Zara Phillips, British Olympic equestrian team silver medallist and the eldest granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, was on Queensland’s Gold Coast as ambassador of the Magic Millions Racing Women initiative.I caught up with the 31-year-old to chat about her upbringing, dealing with the paparazzi, and starting a family.
What was it like growing up in a royal family?
When I do interviews, I hate talking about my family a lot because they are my family and that’s all I can say. It’s the same as it was for anyone else – obviously, people don’t quite believe me. Yes, we were in the public eye but we are still a family and growing up is the same. We were very lucky in the way that we had great places to go and great opportunities and hopefully all of us have used them and learnt from them, but then again, it’s just family.
Do you have to deal with paparazzi everywhere you go in Britain?
No, I live in the country with the horses so I can get around at home, unless I’m going somewhere public or I’m with the family in London or doing stuff for sponsors – then there is media. But otherwise I’m lucky, I get left alone.
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever read about yourself?
One of them was last time I was here, they said ”your royal thongness”, and everyone was like, ”Oh my God, she is wearing thongs!”, and I was like, ”Why is that so weird that I’m wearing thongs?” There have been loads [of strange things written] but most of the time it’s when people misquote you, it’s frustrating … The worst thing is, you know how people say ”today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s fish-and-chip paper”? It isn’t true any more, because it’s all on the web so it always comes back up.
Do people sometimes not recognise you and treat you differently once they realise who you are?
Sometimes. This week I went through customs and I had my riding boots with me, so I had to go through the system and they had to clean my boots and the lady looked at me and said, ”Oh I just realised who you are.” It’s quite nice when people don’t recognise you, and obviously it’s a good thing for me because then they are relaxed.
What made you agree to be involved in the Magic Millions?
It’s close to me; I love horses and I love racing. Plus, being in a hot country like Australia, it wasn’t hard to twist my arm!
Is your husband involved in horse racing?
Funny you should say that. My husband [rugby player Mike Tindall] and two other rugby boys and their trainer own this horse together. The reason is, we were all at the sales at Cheltenham races and they were at the table, drinking away, with horses coming and the last lot comes in – and he swears that he didn’t have too much alcohol in him – but it was the end of the night and he starts bidding for this horse and I was like, ”What is he doing?!” so now the four of them are involved. It’s a funny story, but that’s why I’m not taking him to the sales again, he’s dangerous!
What is an average day for you?
I get up and I’ve got seven eventers to ride and then I’ve got three pointers. I ride every day until they are done, doing fitness, jumping or dressage, so every day is different.
What was it like winning silver at the Olympics?
It was the best experience of my life … We would have loved to have taken the gold home, and we were really close. When the first result came out I was disappointed … but then when you get [the medal] around your neck, you think, ”This isn’t so bad!” You stop moaning and shut up [laughs].
Given Will and Kate are having a baby, are you planning on starting a family any time soon?
Yes, hopefully. I’m trying to see if we can plan it in … but the trouble is I have really good horses at the moment. It would be easier if I didn’t have any good ones, so you could kind of go, ”OK, flag this year.” We will see what happens.
What do you do for fun?
I watch my husband play rugby and I play hockey sometimes. Otherwise, I just stay at home and chill out, nothing special really. We are active all the time so when we are at home, we like to chill and be lazy.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Hopefully I will have done another Olympics. That is what I’ll aim for.
WE WENT TO Surfers Paradise foreshore, Gold Coast.
WE ATE Mini friands; Bircher muesli; smoked salmon roulade.
WE DRANK English Breakfast tea.
ZARA WORE R.M. Williams shirt, Country Road jeans and Calleija jewellery.