Raising a kid can sometimes feel grueling, endless, and exhausting. It’s hard not to sometimes envy Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, for the team of people they have to help them out. On top of the live-in nanny and scores of other workers at Kensington Palace (someone has to make sure they all look so pristine when going out in public), they’re surrounded by a large number of the extended royal family. Not to mention the money and free stuff (remember when Prince George was given an entire cottage as a playhouse?). It’s hard to imagine the always-immaculate British royal children throwing tantrums or covered in food.
However, as we’re always reminded during royal weddings, births, and other public occasions, sticking to the strict rules while in public is a job of its own, and sometimes even royalty can’t keep up the image of perfect decorum. Every so often, we get a glimpse through the carefully-crafted facade, more often when the children are involved. Instead of making us lose respect for them, however, these honest moments tend to make us feel more sympathy and even empathy for the royal parents. Will and Kate never seem more relatable than when they’re holding a pouting child, or trying to keep a toddler from running away from an important political figure. Children have a way of making things a bit more real, which is perhaps why we can’t get enough of the brief glimpses of Princess Charlotte and Prince George that we get. These moments make it clear how much harder the royals have it in trying to raise their children under the intense scrutiny of the public eye. Here are 20 photos that show the extra difficulties royal parents have.
20 Greeting The World Right After Giving Birth
On June 21, 1982, Princess Diana gave birth to her first son, William, at St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington, London. After 16 hours of labor and just a few hours of rest, she greeted cameras outside of the hospital with her husband and new son. Although she did wear a comfortable looking maternity dress, her always-perfect hair shows the pressure to be well presented, even when she's probably just exhausted.
Princess Diana had a natural presence with cameras and rarely looked uncomfortable, but occasionally pictures like this make it clear how demanding keeping up her public persona was. When William was born he immediately became the second in line to the British throne, after his father Charles. That means that in some sense the new baby belonged to the nation as well as his parents. The duty to share your child with the world even after it has just entered the world is undoubtedly a difficult one, and here Diana is handling it with grace and ease. William was the first royal baby to be born in a hospital, in the same wing where his future wife would give birth to his three children. His birth came just a year after Diana and Charles’ wedding.
19 Comforting Your Child In Front Of Cameras
This photo, taken at the 2016 Royal International Air Tattoo, is a remarkable show of the pressures of the media on the British royal family. Prince George, who, for all we know, just got tired or maybe a little scared of all the airplane noises (or scared of all the hordes of people around him), seems to be asking for some comforting from his mother. Looking at just the two of them, it's an ordinary scene of a young child who has had a long day getting a bit overwhelmed.
However, the crowd of people behind them show how the pressures on Kate and George are so much higher than an ordinary mother and son. The flashing cameras and the staring eyes, the barricades to keep the crowds back, and the security man keeping his eyes on them -- it's all too clear that Kate is having to work a little extra in this situation. Literally forced to mother her children in front of the eyes of the world, she has to be so careful about not doing anything that could be taken in the wrong way. Though we can't see her face here, it's undoubtedly showing her ever-present expression of calm and composure.
18 Taking Your Exhausted Children On International Tours
Being a member of the royal family means a lot of time spent meeting political figures around the world -- and that doesn't exclude the children. Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and soon Prince Louis travel around the world with their parents, even before they're old enough to know where they are on a map. While this definitely has its perks -- these children are already better travelled than a lot of adults, and are lucky enough to get to experience life all over the world -- such an all-over-the-place routine is likely to be exhausting and even a little disorienting to a child.
This photo shows a sleepy Prince George holding his father's hand on the tarmac in front of their airplane while about to leave Poland. While his mother and father talk to the other adults, Prince George could be seen trying to drag William onto the plane, clearly wanting to just get on the plane and take a nap. It's no unusual thing for a kid to get worn out at the most inconvenient times, but the demanding schedule the royal family follows definitely makes this even more difficult. Imagine having to bring your child to a rigorous list of important appearances and keep him looking relatively happy to be there -- no easy task!
17 Keeping The Celebrity From Going To Their Heads
This is an older picture of Prince Harry, age 13, posing with members of the 90s pop girl band, the Spice Girls. Before he started dating Meghan Markle, Harry was known as a bit of a ladies' man, with numerous on-again off-again girlfriends. We can see him here charming these older ladies with his big smile. This photo was taken the year Diana died, and it's no question that controlling a pair of teenage boys would have been much harder for Charles alone. Not only did he have to worry about Harry's public image as he went through his tumultuous teen years and beyond, but he had to impress on him a healthy view towards women and relationships while half the world was falling in love with this dreamy prince.
It's no question Charles was successful -- just looking at Harry and Meghan it's clear that their relationship is based on mutual trust and love. Plus, Meghan is famously outspoken about women’s rights and plans to use her new position to help people around the world. Despite growing up with undoubtedly countless women throwing themselves at him, he’s ended up with a clearly healthy relationship with a woman who can hold her own.
16 Having All Your In-Laws Around, All The Time
With their official residence at Kensington Palace, Will and Kate are not only close by to Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, but surrounded by countless other members of the royal family who also make their official home there. This includes Prince Harry, Meghan the new Duchess of Sussex, Princess Eugenie, and more. That's a lot of in-laws around for Kate; most of us get exhausted by long weekends visiting our spouse's family and fending off all the judgement about how we raise our kids. Plus, there's the added layer of her grandmother-in-law being the Queen; while it's hard to imagine the regal woman being overly judgmental, it's even harder to disagree with a relative of your husband if she is also the highest ranking person in the country.
This is a picture of the royal family at the baptism of Princess Charlotte. Prince George is characteristically restless, but the adults all look very at ease. Kate is grinning with pride over her new baby girl and the Queen, Charles, and Camilla all look happy -- except maybe for the slightly scrutinizing look on Charles’ face. Still, it’s clear that Kate is well adapted to life among her husband’s family, and looks genuinely at home among them.
15 Trying To Make Their Lives As Ordinary As Possible
In this photo from 1989, young Harry and William walk to school in front of their mother (hers is the red shoe poking out on the left of the photo). In photos like this, it is sometimes hard to remember how special these boys are, as they look almost like ordinary English schoolchildren. At this time both boys were attending Wetherby School, a pre-prep school in Notting Hill. While both boys attended multiple different schools while growing up, it was an important part of their upbringing to be educated among non-royal children, exposing them to more of the world. They’re wearing the blazers and shorts that are the Wetherby School uniform.
However, again, it is important to remember how the simple fact of their walk to school being international news turns this ordinary moment into a very not ordinary one. Diana shepherding them from behind becomes more notably necessary when we think of the cameras around them. But the excited look on Harry's face almost gets rid of that -- even if the whole world is watching, he is just a young boy excited to get to school. Like their father and uncle, William and Kate’s children will also be educated with other children in London.
14 Trying To Keep Them As Concealed As Possible
In this photo, Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge, holds a curious Charlotte behind an excited George during the Trooping the Colour at Buckingham Palace in 2017. The royal family is clearly trying to keep some privacy with the curtain that is blocking a form that is probably Prince William. Even at a family residence, every time they are visible they are being documented. While their appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the ceremony is an annual tradition, the attempt at some privacy in this shot suggests how difficult it is to enjoy the spectacle when they are so constantly watched. Having royal children demands an extra level of protection from the critical eyes of the world, and here the parents seem to be wanting as much concealment as they do for their children.
The Trooping the Colour is given in celebration of the Queen's birthday every year. It is an occasion of music and royal processions that dates back to the eighteenth century. The “color” refers to the different colors of military uniforms of those performing the ceremony. After processing amongst the military, the Queen returns to the Palace to watch the rest of the ceremony with her family. This photo was taken before that more public appearance on the balcony.
13 Dividing Your Attention Between Your Own Children And The Nation's
Since Kate Middleton's marriage to Prince William in 2011, it's clear that her role in the royal household has been largely about becoming a mother. Since 2011, she has had three children, George, Charlotte, and Louis, and in the majority of her public appearances she is known mostly as their guardian, shepherding them around during all of the public events. While it would be incorrect to minimize the work that the Duchess of Cambridge does for charity, it's hard to ignore the traditional role put on her by the royal family -- and the country as a whole -- to produce heirs to the British throne.
However, on top of mothering her own children, Kate is expected to act in a mothering role to children throughout the country. Here she is seen with students of the Reach Academy in London earlier this year. Leaving her two kids at home and pregnant with her third, Kate carried out her charitable duties providing support and guidance for schoolchildren. While there, Kate did arts and crafts with the children and met with school authorities about the direction of the school. Not only is she the mother of royal children, but she has a responsibility to all of the children in the nation as well.
12 Raising Royal Sons After The Death Of Their Mother
This is one of the most famous photos from the funeral of Princess Diana, and it shows a huge amount of emotion. The concern in Charles' and William's faces looking over Harry, coupled with Harry's own desolated face show the depth of emotion they were all dealing with during this horrible time. Princess Diana's funeral brought a crowd of about three hundred million, with a further 2.5 billion watching on television. While this family mourned, a lot of the world mourned with them.
Recently, Harry spoke to the press about the experience he had at this funeral when he was just twelve years old.
“My mother had just died," Harry told Newsweek, "and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television [...] I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen today.”
Without Diana, Charles was left as the sole parent to William and Harry. A devastating situation for any family, it was made all the worse by the world watching them. This photo and Harry’s reflections on the funeral show the particular pain they went through at this time.
11 Keeping To Every Tradition
This is a beautiful and very striking photo because of the size and detail in Princess Charlotte's baptism gown. This mound of lace is a royal family tradition that you might recognize from Prince George's baptism a few years before. This gown is a replica made because the original is 200 hundred years old and so can't be worn anymore without being damaged. The gown, made of satin and silk, has been worn by over 60 members of the royal family at their baptisms. The original was made for Queen Victoria's first daughter's baptism in 1841, but this replica was made by Angela Kelly, dressmaker to the Queen, in 2004, according to E News.
Beauty and tradition aside, the size and magnificence of the gown, almost longer than Kate’s, draws attention to the pomp and circumstance that goes along with being a member of the royal family. The traditions are definitely worth keeping, but keeping to them all is a job of its own. This also means that Kate isn’t able to bring as many of her own family traditions to her kids, because it is more important to keep the royal traditions. Raising royal children for the Duchess of Cambridge is somewhat of a job of assimilation.
10 Heavily Documented Trips to Disney World
All parents take lots of photos of their kids, but the recording that exists of all the public appearances of Prince William and Prince Harry as they were growing up is a whole different ballpark.
This especially fun photo is of them with Princess Diana at Splash Mountain in Disney World. We're particularly delighted by the child between them, whom we're sure is a friend or a relative but looks like some random kid just thrilled to be there. Princess Diana also looks almost photoshopped in, looking like she's about to do a photoshoot rather than go down a children's water ride. The way everyone in this photo looks both so close to normal and also so far from being normal is why it's so funny and enchanting. It really gets at the difficulty of having a normal life as a royal child, as well as, being the mother of royal children.
To be fair, the kids themselves look like any other children and are probably, at this point, more or less clueless as to the picture being taken. Still, it seems to be a constant difficulty in the raising of a royal child to almost create the facade of normal childhood experiences that they can’t quite have.
9 Being Your Kids' Constant Groomer/Stylist
There is a lot going on in this picture. Long family gatherings and traditions can always be a struggle for the youngest members of the family, but this is amplified when you are the royal family. With the eyes of the world on you and your children, it could be seriously anxiety-inducing.
This is another photo from the Trooping the Colour, this time from the official viewing spot on the balcony alongside the Queen and other royal family members. Here, Kate is managing to console a (sneezing?) Charlotte, fixing George's hair and still keeping everyone in position. At most of the events she attends with her children, Kate has the joint role of shepherdess and sort of PR manager, constantly working to keep everyone looking their best. Like any good mother, she seems to be able to keep an eye on several things at once and never lets anything Charlotte or George does slip by her.
From occasions like Trooping the Colour to the recent royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Kate is always seen corralling her youngsters and any others that are around, making them as well presented as possible for the thousands of photos being taken and video being recorded.
8 Being A Mother First, And Everything Else Second
Speaking of Harry and Meghan's wedding, it was notable that Kate was almost constantly seen amongst the children. One thing that's true for all moms in one way or another is that a huge part of your identity is lost to your kids. It is what makes being a mother both so challenging and so rewarding -- the selfless sacrifice of a part of your life to give to your children.
Since having her children, the image Kate displays publicly has been more and more transformed into that of a mother over all else. It can be seen everywhere from her role at ceremonies, such as here where she enters the ceremony with her children instead of other adult members of the royal family, to how she dresses, which has gotten progressively more modest and matronly over the years she's been married to Prince William. There is nothing at all wrong with assuming a motherly role and it would be incredibly wrong to say it makes her less of a self-sufficient or powerful woman.
It is important to note, however, how little Prince William's image has changed in the same period. Perhaps because he is the heir to the throne and maybe even because he is a man, William does not seem to have the same pressure to assume the parental role that Kate does.
7 Teaching Your Children To Be Comfortable With Constant Attention
Undoubtedly this is an adorable photo, and according to USA Today and many other sources, Prince George is really stealing the show with that big grin, rosy cheeks, and adorable outfit. Not to mention that stool he's standing on to get to everyone else's height. Here, we see Queen Elizabeth II with the next three heirs to the throne, Charles the Prince of Wales, Prince William the Duke of Cambridge, and Prince George of Cambridge.
It is adorable, but also staged to the point of artificiality and even awkwardness. We’re used to seeing the stagnant smiles of adults forced to pose for a while, particularly in people who have to pose as much as the royal family does. However, when we see it in a child as young as George is here, it looks even more contrived and stilted. They look like a modern version of an oil painting meant to be hung in a castle. It just makes you wonder how long they had him smile like that, and how they got him to do it. As of this age and for his entire life, George will have to get used to his duties posing and smiling for the cameras.
6 Teaching Your Child To Have Adult Composure And Manners
More often than not, Prince George is more like a miniature adult than a child, what with his miniature suits, immaculately kept hair, and already strong jawline. Here, he is seen meeting his headmistress at his first day of school at Thomas's Battersea, shaking her hand with a serious (and probably nervous) expression as his father holds his backpack and talks to him. From the staged handshake, to the framing of the picture, to the headmistresses' immaculately planned outfit, it is obvious that this is as much a ceremony as it is a rite of passage to Prince George, and he is clearly already learning how to behave in such ceremonies. From this perspective, Prince William's talking to him starts to look more like instruction than mere words of encouragement, possibly telling his son exactly how to behave on this momentous occasion.
Prince George has likely been aware of the importance of his behavior in public since he learned to talk, and here it can be seen how those lessons are already taking hold. No longer the wacky and sometimes misbehaving toddler, he is already learning how to act with decorum and perfect manners while in these important and watched situations.
5 Keeping Them Smiling In Front Of Important People
A younger Prince George is seen here with his parents on a visit to Australia, meeting government officials and being presented with a stuffed wombat bigger than himself (apparently one of Princess Diana's nicknames for William growing up was Wombat.) Prince George seems fascinated by the toy and has an adorable smile on his face as his parents play with him.
This photo makes it clear how royal children are a huge part of the international relations maintained by the royal family in general. Since William and Kate have started having children, they are more often than not attended by the youngsters when meeting important people and traveling to important places. Political figures often give gifts to the kids as a sign of goodwill, both parties of adults thus treating the children like mediators of good relations. The smiles of the children are solicited and used as signifiers of friendship between different nations and organizations. What an exhausting job not only for the children themselves, but also for the parents having to always solicit happy emotions from their children when also meeting new people themselves and managing important political situations. Royal children are royal as much as they are children, and they thus have greater responsibilities than other kids their age.
4 Keeping Them Level-Headed
Here is a particularly wonderful photo of Prince George extremely excited for his tour of a helicopter, looking like this little boy's dream coming true. George got to climb all over the helicopter on his trip in Poland and Germany and reportedly asked his parents when he was going to get to fly one himself (not quite yet, they told him). This event coincided with George's birthday, and the helicopter tour was given as a joint present to George for that occasion and for getting through the weeklong trip abroad with his parents and sister (members of the palace informed news sources that George is "helicopter crazy.")
A helicopter tour is perhaps a gift not available to all young children, but it would be too far to say it is lavish or over the top, particularly when Prince William himself flies helicopters and has easy access to them. The sheer delight in George's face in this picture shows how much he is appreciating the gift. Even so, the royal parents must have to work hard in order to keep George from becoming too demanding or bigheaded, and ration out treats like this so he doesn't expect them all the time. Not the easiest task for people who have so much at their disposal.
3 Having Them Lead Charitable Functions
Speaking of big heads, what better way to teach your royal child to not become too self-absorbed than to encourage them to work for charity, even while children? Giving the British royal family a break now, here is a picture of the young Princess Leonore of Sweden, who for her second birthday hosted a tea party with her mother, Princess Madeleine, inviting children with serious illnesses from all over Sweden. Madeleine is a patron of the Swedish charity "Min Stora Dag," or "My Big Day," which is like the Swedish equivalent of the Make A Wish Foundation.
Clearly the two-year-old had little to do with the planning or running of her charitable birthday party, but it is still asking her to share her birthday and help out with charity functions from this very young age. Before Leonore even has the chance to remember her own birthday party, she will be sharing it with the children of the nation, putting much more responsibility in her hands than most two-year-olds have to deal with. While it's obviously not a bad thing to be teaching royal children to give back, any non-royal would definitely not be thinking along the same lines at that age.
2 Watching Them Start Dating On The News
The Obama girls are one of the closest things we have to royal children in the United States, even if they're quickly becoming young women. Both Michelle and Barack made raising children in the limelight look almost easy, the family constantly appearing as in perfect harmony. The only really tumultuous part was when the girls started dating. In this picture, Malia Obama is walking with her boyfriend, Rory Farquharson, the son of an English banker. Every time the couple has made a public appearance, reporters have been there, eager to capture every minute of the budding romance.
While Malia is probably used to the spotlight at this point, it is a whole different thing having journalists speculate about your love life and documenting every first date (even what was presumably one of their first kisses was photographed). The fact that we didn't really see any of this before Malia went to college is probably a testament to the Obama parents' parenting and keeping her out of the spotlight. Where there are royal (or just very very famous) teenagers and young adults, there is an enormous amount of speculation about whom they spend time with, date, and eventually marry, that will likely never let up. That's a lot for parents to put up with!
1 When People Pretend They're Dating
Malia's younger sister Sasha hasn't escaped public enquiry into her love life either, even though she's only 16 and likely hasn't had much of one to speak of yet. This photo was posted to Instagram two years ago, when Sasha was just 14. It was implied that Sasha was the girl in the photo accompanying this boy to a homecoming dance. A wide variety of sources quickly confirmed that this was just a Sasha Obama look-alike, but the simple fact that someone would create this ruse is a point to note in and of itself. If people felt the need to speculate about Sasha's dating habits even as she was barely a teenager and just starting high school, that does not bode well for the rest of her adolescence.
Prince William and Prince Harry were the object of the world's affection when they were coming of age, but when it comes to famous young women, the commentary tends to be so much more sexualized and even downright creepy. It must be hard work for the former president and first lady to keep their daughters out of the media as much as possible during this tumultuous time in their lives when it’s hard enough to date or even just figure out yourself.
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