By Kenneth J. Panton
There is another British royal wedding this year, though it is almost forgotten amidst the media brouhaha that surrounded Prince William’s marriage to Kate Middleton a few weeks ago. On 30 July, Zara Phillips—the 30-year-old only daughter of Princess Anne and her first husband, Mark Phillips—ties the knot with England rugby captain Mike Tindall at the Canongate Kirk in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town.
Zara—13th in line to the throne—doesn’t fit the stereotype of a princess and is about as unlike the stoldily conventional Kate as you could get. This is the young woman who, as a teenager, scandalized the royal family by displaying a tongue stud when she turned up at the 50th birthday celebrations laid on for her uncle, Prince Charles. The following year she raised regal hackles again when news leaked out that she had been the hostess at an Ann Summers sex party and, more recently, readers of the tabloid press relished tales of her volatile love affair with jumps jockey Richard Johnson, with the police called to halt hostilities between the pair on at least one occasion.
On the other hand, Zara, like her mother, is a talented equine physiotherapist, an accomplished horsewoman, the winner of an individual gold medal at the 2006 World Eventing Championships, and the holder of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Sports Personality of the Year Award (a title she earned on the basis of television viewers’ votes).
Tindall—three years her senior—is credited with calming her down but, even so, she has little time for royal protocol. When the couple got engaged late last year, press pictures of her engagement ring also showed dirty fingernails and for her official photographs she wore a flat cap and a body warmer. Over the years, exposed cleavages, abbreviated hemlines and, at Ascot racecourse in 2003, a dress split to the thigh have suggested a defiance of royal sartorial traditions but the black hat she paraded at William and Kate’s wedding was one of the most stylish in a forest of works of millinery art.
As yet, nobody knows what Zara will wear on her own wedding day though, if she had a free choice, she would probably turn up in a sheepskin jacket, jodphurs, and riding boots. The press will be in attendance but the emphasis will not be on the pomp and circumstance that inevitably dominated the ceremony for the future king and his bride. Zara is, as always, plowing her own furrow. She and her fiancé are involving Edinburgh children in the wedding arrangements and are planning to celebrate with a party for senior citizens at Holyrood Palace. And, afterwards, she will be known simply as Mrs. Tindall.
Kenneth J. Panton is professor emeritus at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he was dean of the Honors College and author of the Historical Dictionary of the British Monarchy and Historical Dictionary of the Contemporary United Kingdom.