Queen Elizabeth II has a total of four children, but her first two children had a different upbringing compared to their younger siblings. A close family member and nannies mainly brought up Prince Charles.
Before Queen Elizabeth II became the monarch of the United Kingdom, she and her husband, the late Prince Philip, had two children. Prince Charles was their firstborn child and son born in 1948.
The second child to join the family was the couple's only daughter, Princess Anne, welcomed two years later in 1950. After inheriting the throne, the Queen welcomed two more children with her husband.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip with their children, Prince Charles, Prince Edward, Prince Andrew, and Princess Anne, and an older Charles in the gardens of Marlborough House on April 15, 2021, in London, England. | Source: Photo 12/Universal Images Group & Jeremy Selwyn - WPA Pool/Getty Images
The couple's last two children were two more sons, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. Not much was known about what type of mother Elizabeth was to her children due to conflicting accounts from her offspring and the media.
However, reports have come out with various claims, guesses, and rumors. Below, we look at some of these speculations and what her children have allegedly shared about their childhood backgrounds.
LITTLE PRINCE CHARLES OFTEN STAYED WITHOUT HIS PARENTS
Princess Elizabeth watches Prince Charles smile as they wait to view the marriage procession of Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard at Clarence House, London on November 22, 1950. | Source: Paul Popper/Popperfoto/Getty Images
Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne when Prince Charles and Princess Anne were four and two years old respectively. She was often away from the two children as she tried to spend enough time with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh.
In October 1949, Philip, an officer in the Royal Navy, was posted to Malta, where his wife visited him. When Charles turned one, his mother managed to be there to celebrate with him, but afterward, she left again to travel abroad.
Prince Charles plays in a miniature car on the grounds of Balmoral Castle in Scotland in September 1952. | Source: Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
The Queen spent long intervals separated from her son from that point onward. Becoming the new monarch meant she focused more on her various royal duties, leaving her with little time to bond with her children.
Most of the major family decisions were left to Philip, but neither parent showed their children physical attention. Vanity Fair revealed that in May 1954, the "lack of tactile connection" became apparent.
Prince Charles on a skiing holiday on January 13, 1963. | Source: Stan Meagher/Express/Getty Images
At the time, Philip and his wife allegedly greeted young Charles and Anne with handshakes. This happened after the two parents had been away from their children for almost half a year on a tour of Commonwealth nations.
Elizabeth's former private secretary, Martin Charteris, noted how Charles was probably confused by what a natural mother and son relationship was meant to look like. The Queen often left for several months on tours to other countries.
Queen Elizabeth II and her children Princess Anne and Prince Charles arrive to watch Prince Philip play polo for the Household Brigade at Windsor Great Park, England on May 14, 1956. | Source: Paul Popper/Popperfoto/Getty Images
Growing up, the Prince of Wales was quite fragile and suffered from illnesses like chronic sinus infections. In May 1957, he was also hospitalized for a tonsillectomy and got ill again later that year.
Charles ended up bed-ridden with Asian flu at school and fought against it without his parents by his side as they didn't visit him. They allegedly didn't stay away from him because of the fear of catching the virus, as both had been vaccinated against it.
Prince Charles arrives for his first term at Gordonstoun school in Moray, Scotland, accompanied by his father Prince Philip and Captain Iain Tennant on May 1, 1962: | Source: William Vanderson/Fox Photos/Getty Images
Instead of visiting her son, Elizabeth allegedly sent him a farewell letter in October before departing for a royal tour of Canada. When Charles was 12, he came down with measles while his parents toured India, with him later describing his mother as:
“Not indifferent so much as detached.”
YOUNG QUEEN "DEPENDED ON NANNIES" A LOT
Prince Charles with his Aston Martin convertible, circa 1982. | Source: Georges De Keerle/Getty Images
The Queen routinely left her small children to be cared for by her household staff. In Jonathan Dimbleby's authorized 1994 biography, he quoted Charles' words revealing who looked after him as a child, saying:
“[It was] “inevitably the nursery staff…”
Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward on the balcony at Buckingham Palace during the Trooping of the Colour event on June 13, 1964. | Source: Fox Photos/Getty Images
They allegedly witnessed his first steps, taught him how to play, punished him, and rewarded him. The author of Charles' biography, Sally Bedell-Smith, confirmed Dimbleby's claims, stating:
“She [the Queen] depended on the nannies to supervise the daily lives.”
Queen Elizabeth George VI's wife with her grandson Prince Charles and Pippin the dog in 1950. | Source: Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Getty Images
Historian and the author of "The Crown: The Official Companion," Robert Lacy thought Elizabeth believed her children were better off in the care of nannies. She didn't like the idea of traveling with them all around the world.
Lacy explained that the monarch had been brought up in the same fashion with her parents entrusting her schooling to home tutors and a governess and leaving her home. Luckily, Charles also had the care of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II's mother, the Queen Mother.
PRINCESS ANNE "DEFENDS" QUEEN ELIZABETH II
Princess Anne at The Derby on June 1, 1983, in Epsom, United Kingdom. | Source: Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty Images
The Queen's alleged inattentiveness to her children was probably caused by her becoming a monarch so soon after becoming a mother. She had a lot of duties to attend to and countries to visit during that period.
He claimed the Queen’s favorite night of the week was when the nanny, Mabel, was off because the monarch was able to bathe [Prince] Charles and [Princess] Anne...
This meant her children had to be taken care of by their nannies. However, about eight or ten years after being on the throne, Elizabeth allegedly became quite different in her parenting when Andrew was born.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip at Windsor Castle with their children, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward in 1965. | Source: Keystone/Getty Images
Queen Elizabeth II was able to step back from her royal duties allowing her to spend quality time with her youngest sons, Princes Andrew and Edward. According to Lacy's elaborations on this, he stated:
“Evidence suggests she became warmer and more flexible as time went by.”
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip with their children; Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, and Princess Anne celebrating the Queen's 39th birthday at Windsor in 1965. | Source: Keystone/Getty Images
Despite the various claims made by the media, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward have defended their mother compared to what has been seen as Charles' criticism of her. Speaking to BBC News in 2002, Anne harshly said:
"I simply don't believe that there is any evidence whatsoever to suggest that she wasn't caring. It just beggars belief."
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visit the Solomon Islands during a tour of the South Pacific in October 1982. | Source: Anwar Hussein/Getty Images
Her views might have developed from the close bond she eventually had with the Queen when she became a teenager. The duo shared their love of horses, and Anne gave her mother advice about clothes and the latest fashion.
Besides Anne and her two younger brothers, another person who defended Elizabeth's parenting style was Philip's uncle, Lord Mountbatten. He claimed the Queen's favorite night of the week was when the nanny, Mabel, was off because the monarch could bathe Charles and Anne, read to them, and tuck them in bed.