Royal Nannies

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In the news this week, Prince William and Kate have hired a new nanny. She’s reportedly in her late 30s, with no husband or boyfriend since she’s “married to her job” of looking after little ones. She’s worked for “high profile” families before, so the Cambridges are no big deal to her. She’ll have time to get acquainted with Prince George before the family heads off to Australia and New Zealand for a 3-week tour next month. I know I’m looking forward to photos from that (as an aside here, is it just me, or are we seeing far few photos of Prince George — and even Kate, for that matter — than we did of baby Prince William and Diana at the same life stage? I can think of so many photos of them when William was little. There are only a handful of times we’ve seen George, and he’ll soon be 8 months old).

Prince William’s nannies

Prince William’s nanny was Barbara Barnes. However, Diana was determined to break with the royal tradition of royal children being basically raised by the nanny, and she spent much time with both William and Harry.

Like most royal children, William and Harry had more than one nanny. Olga Powell was a favorite with the prince. She was “deputy nanny” who stayed on once Barbara Barnes left their employment. Described as “loving but strict,” Powell stayed with the family for 15 years.

Prince Charles’ nannies

William’s father, Prince Charles, spent more time with his own nanny (primarily Mabel Anderson) when he was little. He spent six months with her when he was three and his parents went on a 6-month tour. The famous tale is told of little Charles shaking his mother’s hand as she returned home from the trip. He credited his nanny with providing emotional support to him. Many even see a resemblance between Anderson and his current wife, Camilla.

Prince Charles and sister, Princess Anne had another nanny, Helen Lightbody — known as “no-nonsense Lightbody.” So important were nannies in the prince’s life that even his own mother, Queen Elizabeth, did not attend his first three birthday celebrations. Poor little kid — I know it was the way things were expected to be at the time, but I can’t help feeling that his adulthood would have gone more smoothly had he had the affection of his parents when he was little.

Queen Elizabeth’s nanny

Queen Elizabeth’s nanny was named Clara Knight, and little Elizabeth called her “Allah.”

When Elizabeth was just 9 months old, her parents went on a six-month tour of Australia and New Zealand without their daughter — something that would no doubt not happen today.

Today, we tend to judge earlier royals harshly for letting their children spend so much time being raised by nannies. But this was typical for well-to-do families of the time. What do you think?

7 thoughts on “Royal Nannies

  1. Wonderful post! Love all the photos, especially Charles in his antique (even then) Silver Cross pram!! Of course Mrs. Lightbody was the Gloucester princes nanny first and, on their wartime trip to Australia offered to stay with baby Richard if the ship went down!! Barbara Barnes was poached from the Michael Kents’ children.One of the Wales’ nanies (I think it was Barbara) worked for a movie star, too.

    I think I read somewhere that Philip was finally at Charles’ 6th birthday? Of course he was a serving naval officer so I’d say look at it in terms of how many junior officers got home in the late 40s and early 50s for something like a birthday party! Christmas didn’t fare much better. And, as a baby poor Charles was left at his parents rented weekend home all week with the Nanny’s. Edward was left in London when he was four while the rest of the family went to Balmoral. Their ways are not our ways! lol….

  2. Very interesting post! I do think it is sad that well-to-do families tended to let the nannies raise the children until more recent years. I’m so glad Diana broke with tradition. Love that photo of her and her boys.

  3. Perhaps I’ve had too much green Kool-aid but the thought just came to me that once upon a time you wrote a letter to the Nanny Lady Di used for her sons. I also thought you received a response.
    I’ll either come out looking like a genius or an idiot. I love to play the odds!

  4. Interesting post, Susan. How sad to allow someone else to raise your children for months at a time.

  5. Well, I’ve learned something here. I cannot imagine being away from my children for weeks or months at a time. Times have certainly changed, I guess.

  6. I love the photos! I am such a history buff and this was right up my alley. I think kids should be with their parents as much as possible, but boy what I wouldn’t give to have a stand by nanny!!

  7. I was interested in when Clara Knight retired as the chief nanny of Elizabeth 11. I have a feeling it was in 1936 when they moved into Buckingham palace.

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