New Zealand Woman’s Weekly
THE QUEEN’S LEGACY
What her family has learnt from her
The decision of Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, to add to their “pigeon pair” and have three children is bucking a recent royal trend.
William’s generation is dominated by two-child families – there’s him and Prince Harry; Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall; Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie; and Lady Louise and James, Viscount Severn. Going back a little further, the Queen’s sister Princess Margaret opted for just two kids – David, Viscount Linley, and Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones – and of course, the Queen and
Margaret had no other siblings.
But it is the Queen herself who was the last royal to have more than two children. She had four – Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward – but because of the large age gap between her first two and the second pair, at times it was almost as if she had two families of two children.
Her Majesty had always talked about having a lot of children, and before her parents George VI and Queen Elizabeth capped their family at her and Margaret, most royals had lots of offspring – often because child mortality rates were high. Queen Victoria set the bar high with nine children, then her son Edward
VII had six and his son George V had seven.
The Queen and Prince Philip might have had more, or at least had them closer together, if George VI hadn’t died when he did and made Elizabeth the monarch at just 25.
Prince Charles was three when his mother became the sovereign in 1952 and his sister Princess Anne was only 18
months. A lot of their care had been left to nannies or their grandparents before their mother took over the throne – the children were left in the UK for large chunks of time while Princess Elizabeth joined Philip in Malta, where he was stationed with the navy.
But after their grandfather died, they saw even less of their mother. The young Queen threw herself into her new role, and sometimes the children only saw her first thing in the morning and then again at night before they went to bed. Philip was a lot more hands on when they were very small, playing games and reading stories to them.
Eighteen months after becoming Queen, Elizabeth and Philip embarked on a massive Commonwealth tour that brought her to New Zealand in 1953, and took her away from her children for a total of six months.
The long absence took a toll. The Queen admitted that the tour had affected her relationship with her children. Speaking of their reunion when she returned to Britain, she said Charles and Anne were “terribly polite. I don’t think they really knew who we were.”
Nanny Helen Lightbody was for many years probably the most important person in the children’s lives, while the Queen was, according to Charles, “a remote and glamorous figure who came to kiss you good night, smelling of lavender and dressed for dinner.”
But while Charles has spoken about feeling neglected by his mother, Anne has no complaints. “I don’t think that any of us for a second thought that she [the Queen] didn’t care for us in the same way as any mother did.”
By the time Andrew was born in 1960, nearly 12 years after Charles, the Queen had been on the throne for eight years and felt confident about taking time off from her duties to concentrate on her new baby. Charles and Anne were away at boarding school, and she effectively took maternity leave for 16 months, emptying her diary of official engagements, postponing tours, and spending hours in the Buckingham Palace nursery. She was so rarely seen that rumours began circulating that there was something wrong with the baby.
Her Majesty also took time off when Edward was born four years later and, in a huge break with tradition, Philip was actually in the room with his wife for Edward’s birth, making him the first royal dad to witness the arrival of his child.
Unlike Charles, Andrew and Edward were never likely to be monarch, so there was a lot less pressure on them growing up. Their father Philip – who had been tough on sensitive Charles – was much more forgiving when it came to the younger boys, although their no-nonsense sister Anne was his favourite.
The Queen was able to forge strong bonds with her younger sons when they were small because she spent more time with them and that closeness is evident today.
Nowadays, when she’s staying at Windsor Castle, on Sundays she goes to Andrew’s Windsor Great Park home for a drink after church and then to Edward’s home at Bagshot Park for afternoon tea.
She sees less of Charles and Anne because their country homes are in Gloucestershire, which is just over a 90-minute drive away from Windsor. But she does tend to talk to Anne on the phone most days.
None of the Queen’s children are particularly close to each other and some – mostly Charles and Andrew – have been at loggerheads over their roles, and their children’s roles, in the royal family. This lack of a sibling bond is a situation William and Kate are bound to hope is not repeated among their offspring.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are both close to their siblings, and will be keen for the new addition to their family to get on better with Prince George and Princess Charlotte than Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward do with each other.