Mike Tindall has spoken about the devastating effect Parkinson’s disease has had on his father and the isolation his parents have faced during the pandemic.
He paid tribute to his mother Linda, who is the primary carer for his father Philip, as “a very stoic, northern lady, who refuses to give her man up”, but said he is trying to convince her to accept offers of support.
The former England rugby player, who is married to the Queen’s granddaughter, Zara Tindall, joined forces with the Duchess of Gloucester for a video conversation to mark World Parkinson’s Day.
During the warm exchange with his royal in-law, Tindall also gave an insight into family life with his baby son Lucas, who was born just over five weeks ago.
He told Danish-born Birgitte, who congratulated him on the new arrival: “Sorry, that’s why I was a couple of minutes late. I was just dropping Lucas out of the room, he was snoozing. Zara’s about to feed him.”
Birgitte, who is married to the Queen’s cousin, the Duke of Gloucester, said of Tindall’s daughters Mia, seven, and two-year-old Lena: “You’ve got those two little nursery helpers to do most of the work, haven’t you?”
Tindall laughed and said: “It’s a fine balance – I love that they want to help, but maybe they try and help a little bit too much, and smother the baby a little bit.”
Lucas’s middle name, Philip, is in honour of both Tindall’s father and the Duke of Edinburgh, who died just 19 days after his great-grandson was born.
The video call took place on April 7, but its release was postponed because of the duke’s death on April 9.
Tindall told the duchess that his parents are both on the vulnerable list and have not left their home for a year.
He added: “What they’ve really missed out of this year is… my mum’s missed companionship, really – being able to go and see someone else, because she doesn’t feel now that she’s comfortable leaving my dad alone.”
Tindall is patron of Cure Parkinson’s, while Birgitte is patron of Parkinson’s UK.
He said his 74-year-old father, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2003, has had a “tough five years”, but that the worsening of his condition stretches back 10 years to 2011 – the year Tindall married Zara.
“I would say he’s had a really sort of tough five years, maybe even longer actually,” he said.
“It’s our 10-year wedding anniversary and it was that year that … through his Parkinson’s, his spine in his back is obviously curved, and then it caused problems with his discs and then he had to have a wheelchair at the wedding. He could walk some bits of it.”
Speaking about how his father lost strength after a back operation and then suffered colitis, Tindall added: “When you start adding those things up, they’ve made a massive change over the last 10 years, whereas before that, you know, it was a lot slower process.
“Then you throw in lockdown and literally they’re both on the vulnerable list so they have not literally left the house in a year.”
The duchess said: “It is very tough, and it affects the whole family, not least your mother, who is the prime carer … for your dad.”
Tindall replied: “Yeah, we keep telling her that she doesn’t need to be that, but she’s a very stoic, northern lady, who refuses to give her man up.
“And we’re trying to convince her that you’re not giving up your man, you’re just allowing the frustrating parts of it that, you know, get you sort of riled up, that someone else deals with and it also gives you a life.”
Describing how his mother, 72, was reluctant to leave Philip’s care to others, he added: “We’ve tried having care, the odd carer come in and look after him to give her time.”
The duchess replied: “It can be really difficult to persuade somebody like your mother that for her own sake.”
The wider royal family, like the rest of the nation, have spent most of the last year separated from one another in lockdown, and Tindall revealed he is missing his royal relatives.
The duchess said: “It’s been lovely to talk with you, Mike, it really has.”
Tindall replied wholeheartedly: “I can’t wait to see you guys, it’s been so long.”
The pair praised those involved in supporting people with Parkinson’s and working to find a cure.
Tindall said: “Thank you for everyone who is involved with any parts of Parkinson’s, it means a lot to me, especially from my heart and please keep doing it … hopefully (World Parkinson’s Day) will end one day.”
The ex-rugby player, who has long campaigned to raise awareness, has been fundraising for Cure Parkinson’s with a 750km (466-mile) bike ride.
Some 145,000 people in the UK are living with the disease, and identified as being clinically vulnerable to Covid-19, with an added risk for the majority who are over 70.