AEvery mother-child relationship is at least a little complicated. Add you are the reigning one monarch of the UK into the mix, and it’s clearly getting more.
although her Majesty loved her four children and they loved her – no doubt about it – the queen’s main responsibility during her lifetime was to be the sovereign. That, coupled with her patented stoicism, made maternity complex.
The Queen first became a mother at the age of 22 in 1948 and gave birth to the heir apparent Prince Charles Philip Arthur George on November 14, 1948 – just six days before her and her husband Prince Philip’s first wedding anniversary. The couple’s only daughter, Princess Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise followed less than two years later on August 15, 1950. Both were quite young—Charles three and Anne not yet two—when their mother became queen on February 6, 1952, and her whole life changed.
Although she had produced both the heir – Charles – and “the reserve” – at the time, Anne – Her Majesty was not yet done giving birth to children. She gave birth to Prince Andrew Albert Christian Edward on February 19, 1960 and finally Prince Edward Antony Richard Louis on March 10, 1964 – just a few weeks before Her Majesty turned 38. The 16 years separating her eldest, Charles, from her youngest, Edward, are significant.
For Charles and Anne, their mother the monarch was often away for long periods of work, including a tour of the Commonwealth in 1953 where she visited 13 countries in the span of six months, traveling from the UK to distant locations such as Australia, New Zealand , Jamaica, Uganda and Bermuda. Young Charles and Anne were left at home, much like when the Queen visited Philip in Malta early in their marriage.
Although the Queen loved being a mother, in Jonathan Dimbleby’s 1994 biography of Prince Charles, the author quotes Charles as saying that it “inevitably taught the nursery staff” to play and who saw his first steps. and Prince Philip generally saw their children after breakfast and dinner.
Her relationship with each of her children is similar but also very different – with Charles, who was heir to the throne, now successor, their relationship sometimes developed a businesslike quality, much more like an apprenticeship than a mother-son dynamic. Anne had a special place as the Queen’s only daughter, and Edward had the honor of being the youngest. But it has long been known that middle child Andrew was the Queen’s favorite.
After Andrew’s birth, nearly a full decade after Princess Anne, he leapt over his sister to become second in line to the throne. He was the first child to be born to a reigning monarch since 1857 and came at a time when there was speculation about relationship problems between the Queen and Prince Philip – rumors Buckingham Palace denied. The Queen stood by Andrew’s side even as he became entangled in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal in 2019 and “renounced royal duties for the foreseeable future”.
Despite competing forces, Her Majesty loved her children, and she loved her. “I just don’t believe there’s any evidence that she didn’t care. It just begs to believe,” Anne told the BBC in 2002.
“We as children were perhaps not too demanding in the sense of understanding the limitations of time and the responsibilities imposed on her as a monarch in the things she had to do and the journeys she had to make. But I don’t believe either of us for a second that she didn’t care about us in exactly the same way as every other mother.’
Anne added: “Judging from some families, I think after all this time we all get along pretty well and that’s no small feat for a lot of families. I think we all enjoy each other’s company.”
In later years, after Her Majesty’s 73-year-old husband Prince Philip passed away on April 9, 2021 at the age of 99, her children quickly gathered around her.
“It shows how much they admire and support her and [were willing to] help her pick up the pieces,” says royal commentator Victoria Arbiter The independent.
“They don’t see each other as often as they would like, but there is a warm relationship.”
No moment is this more evident than during the family Christmas celebrations in Sandringham, Arbiter says.
“They want to spend Christmas together in Sandringham,” she adds. “It’s the only time of the year when they can all get together and be free. Their time together is so sacred. The Queen is also looking forward to summers in Balmoral with the Royal Family and her children, as well as Christmas at Sandringham. It’s an incredibly special time for them.”
Perhaps most poignant in describing her relationship as a mother to her four children came in meeting actress Kate Winslet, who was given the honor of a CBE at Buckingham Palace in 2012. Her Majesty asked Winslet if she liked her job, and Winslet – who was a mother of two at the time – said yes, “but I like being a mother even more.”
The Queen replied to Winsletjust saying, “Yeah, it’s the best job.”