Queen's granddaughter to wed ex-fish and chip fryer from Otley

YORKSHIRE-born rugby player Mike Tindall was elevated to the ranks of Royalty today when he announced his engagement to the Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips.

His bride said she was left "shocked" but "very happy" when her long-term boyfriend proposed.

Mr Tindall popped the question to his 29-year-old partner last night at their Gloucestershire home and said he was "delighted" she had agreed to marry him.

The couple met in a Sydney bar during the 2003 Rugby World Cup through Zara's cousin Prince Harry.

Mr Tindall was born in Otley and later attended Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wakefield, while his rugby-playing father Phil captained Otley.

While studying, he served fish and chips from a van and described the experience as the worst job he ever had. He said in 2006: "(It was] just a lot of rowdy northerners complaining about the size of the fish. I was paid according to how many fish we sold."

His friendship with Miss Phillips blossomed into a romance and Tindall, 32, has claimed that it was his "pure charm" that won the royal's heart.

In a short statement issued by a sports marketing company that represents the couple, Zara said: "I was really shocked when Mike proposed but I am very happy."

Tindall was also ecstatic about their news and said: "I am delighted that Zara has agreed to marry me. We are both very excited about the next stage of our lives together."

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: "The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are delighted with the news.

"They got engaged yesterday evening at the couple's home in Gloucestershire and a date has yet to be set."

A Clarence House spokeswoman issued a statement on behalf of the Prince of Wales, Zara's uncle, the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William and Prince Harry.

She said: "Their royal highnesses are delighted with the news and look forward to conveying their best wishes to the couple."

The Queen's granddaughter is a professional horserider and one of Britain's top equestrians who is also a former world three-day eventing champion.

Like her mother, who was also a member of Britain's equestrian team, Zara was crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2006 by the British public.

Her husband-to-be, who plays for club side Gloucester, has been capped 66 times by his country and was part of the England team that won the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

He made the leap from talented teenager to professional, becoming a Bath player in 1997 and joining Gloucester in 2005.

He inherited his rugby from his father, whose career was cut short by a knee injury.

The news that Zara is to wed her boyfriend comes soon after the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton last month.

The couple have not yet set a date but it seems likely they will tie the knot in 2011 - setting up the prospect of two royal weddings next year.

In August 2009, Tindall admitted it was not about whether they would wed, but when.

He told Hello! magazine that there was "no doubt" he loved Zara and that he would like to have children.

But he said the time had to be right for them to walk down the aisle.

Tindall revealed: "I don't think it is about whether we will get married but when."

He added: "Yes, it probably would be a white wedding - although sometimes I can see the attraction of sneaking away without telling anyone."

The couple could opt for St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle for their wedding - the venue chosen by Zara's brother Peter when he married his wife Autumn in 2008.

And they are likely to pick a date far removed from William and Kate's wedding day, April 29.

A Buckingham Palace statement said: "The Princess Royal and Captain Mark Phillips are pleased to announce the engagement of their daughter Zara Phillips to Mr Mike Tindall, son of Mr Phillip and Mrs Linda Tindall."