SHE wasn’t always able to devote time to her own children – but the Queen is determined to do things differently with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, says royal expert Ingrid Seward.
They call her Gan-Gan and she delights in leaving little surprises in their bedrooms when they come to stay.
The Queen’s touching bond with her great-grandchildren revealed – from sweet nicknames to surprising them with gifts
While we rarely see the Queen with her great-grandchildren – this touching snap, released after the death of Prince Philip and taken by the Duchess of Cambridge, is one of the few occasions they have been photographed together – she is close to them all, mentioning them in her Christmas speeches, in her letters and in conversation.
In fact, her family of eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren is what keeps her going.
These days, the Queen is confident that the future of the monarchy, for which she has worked so hard, is secured not only by her son Prince Charles, but by her grandson Prince William and her great-grandson Prince George.
In truth, she could relax and let them get on with it, but even after a year of Covid restrictions and the death of her beloved husband Prince Philip last month, she still has that extraordinary energy and commitment.
William and Kate with their three children Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis
“If I stop, I drop,” she often quips. Her grown-up grandchildren are in awe of her energy. “I have been asking her for years what her secret is, but she won’t tell me,” Prince Harry said on her 90th birthday.
In his bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey in March, Harry insisted he’s had more conversations with his grandmother recently than he has for many years, adding: “My grandmother and I have a really good relationship.”
But in truth, they were not always close. During the late ’80s and early ’90s, when his parents were going through the worst period of their marriage, Diana kept the boys to herself if she possibly could.
But both William and Harry loved Balmoral – the royal family’s Scottish holiday home – and Diana drew the line at preventing them from going, which meant they got to see their grandparents while spending time there with their father.
Princess Charlotte – who is pony-mad – has always been a favourite
The Queen loves nothing more than to see her grandchildren and great-grandchildren having fun and Balmoral is central to this. The family flock there in the summer and it’s where she is relaxed and can give them her full attention.
Not all of her grandchildren employ full-time nannies, so in Scotland the older children look after the younger ones and they all join in. And for once the Queen does not have to adhere to a strict schedule.
The only exception to this are the Sussexes, who have barely set foot in the UK since relocating to the US and are unlikely to return any time soon after their Oprah interview sent shockwaves through the royal family.
Meghan is due to give birth to their daughter – the Queen’s 11th great-grandchild – imminently, but unless Meghan and Harry bring the baby to Britain, the Queen won’t get to meet her.
William and Kate with George and Charlotte
She has barely seen Archie since he was born, a source of sadness for her – though she is said to have wished him happy birthday via Zoom when he turned two this month.
While Prince Philip loved babies, the Queen has always preferred being around children when they are a bit older, especially if it involves teaching them to sit astride a horse.
“As soon as we came back [from hospital] she was one of our first visitors. I think she is very fond of Charlotte, always watching what she’s up to.”
Prince Edward and Sophie with James Viscount Severn and Lady Louise Windsor
She enjoys making the children feel special, too. “She always leaves a little gift or something in their room when we go and stay and that just shows her love for her family,” Kate has said.
The Queen has good relationships with all her grandchildren. Prince William has always appreciated that his grandmother allowed him to do things at his own pace.
“Growing up, having this figurehead, having this stability above me, has been incredible,” he said.
While Prince Edward’s wife Sophie Wessex has said of the Queen’s relationship with her two children, 17-year-old Louise and 13-year-old James: “When they are with the Queen, she is [just] their grandmother.”
Louise and James have horses stabled in the Royal Mews and now that Covid restrictions have been relaxed, they will be able to keep their grandmother company at weekends.
Beatrice and Eugenie saw a lot of the Queen and Prince Philip growing up. Their mother Sarah Ferguson taught them a special set of manners for tea with Granny – no elbows on the table and no reaching across.
Fergie said that Eugenie was “fiercely candid” and would say to the Queen that “she doesn’t like her granny’s lipstick”.
Princess Eugenie will take three-month-old son August to Balmoral as soon as she can.
These days, the Queen is confident that the future of the monarchy, not only by her grandson Prince William and but her great-grandson Prince George as well
“She [the Queen] really loves the Highlands,” Eugenie has said. “Family-wise we’re all there, so it’s a lovely base for Granny… where you just have room to breathe and run.”
Things were very different when Princess Elizabeth married Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten in 1947. Prince Charles was born a year later and Princess Anne two years after that.
She only had a year and a half to enjoy her daughter before her father King George VI died. Suddenly she was Queen at just 26.
If the Queen has the longevity of her mother, who died aged 101, her great-grandchildren will be able to enjoy her wisdom as their parents did before them.
“I’ve been able to explore, understand, slightly carve my own path,” William said. “She has never dictated what we should do.”
She is grateful to have the children around her and is determined to spend as much time as she can with them.
- Ingrid Seward is the author of Prince Philip Revealed: A Man Of His Century and edit in chief of Majesty.
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