Talbot Church: 'Mini-wedding' sets royal cat among pigeons

The man the Royals trust...

Wednesday 29 December 2010 01:00

There will be relief in royal circles when the end-of-year celebrations conclude. What was always going to be a delicate moment, with plans for the royal wedding being discussed within "the Firm", became dangerously combustible when Zara Phillips announced her engagement to Mike Tindall.

Sources close to the Queen revealed that Her Majesty was "not best pleased" by news of a second royal wedding. The fear is that the infamous sibling jealousy between Prince Charles and Princess Anne will infect the next generation.

"Anne's reputation as a tough-talking horsewoman has always annoyed her," according to a Phillips family friend. "She hates the way Charles pretends to be intellectual when the cameras are running." Blonde bombshell Zara is, if anything, tougher than her mother. When she was 19, she agreed to talk to Nicholas Witchell beside her favourite one-day-eventer, omitting to mention that the stable had been "deep-littered". Although, ankle-deep in manure, the BBC man managed to complete the interview, it was generally thought that the feisty royal had gone too far.

News of her cousin Wills' wedding brought out Zara's competitive spirit, and the news that the latest royal princess attended Marlborough, the alma mater of her father, Mark "Foggy" Phillips, emerging with better qualifications, hardly helped the situation.

Coverage of what palace insiders are calling "the royal mini-wedding" has made relations between the two camps even frostier. The Phillips family was infuriated by a full-page tabloid feature comparing Kate's well-manicured nails to those of Zara, which were "ragged and rimmed with black". How many stables, Princess Anne was heard to ask, has Kate Middleton mucked out?

Rivalry of a happier kind has been evident in the relationship between Wills and Harry. At the end of every year, the brothers discuss which of them has been compared more often in the press to their mother. In what they call "the Legacy Handicap", William is usually triumphant – madcap Harry once complained that his brother practised a Diana smile in front of the mirror.

It has been Harry, though, who recently won an international award for his charity work, landing him this year's Legacy Handicap. Wills has promised to make 2011 his Year of Caring and Sharing. All in all, it is great news for the princes' favourite good causes.

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