LONDON - Five hundred years ago, he might have lost his head for embarrassing the Royal Family. Instead, Mike Tindall's recent antics have likely cost him his chances of ever playing for England's national rugby team again.
Tindall had been married to Queen Elizabeth II's granddaughter for only six weeks when photos and footage of a boozy night out with teammates at the World Cup in New Zealand showed him in a compromising situation with a woman who was clearly not his wife, Zara Phillips.
Swiftly posted on social networking sites, the images and the veteran player's failure to acknowledge or apologize for them overshadowed England's World Cup campaign almost up to the moment the former champions lost in the quarter-finals a month later.
Even then, the 33-year-old Tindall might have survived with his career — if not his reputation — intact.
But the one-time World Cup winner and former team captain admitted to misleading officials when questioned about the Sept. 11 night out, and England's Rugby Football Union ended its review of the case Friday by dropping Tindall from its "Elite Player Squad" and fining him 25,000 pounds (C$40,679). Tindall has decided to appeal the fine.
"Mike Tindall's actions reached a level of misconduct that was unacceptable in a senior England player and amounted to a very serious breach of the EPS code of conduct," RFU professional rugby director Rob Andrew said. "Whilst we acknowledge his previous good character, it needs to be made clear that what he did will not be tolerated."
Phillips, a 2006 equestrian world champion in eventing, has not commented on the incident, nor has the Royal Family. But Phillips did arrive in New Zealand a few days later on a scheduled trip for players' families.
England players were not banned from socializing during the World Cup in rugby-mad New Zealand but had been warned by the RFU against overindulgence and the potential for finding themselves in contentious situations.
Given those warnings, Tindall's night out was spectacular.
The incident came on the first night of a five-day break between games in the alpine resort of Queenstown, 24 hours after England's opening win over Argentina.
One of the bars visited by England players was hosting a themed night featuring dwarf races, and the burly Tindall was captured on security footage with his arm around the shoulders of a blonde woman. He briefly held her hand, and she planted a kiss on the top of his bald head.
That was bad enough, but after telling officials that he had gone straight back to the team hotel, it turned out that Tindall and the woman had gone to another bar.
Jonny Wilkinson, who won the 2003 World Cup alongside Tindall and was part of the squad in New Zealand, expressed his dismay at the incident in his autobiography.
"What I cannot understand is the naivety of people going out to the extent they did and it not crossing their minds it would find its way back to the media," Wilkinson wrote. "We've already been warned several times about what it's like here, especially in the World Cup.
"You need to be a little reserved, careful, aware. With a camera on pretty much every phone these days, how could it not come back?"
Disgraced and discredited, Tindall is unlikely to add to his 75 international appearances over 11 years for England.