The Queen is renowned for her professional manner and dedication to her royal duties. She has had the longest reign in British history and will celebrate 69 years on the throne next month. However, the demands of the crown clash regularly with the needs of her family.
Royal biographer Nicholas Courtney recalled how the Queen’s eldest two children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, often tried to lure their mother away from her royal obligations when they were children.
Writing in his book, ‘Princess Anne: A Biography’, he claimed: “Charles and Anne tried to persuade their mother to come and play, and the Queen, like a child who has not completed her difficult homework, replies (sadly), ‘If only I could’.”
He continued: “It is of course true that at the age of 25, she was prematurely launched into her role as sovereign.
“Although nothing, not even family, would ever sway her from her duty as Queen first, she was still the mother of her two children.”
Charles would later describe his mother as “not indifferent so much as detached”, and royal critics have looked to the snippets of footage from his childhood to back up his claim.
The most memorable insight into their relationship can be said to be the Queen’s return from a six-month Commonwealth tour where the monarch greeted her children with handshakes.
Charles was five years old at the time, while Anne was three.
The Queen’s former private secretary Martin Charteris once claimed that Charles “must have been baffled by what a natural mother-son relationship was meant to be like”.
Yet, Mr Courtney has a different account of the same tour and how it impacted Charles and Anne.
He claimed: “They spoke almost daily to their parents by telephone and had the excitement of letters and postcards from all parts of the world.
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Her granddaughter-in-law, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, admitted that she finds the “constant challenge” of work and looking after her children difficult on the ‘Happy Mum, Happy Baby’ podcast with Giovanna Fletcher.
When asked if she feels mum guilt, she said: “Yes absolutely — and anyone who doesn’t as a mother is actually lying.
“Yep — all the time, even this morning, coming to the nursery visit here — George and Charlotte were like, ‘Mummy, how could you possibly not be dropping us off as school this morning?’”
She continued: “It’s a constant challenge — you hear it time and time from mums, even mums who aren’t necessarily working and aren’t pulled in the directions of having to juggle work life and family life.”
She also mentioned that she sometimes feels doubt over her own parenting decisions, but that she rectifies this by increasing the community around her three children — Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.
She said: “The more people you have around your children who are safe and loving and caring, the better.”
The Queen also learned to balance work and family life when she was older, and critics have often pointed out how she was increasingly flexible towards her younger children — Prince Andrew and Prince Edward — than her eldest two.
‘Princess Anne: A Biography’ by Nicholas Courtney was published in 1986 by George Weidenfeld & Nicolson Limited, and is available here.