Thanks to The Crown, a popular TV show about the life of the British royal family, many people are wondering the same thing: What was Queen Elizabeth II like as a mother? Was she really as cold as the show implies? Or have they taken quite a few liberties in their portrayal of the queen?
Queen Elizabeth II, like any mother, was a human being. She seemingly tried her best to raise her four children - Charles, Anne, Andrew, and Edward - but she sometimes made mistakes. Tack on the fact that she became one of the most powerful leaders in the world at the ripe age of 25, and you can empathize that balancing motherhood and queenhood took a little practice.
Thanks to the queen's strong protection of her privacy, we may never know answers to questions like, "Who was Queen Elizabeth's favorite child?" But we can piece together quite a few things, such as the suggestion that Prince Charles was actually closer to his grandmother (the Queen Mother) than Queen Elizabeth, or that the queen spent a considerably greater amount of time with her youngest two children than her older two.
Regardless of what Queen Elizabeth's relationship with her children was really like, we can respect that she did an admirable job of raising her children while being one of the most watched humans on the planet.
Charles And Anne Had Very Different Experiences Than Edward And Andrew
The queen's youngest children, Andrew and Edward, were born a full decade after her first two children, Charles and Anne. This lapse in time possibly gave the queen a different outlook on parenting.
Charles and Anne were born in 1948 and 1950, respectively, before Elizabeth became the monarch in 1952. When she took on her new role, there was an understandable learning curve. She worked long hours and traveled frequently while trying to get the nation to respect her as their new sovereign.
By the time Andrew (born 1960) and Edward (born 1964) came around, the queen could relax a bit more. Royal historian Robert Lacey even suggests that the queen became “warmer and flexible" with her two younger sons.
She’d Leave For Months At A Time
Few mothers want to leave their children for any extended amount of time during their formative years. Yet, Queen Elizabeth II was asked to complete a massive 13-country tour just 18 months after ascending to the throne. The trip would leave young Charles (age 5) and Anne (age 3) without either of their parents for six months. When the royal parents returned, they famously greeted their children with a handshake.
These kinds of trips were frequent throughout the queen's reign, with her majesty traveling to 120 countries in the last 65 years.
These trips may have had an impact on her children. Much later in Prince Charles's life, his former wife, Princess Diana, reportedly said the only thing Charles "learned about love was shaking hands."
The Queen Left Most Child-Rearing Decisions To Philip
While the queen was busy with her monarchial duties (especially in the early days), she let Philip make many of the parenting decisions.
This included the much-questioned choice of where to send Charles to school. Philip wanted Charles to go to his alma mater in Scotland. Queen Elizabeth II's mother, on the other hand, wanted Charles to go to a nearby school and stay closer to home.
Philip won on this issue, but sadly, the bullying Charles received at his Scottish school (and his acute homesickness) affected Charles for many years after.
It was also Philip who elected to send Charles on his first solo international trip to Australia at the age of 17. This turned out to be a much better experience for Charles, as he was judged much less on his royal blood and more on who he was as a person.
- Photo: Carl Albert Research and Studies Center, Congressional Collection / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0
A 1969 Documentary Gave A Glimpse Of What The Queen Was Like As A Mother
In the late 1960s, television had (arguably) even more power than it does today. British subjects were itching to get an inside look at the lives of the royal family, so a cousin brought up the idea of a documentary to the queen. Famously reserved, the queen was unsure at first, but Prince Philip agreed it could do a lot to humanize the royal family.
Queen Elizabeth II relented, and a camera crew descended upon the palace. They followed the royals around for months, including trips to Scotland and even a candy store with the queen and young Edward.
When the documentary finally premiered in 1969, nearly 30 million people watched it in Britain alone. There's been a longstanding rumor that so many people synced up their bathroom habits to the commercial break that their toilet flushing caused a water shortage in London.