindall forge their own path, as rugby star heads into 'I'm a Celeb'

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 28: Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall kiss as they attend Day Two of Wimbledon 2022 at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 28, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
Mike Tindall and his wife Zara kiss as they attend Day Two of Wimbledon. (Getty Images)

The Royal Family and relatability don't naturally seem to go hand in hand — nor does being an international sports star — but Zara and Mike Tindall have somehow managed to create a public facing brand that comes across as down-to-earth and even verging on normalcy.

From candid confessions about their personal lives to the demonstration of humour and quirks in public, the Tindalls have broken many royal taboos that previously seemed set in stone.

Mike Tindall has begun his experience in the Australian for I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! However, this isn't Tindall's first foray into television: he has previously appeared on The Jump and Bear Grylls: Mission Survive, as well as taking part in Top Gear with his wife Zara.

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STRICT EMBARGO - NO USE BEFORE 20:00BST MONDAY 31ST OCTOBER 2022. Editorial use only
Mandatory Credit: Photo by ITV/Shutterstock (13602218a)
Mike Tindall MBE, Owen Warner, Olivia Attwood, Charlene White, Boy George, Scarlette Douglas, Sue Cleaver, Chris Moyles, Babatunde Aleshe and Jill Scott MBE.
'I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!' TV show, Contestants, Series 22, Australia - 31 Oct 2022
This year's contestants on I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!. (Shutterstock)

Yahoo UK looks back at the couple's journey to popularity and relatability.

Mike and Zara's Australia connection

Australia has already played an important role in the couple's journey: while Zara was on her gap year in 2003, she crossed paths with Mike in a Sydney bar. However, a watering hole in a major city is a far cry from the jungle Mike will be experiencing in during his time on the ITV show.

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Although Zara already had a reputation as somewhat of a rebel — courtesy of her youthful tongue piercing — she was establishing herself as an equestrian to be reckoned with at the time.

The international rugby player had just found out that he wouldn't be playing in the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup, and had come out to commiserate over drinks with fellow disappointed players who also had not been selected.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 9:  Mike Tindall of England in action during the Rugby World Cup Quarter Final match between England and Wales at Suncorp Stadium November 9, 2003 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Mike Tindall played in the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia. (Getty Images)

"It kind of went from there," Zara is reported as saying in an interview with 60 Minutes. Mike has also spoken publicly of their first meeting, saying that he and Zara "got introduced, but didn't speak that much".

Her number was then passed to the rugby player through one of his teammates, who said "she wants you to text her, to say where you're all going after the final so she can come along".

The couple made things official on 27 April, 2004 after building a friendship.

Their love of sport brought them together

Mike and Zara Tindall's love of sport meant that from the start they had a lot in common.

Zara's love of horse riding was presumably encouraged by her equestrian parents: Anne, Princess Royal and Captain Mark Phillips, who both are keen riders to this day.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 31:  Zara Phillips of Great Britain riding High Kingdom in action in the Show Jumping Eventing Equestrian event on Day 4 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Greenwich Park on July 31, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Zara, an accomplished equestrian, was part of the Olympic team in London's 2012 games, where she won a silver medal. (Getty Images)

At Gordonstoun, where Zara went to secondary school, her love of sports reportedly developed further. She then trained as a physiotherapist at the University of Exeter.

Sport was also presumably an inherited passion for Mike, who's father and uncles were also keen rugby players.

He went straight from school into life as a professional rugby player, despite being offered a place at the prestigious Durham University.

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"We understand the needs of a sportsperson in the highest level," Mike has said according to Hello magazine about his relationship with Zara, adding that the couple "understand each other's highs and lows in sports."

Zara has won a silver medal at the Olympics for eventing and the BBC's Sports Personality of the year, while Mike has many international caps and earned an MBE in 2007 for services to sport.

They don't have royal titles, and neither do their children

While Zara and her brother Peter did not receive royal titles upon their birth, she still grew up incredibly privileged as a member of the House of Windsor.

Mike on the other hand experienced a far more normal upbringing. He grew up in Wakefield, near Leeds and worked in a fish and chips van while he attended the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School.

Zara once jokingly said when asked if the press attention was difficult, "I can't help coming from a dodgy family."

She has also said repeatedly she is pleased she never held a royal title and that while her "cousins obviously do", she thinks this means "sometimes they don't have as much freedom as they should".

SUTTON COLDFIELD, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 17: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Zara Tindall and Mike Tindall attend the ISPS Handa Mike Tindall Celebrity Golf Classic at The Belfry on May 17, 2019 in Sutton Coldfield, England. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Both passionate about sports, Zara and Mike took part in a Celebrity Gold Tournament in Sutton Coldfield in 2019. (Getty Images)

However, the royal status of his partner has never deterred Mike. He said in 2008, "Zara's mum is a legend and her father is lovely too. My mates in Wakefield are forever asking how I fit in among the Royal Family, but they are really down to earth."

Their wedding was relaxed and informal - by royal standards

Though the two accomplished sportspeople reportedly moved in together not long after they became an official couple, it was not until 2010 when it was announced they were engaged.

EDINBURGH, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 30: (NO SALES)  In this handout image supplied by Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall, England rugby captain Mike Tindall and Zara Phillips are pictured in Holyrood Abbey, Palace of Holyroodhouse after their marriage at Canongate Kirk on July 30, 2011 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips will marry England rugby player Mike Tindall today at Canongate Kirk. Many royals are expected to attend including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. (Photo by Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall/ via Getty Images)
Zara and Mike on their wedding day in Edinburgh, July 2011. (Getty Images)

However, the year before, Mike had made his feelings for his partner abundantly clear, saying: "I don't think its is about whether we will get married but when."

They married in July 2011 at a relatively small ceremony in Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh. Compared to the huge royal wedding of Kate and William just months before, their wedding was relatively low-key, indicative both of their life as private individuals rather than working royals and their preference for doing things their own way.

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The newly-weds then moved back to Gatcombe Park, Princess Anne's estate in 2013. That same year, the couple announced that Zara was pregnant with their first child.

They've talked openly about their miscarriage experience

Mia Grace was born on 17 January 2014. Two years later, the Tindall family announced Zara was pregnant again, however sadly she suffered a miscarriage.

NEWPORT, WALES - JUNE 30:  Zara Tindall, Mike Tindall and Mia Tindall during the 2018 'Celebrity Cup' at Celtic Manor Resort on June 30, 2018 in Newport, Wales.  (Photo by Mike Marsland/Mike Marsland/WireImage)
Zara and Mia watch Mike play golf at the Celebrity Cup in Wales, June 2018. (Getty Images)

"Afterwards, loads of people wrote to me and Mike to say they'd been through something similar. In our case, it was something really rare; it was nature saying, 'this one's not right.' For me, the worst bit was that we had to tell everyone - everyone knew." Zara said to The Sunday Times in 2018.

She continued, "I had to go through having the baby because it was too far along. I then had another miscarriage really early on. You need to go through a period where you don't talk about it because it's too raw, but as with everything, time is a great healer."

In June 2018, Lena Elizabeth was born, and the Tindalls became a family of four.

STROUD, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 09: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Mike Tindall and Zara Tindall with their daughters Mia Tindall and Lena Tindall (in her pram) attend day 3 of the Whatley Manor Horse Trials at Gatcombe Park on September 9, 2018 in Stroud, England. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Mike, Zara and Mia walking with baby Lena in her pram at the Whatley Manor Horse Trials in September 2018. (Getty Images)

They'll admit things no other royal would about their personal lives

More recently, Zara and Mike had their third child: Lucas Philip.

Born on 21 March 2021, Mike admitted on his podcast The Good, the Bad, and the Rugby that Zara had given birth to Lucas on their bathroom floor at home.

"Arrived very quickly," the ex-rugby player said, "didn't make it to hospital. On the bathroom floor. So yeah, it was running to the gym, get a mat, get into the bathroom, get the mat on the floor, towels down, brace, brace, brace."

He also referred to his wife as a "warrior" and joked that now they had a son, "I've got a boy. I'm out."

Mike also admitted during an appearance on Loose Men that "marriage or a long term relationship, it can't be all roses and rainbows".

He also opened up that having "children [is] a massive shock" and that of the pair his wife Zara is more likely to "stay angry" while he can "have a full barney at someone when they've done it wrong and then I can be 'shall we have a hug".

Mike reveals tidbits about life in the Royal Family

Tindall's upcoming appearance on I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! will be another in a long line of glimpses that he has provided into the more informal side of the Royal Family. His podcast, the Good, the Bad, and the Rugby, has catapulted him into becoming one of the most popular members of the House of Windsor.

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Through the down-to-earth insights he provides into the life behind the curtain of the royals, he has positioned himself as candid and relatable. Co-hosted by James Haskell and Alex Payne, rugby is the primary focus of the show, but Tindall regularly opens up about his family life.

The three podcasts hosts share not only a passion for rugby, but an unaffected and relaxed style of presenting that allows these titbits of personal candour to seamlessly intersperse amongst the chatter about rugby.

They even recorded a special tribute episode dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II after her death, in which they discussed their favourite aspects of the official mourning period and Mike divulged what it was like for the grieving family behind the curtain.

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - SEPTEMBER 10: (L-R) Mike Tindall, Nick Easter and James Haskell of England line up for the national anthem during the IRB 2011 Rugby World Cup Pool B match between Argentina and England at Otago Stadium on September 10, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
James Haskell and Mike Tindall were teammates in the England squad before they started their hit podcast together. New Zealand, 2011. (Getty Images)

Tindall has also admitted to ITV that it was in fact his co-host James Haskell who persuaded him to take part in his latest jungle adventure.

"It's sinking in now that I'm taking part," Tindall said, "I am ready to rumble. I have been asked on numerous occasions to take part. The timing was right this year and Hask did the show and had been talking about it."

When asked at the airport as he arrived in Australia to take part in the show whether or not the Royal Family had approved him signing up for the jungle adventure, Tindall merely replied: "That's not something I need to tell you."