Story transcripts

Unlikely Princess

Friday, November 23, 2012

Reporter: Charles Wooley
Producer: Stephen Taylor

A few years back, the British Royals were so unpopular they could do no right. Then came the wedding of William and Kate and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

Now, with their recent trip to Australia, Prince Charles and Camilla proved The Firm is more popular than ever, much to the chagrin of Republicans like Charles Wooley.

What you might not have noticed while you were out fluttering your Union Jacks, was that another Royal had slipped into town.

Zara Phillips, the Queen's eldest granddaughter and darling of the English horsey set was on the Gold Coast doing a little bit of, dare we say, commercial business.

Full transcript:

STORY – CHARLES WOOLEY: When you’re Zara Phillips, daughter of Princess Anne, granddaughter of the Queen, and 14th in line to the throne, high heels or not you’re always walking on eggshells, while trying to appear a good sport. Ah, hi.

ZARA: Hi, how are you?

CHARLES WOOLEY: I’m Charles. I’ve heard all about you.

ZARA: Uh oh.

CHARLES WOOLEY: No, it’s all been good.

ZARA: All good?

CHARLES WOOLEY: Not that you can believe anything you read in the paper. It’s also wise to be on your guard. I mean, who can you trust?

CHARLES WOOLEY: My job is to stand around and watch you.

ZARA: You’re going to have a fun day.

CHARLES WOOLEY: A fairly painless duty. Zara had invited us to film her fashion shoot, a promotion for next year’s Magic Millions Horse Racing Carnival on the Gold Coast. But as she worked, a sneaky member of the paparazzi was lurking in the bushes, sniffing out a scoop for the English tabloids and a nice little earner for himself. It’s the sort of thing that gives honest journos a bad name. But for the UK tabloids, a gem of a story - not only a fashion faux pas, but royal skin, and a red bra strap, had been exposed. Worse still, a flip-flop, where the royal feet had been spotted in a pair of Aussie thongs.

ZARA: Don’t work too hard, boys.

CHARLES WOOLEY: But this kind of inane scrutiny is nothing new for Zara.

ZARA: I’m really not comfortable in this outfit. Our British media are pretty tricky but, um, unfortunately you can’t do anything about it.

CHARLES WOOLEY: They’re very hard on you?

ZARA: Yeah.

PHOTOGRAPHER: Elbows out towards me, hands a bit higher. Yeah, lovely.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Zara Phillips copes best by saying less. She’s no-nonsense, a little shy I suspect, and not particularly comfortable being glamorous. Now are you just a natural, or do you have some background in modeling?

ZARA: No, I’m not going to give up my day job.

ANNOUNCER: And in she comes to the arena here, at Greenwich Park. Let’s have a listen to this.

CHARLES WOOLEY: This is Zara’s real day job. She’s a professional equestrienne, a world-beater in the tough discipline called eventing. Will you explain to me the arcane, strange, mysterious business of eventing?

ZARA: Basically, it’s you and a horse doing three different disciplines in one competition.

CHARLES WOOLEY: So it’s a kind of Iron Man thing for horses?

ZARA: Yeah, little bit. A triathlon. You’ve got dressage, which is the pretty bit. The ballet bit. After that we do cross country, which is the fun bit, the fast bit, you know, where you’re making them jump into water and-

CHARLES WOOLEY: And the dangerous bit, too, I suppose.

ZARA: In ditches, yeah. And then you’ve got the show jumping at the end, after you’ve done all that.

CHARLES WOOLEY: What Zara does is not for the timid. This is a rigorous sport, where triumph and disaster run neck and neck.

ANNOUNCER: Well this would be the story of the Games, if Zara Phillips was to grab gold.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Four months ago, she competed at the London Olympics. And, to add to the pressure, Zara had the world’s highest-profile cheer squad.

ZARA: Just to be in the Olympics was a dream come true for me, and-

CHARLES WOOLEY: Having your whole family there.

ZARA: Yeah, for once they actually came and watched me.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Is that good or bad?

ZARA: You know, it’s good, it’s great that they can come and support you.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Shamelessly name drop for me. Who was there to watch?

ZARA: Um, my cousins, brother- and sister-in-law, my mum, my dad was there cause he coaches the Americans.

CHARLES WOOLEY: He was for the other side?

ZARA: Yeah, traitor.

CHARLES WOOLEY: She makes it sound no more important than getting together for a Sunday BBQ, but in the stands, Zara’s family included Prince William, Kate, Prince Harry, the Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice, Camilla, and of course, Zara’s mum, Princess Anne. It seemed only the Queen couldn’t make it, which was rather a shame because Zara won the silver medal. Your grandmother is quite a horsewoman. Did she give you any advice?

ZARA: Um, no, she’d - she was just proud, and, you know - I’m lucky that she’s got a huge love for the game and, you know, for what - what horses do.

VIDEO: Before leaving, the Princess stopped to thank the midwives and staff. Captain Phillips leant forward and gave his daughter a rather bemused smile.

CHARLES WOOLEY: No one has a home video collection like the royals. Zara was born in 1981, the only daughter to Princess Anne and her then husband, Captain Mark Phillips.

VIDEO: We couldn’t actually see, but it’s said the baby has wispy blonde hair. Do they bite? No, not yet. But it might, after it’s finished with you.

CHARLES WOOLEY: And, although she’s no princess –

VIDEO: Zara! Can you get Zara? Zara!

CHARLES WOOLEY: She’s always had a privileged front-row seat in the theatre of modern British history.

VIDEO: You’ve met the puppy, didn’t you, William?

CHARLES WOOLEY: For you and me, this existence might seem surreal, but maybe not if it’s all you’ve ever known. And, given that it’s so quaintly old-fashioned, it kind of defuses any Republican animosity.

VIDEO: God bless you, and a very happy Christmas to you all.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Does it surprise you that Australians, given that many of us, myself included, would put myself down as a Republican - that the monarchy, on the other side of the world, is so relatively popular here?

ZARA: No, I think it – I think it’s great. You know, obviously, being part of a family, you know, people are so intrigued about, um, you know, what goes on, and, you know, it’s a very different and public kind of family, so people want to know.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Sometimes you say they’re just a family.

ZARA: They are my family. I can’t say, I mean, like, people say that I, um, get grumpy about it, but I’m - but, like that’s what they are to me. I know it sounds weird but that’s - they are my family, and there’s nothing - I can’t say different, different than that.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Now, despite the fact that you had some privilege in your childhood, your parents actually wanted a normal life for you?

ZARA: We, you know, did everything that everyone else did, you know, and went to school and-

CHARLES WOOLEY: You just went to the village school, initially?

ZARA: Yeah, initially. Yeah. Then they sent us away to boarding school.

CHARLES WOOLEY: And your mother decided that you wouldn’t take the title?

ZARA: Yes.

CHARLES WOOLEY: And in retrospect, is that a happy decision for you?

ZARA: Yeah, I mean it’s great, you know, um.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Is that all the fun and none of the responsibility?

ZARA: Yeah. Um, you know, we’ve - my brother and I have both been able to do the things we’ve done, and, yeah, I think we’re very lucky and it’s - it’s worked.

CHARLES WOOLEY: I should note that, unlike so many of the royal family, you’re not on what the English call the civil list - that you’re not paid by the government or the taxpayer?

ZARA: No.

CHARLES WOOLEY: That you make your own living?

ZARA: I’m paying the taxpayer.

CHARLES WOOLEY: You’re a - you’re a taxpayer?

ZARA: Yeah.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Yeah, you’re paying for the others.

ZARA: He’s a lovely man.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Do you - you don’t mind paying for the rest of the family, as a taxpayer? But you make your money yourself, so you’re a business.

ZARA: I ride all my horses, but I ride for people and, um, have sponsors, so, you know, that’s the way I try and make my business work.

CHARLES WOOLEY: It’s a winning combination. A modern non-royal royal and a champion horsewoman, which has the sponsors like Land Rover lining up to use Zara to flog their wares. Now Zara’s in Australia to spruik the Magic Millions Racing Carnival, which is owned by our very own retailing royalty, Gerry Harvey and Katie Page.

KATIE: If you’re an eventer, you have to be a very, very brave person. Your technique has to be fantastic. So I was after a woman that was, um - had international cachet, but was very brave, and independent, and that’s Zara. I mean, I couldn’t get a better girl.

CHARLES WOOLEY: And the other thing is, she’s royal, without being royal, isn’t she?

KATIE: She’s royal, but - but you don’t see that. But the royal part - I mean the DNA with that family, with horses - not just eventing, but racehorses - makes her again the perfect choice for racing women.

CHARLES WOOLEY: How much are you paying her?

KATIE: You know, it’s very reasonable.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Yeah.

KATIE: I think it’s very reasonable.

ZARA: Every little girl, when they’re growing up, loves their horses, don’t they?

CHARLES WOOLEY: So strolling down a Gold Coast beach in the charming company of a reasonably-priced royal and a billionaire retailer- From Katie’s point of view, you’re the ideal ambassador. Isn’t she, Katie?

KATIE: I don’t know why.

CHARLES WOOLEY: It occurred to me that Republicans better take note. The new easy-going style of the next generation might be The Firm’s strategy for securing the future here, and at home. You’re no stranger to Australia of course – you’ve lived here, haven’t you? I’m - well, I don’t know about that, I spent about four months when I - in my gap year.

CHARLES WOOLEY: What did you achieve during your gap year?

ZARA: Not much.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Which brings us to another reason why Zara has a liking for Australia. Last year she married English rugby great Mike Tindall - a relationship that first blossomed in Sydney.

ZARA: 2003 World Cup. He was dropped for the semi-finals, so I - I met him out at a bar.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Which bar?

ZARA: Ah, it was Manly Wharf bar, and then it kind of went from there.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Is it inevitable that sportspeople gravitate towards one another? I mean who else understands you and your obsessions?

ZARA: You saying we’re obsessed?

CHARLES WOOLEY: Well yeah, well, you have to be.

ZARA: Um, yeah, probably - it’s probably easier. You know, wanting to be the best and - kind of goes together well.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Just talking about sport in general, are we getting it, um – are we taking it too seriously now? I mean, it is only a game isn’t it?

ZARA: Oh no. It is only a game, but then it’s people’s lifestyle. It’s their livelihood isn’t it? And the amount of hours and blood, sweat and tears you put into it, you know, you can see the emotion and the hard work and everything coming out at the end.

CHARLES WOOLEY: But you’re British, I mean you invented good losing, you people. You gave us, the world, the aphorism, it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game, right?

ZARA: We pretend. We put it out there like that, but actually it’s totally different. I thought the men were supposed to do this?

CHARLES WOOLEY: Yeah they are, but I wanted to see what kind of good time girl and party girl you are. She popped the bottle of expensive French bubbly with an ease that suggested some prior experience. And so ended a long day that I fear did little to advance the Republican cause, and nothing to suggest that this delightful young woman’s family are going to disappear from our lives any time soon. Here’s to your brilliant career.

ZARA: Oh, thank you.

CHARLES WOOLEY: And good luck at the next Olympics.

ZARA: Thank you very much, keep your fingers crossed.

CHARLES WOOLEY: They are.

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