The Stunning Transformation Of Zara Tindall

You're not alone if you ever gave yourself a "Princess Diaries"-themed makeover. Engaging in such a nostalgia-infused film — and the makeover montages we all loved watching when we were younger — was the closest thing that most of us ever got to royalty (or could ever hope to, given the lifestyle). But for some, being a royal is simply part of the course. After all, you can't help to whom you are born. We all know the big names of the British royal family, whether you consider yourself a fan of the firm. From Queen Elizabeth to the beloved Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to the annexed Duke and Duchess of Sussex, the royal family has presented the public with anything but a regular family affair, and we can't help but watch as the firm expands and changes with time.


But some royal family members fly more under the radar, most often due to their distance from the throne. As for Princess Anne — the queen's only daughter — her removal from the throne grows with time, but she is one of the most complicated working royals. Despite her dedication to the crown, she was adamant about giving her two children, Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall, as normal of a childhood as possible, allowing them to accomplish their own goals without royal scrutiny. As for Zara, her growth both in and out of the spotlight has been extraordinary, and she's followed in her mother's footsteps in more ways than one.

Zara made a very quick arrival when born to Princess Anne and Mark Phillips

Given the high-profile nature of her mother, Princess Anne, it's no wonder the press highly covered Zara Tindall's birth. As noted by Hello! Magazine, the little royal was born Zara Anne Elizabeth Phillips on May 15, 1981. Her name is an obvious nod to the regal women in her life. Anne gave birth at St. Mary's Hospital, Paddington, in a somewhat hastened fashion. She later said, per Woman & Home, that Zara's delivery was incredibly fast and somewhat unexpected.


"The baby made a rather sudden and positive arrival," Anne shared at the time, providing more insight into her daughter's rather unique name (via Hello! Magazine). Telling the press that the name Zara was Prince Charles' idea, Anne said, "My brother thought Zara (a Greek name meaning 'bright as the dawn') was an appropriate name." Given that the royal family has strong Greek ties — as Prince Philip was born in Corfu, Greece — the name could have also been in honor of the family's heritage.

Zara was christened about two months later at Windsor Castle, as noted by the Nottingham Post, and her godparents were named. The list might come as a surprise, but Zara's godparents include the now disgraced Prince Andrew and Andrew Parker Bowles (Camilla Parker Bowles' ex-husband and Princess Anne's ex-boyfriend).


The young royal was not given a title at birth

When we think of the stereotypical royal way of life, we imagine crowns, castles, and everything you could want. But as it turns out, Zara Tindall's upbringing with the royal family was as normal as her parents could afford, going as far as not giving their children titles. As noted by The Sun, Princess Anne denied Queen Elizabeth's offer to bestow titles on Zara and her older brother, Peter Phillips, as she wanted them to grow up without the scrutiny that a royal title can bring. What's more, Anne's then-husband, Mark Phillips, also turned down a royal title when he married the princess. Instead, Zara spent her childhood in a more down-to-earth environment, with her brother saying that his younger sister "tried to boss [him] around," and was always "at the centre of anything that was happening that was fun and boisterous" per the Nottingham Post.


Zara's personal life no doubt took a turn when her mother and father separated, a very unheard of occurrence within the royal family at the time. The Nottingham Post noted that Zara was just eight when the couple split, and was 10 when they finally divorced.

Despite her upbringing without a title, her father-in-law Phil Tindall told The Sunday Times that she's always been grateful for the normalcy in her life, revealing that she and her brother were allowed "to live their own lives" outside the royal spotlight.

Zara attended the same boarding school as her uncles

When it came time for the young Zara Tindall to attend school, truly the only option was boarding school. Now, boarding school was and is a pretty contentious topic even among the royals, and it was widely noted that Prince Charles was relentlessly teased while attending Gordonstoun. But, as per Express, Zara and her older brother, Peter Phillips, both became boarding students at the same school their uncle — Charles — once went to, and Zara had a much different experience than the direct heir to the throne.


"I loved school, I loved sport and being with my mates all the time," Zara recounted of the experience. "I don't know how much work I did. You do get homesick, but I had so much fun, and Pete was very protective. All his friends were too. They kept me out of trouble. After Dorset, I joined him at Gordonstoun."

It's no wonder that both Princess Anne's children went to boarding school. She is the patron of the Gordonstoun campaign, and as noted in her profile by Vanity Fair, is a "firm believer" in the boarding school system.

"I think boarding school has been demonized by some when in fact it's a very important aspect to have available and many children actually thrive in it," Anne told Vanity Fair.


Zara pursued her degree at Exeter University alongside her brother

It's a bit odd to consider a young Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in their shared days at St. Andrews, given how much the royals are now associated with their roles as senior members of the firm. As for Zara Tindall, her college days were similar to that of her extended family counterparts, but she did seem to have a bit more unbridled fun. After finishing her A-levels, Zara took a gap year — a fairly common decision for young people out of the secondary school phase — and set off for New Zealand and Australia for three months, per Tatler. What else did she get up to in her late teens? Per the Nottingham Post, Princess Anne's daughter got her tongue pierced "for a laugh." After spending time down under, Zara returned to the United Kingdom and took a class in equestrian massage. A year later, she was accepted to Exeter University, where she studied physiotherapy, joining her older brother at the institution.


While a student, Zara started to excel in her equestrian career and scored sponsorship in 2003, per Express. Such a sponsorship covered the expenses of her riding career and competitions, putting her on the competitive horse industry radar. Two years later, in 2005, she placed second at the four-star Burghley Horse Trial event and graduated from university. Talk about an impressive start.

The successful equestrian started making her mark on the industry in 2005

After scoring sponsorship in 2003, Zara Tindall started making a name for herself among the equestrian community, proving to everyone that she had what it took to compete in the big leagues. By 2005, Zara's standout performance at the FEI European Eventing Championship solidified her place among the best as she snagged gold riding her faithful horse, Toytown. Zara's penalty points, per FEI, stayed at 38 during the competition — the second place went to William Fox-Pitt, who came in at 44.3 penalty points, and third place went to Ingrid Klimke with 45.2 penalty points. Also, Great Britain took home the team gold in the competition, its sixth back-to-back win.


Of her impressive performance, FEI noted that the crowd "held their breath" as Zara took to the arena. Not only was the win on the line, but Zara's impressive lineage — as her mother, Princess Anne, had an inspiring equestrian career — was on full display. Zara exceeded expectations, taking home the individual gold.

"All of this was a massive dream," Zara said. "It was such a privilege and honor to be on such a wonderful team. Mum gave me a big hug and told me she was proud of me."

Princess Anne's daughter was the recipient of a meaningful award in 2006

While some royals are known for drama and others for proximity to the crown, Princess Anne is widely known for her riding career. Receiving the award of BBC's Sports Personality of the Year in 1971, a then 21-year-old Anne was at the top of her equestrian game, proving to the world that her version of a princess was not all about tule and tiaras. What makes the award so heartwarming, as time has passed, is the fact that Anne's daughter Zara Tindall received the same award 35 years later. That's right! The star equestrian was named BBC's Sports Personality of the Year in 2006, bringing an incredibly lovely full circle moment to the honor.


The award recipient was chosen by the public, and people could vote by phone and text during a two-hour window. It was clear that Zara had what it took to be successful in the arena, but the award indicated that she had won over the public, too.

"I wasn't expecting it at all. It's amazing to be here with all these amazing sports people. I have sat there in awe of everyone. To win is amazing. It's fantastic for the sport," Zara said as she was presented with the award, per The Guardian. Of her mother's influence in her sport, Zara further said, "She hasn't put any pressure on me. She keeps you relaxed and says, 'Go out there and do what you can.'"

Zara suffered a major blow ahead of the 2008 Olympics, but came back stronger than ever

Given her expanding reputation as a competitive equestrian, it's no wonder that Zara Tindall's name was floated as an Olympic possibility. Ahead of the 2004 Games in Athens, Zara was on the long list of options, per the Mirror, but an injury on her horse's part took the duo out of the running. Still, the following years were incredibly successful for Zara, putting her squarely in the running for the 2008 Olympic team. In the lead-up to the competition, everything seemed to be going well for Zara and her horse, Toytown. Still, in the final weeks before the event, Toytown was sidelined with yet another injury sustained during training. Four years apart, the same rider and horse were again forced out of the Olympic team, no doubt crushing Zara's spirit at the time.


But don't think that's the end of Zara's Olympic transformation. By the time 2012 rolled around, the Olympics were not only retaking place but were being hosted in London. On her home turf, Zara made it to the Olympic team and took the silver medal as part of Great Britain's team competition. Making a surreal moment even better, Princess Anne presented Zara with her medal, bringing a touching — and full circle — transformation to a close.

The royal had a heartwarming engagement and wedding to Mike Tindall

There's nothing quite like a royal romance, but unlike the high-profile nature of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, Zara Tindall and her husband, Mike Tindall, enjoyed a romance largely outside the spotlight. Meeting in 2003 at a pub, Zara and Mike hit it off while both in Australia. They reconnected back in England and made things official in 2004, per the Daily Mail. Indulging in their long romance and moving in together, the couple knew they were meant for one another. As time passed, other couples were tying the knot around the pair, and Mike revealed to the Daily Mail that he knew it was time to get down on one knee. "I had been thinking about it for ages, waiting to ask, but then my brother got engaged, and so did a certain Duke of Cambridge," he said. "I thought I'd better get on with it."


And so, while Zara was watching TV in their home, Mike paced back and forth upstairs, "plucking up the nerve" to ask his love to marry him, telling the Daily Mail that he wanted to take Zara by surprise. "It was all about shock value — I wanted to catch her when it was quiet, and she wasn't expecting anything," he said.

Announcing the engagement in December 2010, the palace was thrilled to share Zara's news. The two married the following year in a 400-guest wedding at the Canongate Kirk on Edinburgh's Royal Mile.

Zara became a first-time mom in 2014

Transforming from an assertive sister to a famed equestrian to a newlywed, Zara Tindall continued to blossom. In 2012, Mike Tindall dropped a hint that the couple might be welcoming a child in the future, remarking at the Rugby for Heroes charity event, "Obviously we're going to have a family. But it's about timing," adding, "I want to play [rugby] for another two years, so it's just where we find the balance in that. I wouldn't say we'll wait; we'll try and find a window."


Clearly, a window was found because, in 2013, Zara happily announced that she and Mike were expecting their first child together, and on January 23, 2014, the couple welcomed their little girl. Baby Mia Grace — who was 16th in line to the throne when she was born — became Queen Elizabeth's fourth great-grandchild and Princess Anne's third grandchild (via The Guardian). Taking to social media after welcoming their little girl, Mike announced her name choice to the world in a tweet, calling the experience of transforming into a dad "definitely the best day of my life."

As for the little girl's name, bookmakers William Hill announced that Mia's initial odds in the baby name pool were 16-1 initially, with only "a few people" guessing the name correctly. "We might have to close that betting early for the next royal baby — be it William or Harry," William Hill stated.


The equestrian was back in the saddle three months after giving birth

Going through the pregnancy and birthing experience is a life-altering series of events. It certainly should not be underestimated just how impactful the nine-plus months can be — not to mention postpartum. For Zara Tindall, she was not only a new mom in 2014, but she was determined to get back into the saddle as soon as she could. As noted by CNN, Zara was riding horseback just five weeks after giving birth to her first child, daughter Mia Grace, and quickly had her sights set on the next competition.


"It was harder than I thought it was going to be. I had a lot of friends who said, 'Don't come back too quickly.' I sat on a horse about five weeks after (giving birth)," Zara told CNN, confirming that she was back training just three months into her postpartum journey.

When little Mia was eight months old, Zara was back on the competition circuit and in 11th place at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. CNN noted that Zara was integral in helping team Great Britain make it to their second-place finish and Olympic qualifying spot. "I always wanted to get back for the Worlds at the right time," Zara said. "I've given myself enough time to get back where I left off."

Zara was banned from driving in 2020

There's something to be said about royals and driving — think of the hilarious photos of the queen, being small in stature, peering over the wheel of her Range Rover. It is a sight to see, but her grandchild Zara Tindall wasn't allowed to sit in the driver's seat for half a year. As noted by the BBC, Zara was pulled over on the A417 highway in Gloucestershire when she was pulled over for speeding. And she wasn't just going five miles above the limit but traveling at 91 miles per hour! As it turned out, Zara already had nine points on her license working against her, and her final infraction was the icing on the cake. Despite her royal connections, Zara didn't try to sweet talk her way out of it. She admitted to police that she had been speeding in her Land Rover and took an additional three points on her license, bumping the total to 12. The BBC noted that 12 points typically result in license suspension.


Farley Turner, the prosecutor, stated at the time of the incident, "Because Mrs. Tindall already has nine points on her license, she was unable to accept a fixed penalty for this offense." The result? The royal had her license suspended for six months and was fined about $800 and an additional $180 as a "victim surcharge."