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Tindall said: “Zara’s mum is a legend and her father is lovely too.

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After initially denying they were in a relationship, it gradually became clear they were romantically involved when they were spotted hand-in-hand.

They would often be seen giggling together as they enjoyed outings to the races and the rugby.

Zara’s previous on-off relationship with leading jump jockey Richard Johnson was often a stormy affair but there were no such dramas between her and Tindall, a laid-back Yorkshireman described by friends as “honest, self-deprecating and down-to-earth”.

Yet while people may have worried their backgrounds were too different, the love affair between Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall has stood the test of time because they have so much in common.

A shared love of sport is the tie that binds the equestrian champion and the former England captain.

The couple met at the rugby World Cup in Sydney in 2003 where Tindall, as the only single man in the squad, was introduced to Zara by her cousin Prince Harry.

Teammates Martin Corry and Austin Healey played matchmaker, giving Mike Zara’s mobile number claiming she wanted him to text her. Zara had not expressed much interest in the sociable centre nicknamed The Fridge for his sheer 6ft 1in, 16st bulk.

“Being angry doesn’t come naturally to me,” Mike admitted. She’ll say how she feels and show her emotions.” The Queen’s eldest granddaughter, once dubbed a royal rebel for having her tongue pierced, has also spoken of the importance of having Mike as a calming influence.

“He met me just after I’d found out my horse had injured himself so I was quite low and vulnerable,” said Zara, a former world three-day eventing champion and winner of Sports Personality of the Year in 2006.

“He understands the pressures and vice versa, which obviously helps.” Mike has also talked about the importance of the couple sharing “each other’s highs and lows”, praising Zara for her support when he missed the 2007 World Cup after breaking his right leg.

Although initially nervous about being introduced to Zara’s royal relatives, Mike, 32, has become part of the family having lived at Princess Anne’s Gatcombe Park estate where her former husband, Zara’s father Mark Phillips, also has a home.

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