London - They were notable absences from the royal gathering at Sandringham on Christmas Day.
In fact, Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall were on the other side of the world – for the pair had business to attend to.
The couple, along with their 11-month-old daughter Mia Grace, flew to Australia in mid-December to fulfil a series of lucrative commitments.
Zara’s grandparents – the Queen and Prince Philip – and her mother, Princess Anne, spent Christmas Day at church before their traditional lunch at Sandringham House.
Meanwhile, Zara was launching a yacht race in her role as a global ambassador for Rolex.
The 33-year-old Olympic equestrian was all smiles in dressed-down attire, clad in shorts and a polo shirt, as she officially started the Sydney to Hobart race at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia.
According to sources, the family flew to Australia earlier this month to attend a friend’s wedding. They then enjoyed a brief holiday before Zara began work as the official starter of the Rolex-sponsored race, one of the toughest in the world. Clutching a toy seal as a gift for her daughter, Zara stood alongside fellow sporting celebrities to wave off the 144 yachts taking part.
A spokesman for the former world-champion eventer, who hopes to represent Team GB again in Rio in 2016, said Zara will stay in Australia until late January to complete another of her work commitments, Magic Millions.
Although it sounds like a quiz show, this is, in fact, one of the country’s most popular thoroughbred horse sales and race meets. According to informed sources, Zara was offered a ‘small fortune’ to become an ambassador for the event, which is held in Queensland over two weeks every January.
Her trip is being bankrolled by Magic Millions co-owner Gerry Harvey, Australia’s 13th-richest man, who made his estimated £550million fortune from a chain of clothing stores.
Tindall will join his wife and daughter for part of the trip to the Gold Coast, but will return to the UK early to prepare for his own new role – as a contestant in the Channel 4 reality series The Jump. He will be among 12 celebrities flying to Austria to take on a series of challenging winter sports for the TV show, which begins at the end of next month.
A friend told the Mail: ‘Zara and Mike are in Australia as a mixture of holiday and work.
‘They were at a friend’s wedding earlier this month before Zara, in her role as [a Rolex ambassador], started the Rolex Sydney to Hobart race. She will also attend the Magic Millions at the beginning of January. They are there as a family but Mike will return early in the New Year for The Jump.
‘He will leave a few days earlier than Zara but she and Mia will stay on in Australia due to her commitments.’
The source added: ‘Zara is with friends of the family so she has no babysitting problems. She and Mia will travel back to the UK together.’
It is likely that the family will be back together before January 17 – Mia’s first birthday.
FROM ROLEX TO LAND ROVER, ZARA’S DEALS
A former world champion three-day eventer, Zara does not receive any public money.
Her mother, Princess Anne, rejected a royal title for her daughter at birth.
This means that although she is still 15th in line to the throne, she can accept sponsorships to fund her sporting career.
Although deals for those in ‘niche’ sports such as eventing are a fraction of those offered to footballers and golfers, experts believe that Zara’s status as a member of the Royal Family triples her worth to between £300 000 and £500 000 a year per sponsor. The most significant of her deals is with outdoor clothing firm Musto, with whom she launched a line in 2010. The tie-up could be worth up to £800 000 a year. She is also an ambassador for Rolex – she wears the firm’s watches and appears in advertising material – and has worked for Samsung.
She is also an ambassador for Land Rover – once posing for an advert wearing a mud-splattered ball gown – and can often be seen driving around Gloucestershire in a white £40 000 Range Rover Evoke.