Queen Elizabeth II may be a busy head of state, but she’s also a mother and a grandmother. And it seems that even when the cameras are on her – which they often are – she’s not fussed about scolding one of her family members. After all, who’s going to tell her not to? Perhaps surprisingly, though, Prince William, second in line to the British throne and a parent himself, is seemingly one of the people who’s been at the receiving end of a telling-off from her.
Prince William is naturally very close to Queen Elizabeth. In 2016 he spoke to the BBC and described her as “the best role model I could have.” Royal historians have also observed the development of their relationship. “There has always been a special closeness between William and the Queen, and she has taken a particular interest in him,” historian Robert Lacey told People in 2017.
Lacey added, “It’s no secret that she and [Prince] Charles have had a prickly relationship at times.” But it seems that her rapport with William is better. “When William became a teenager, she would have him at Windsor Castle and would open the state boxes and guide him through the papers. It was William’s constitutional education,” Lacey said.
During the Queen’s official 90th birthday celebrations in 2016, the whole world also got to observe a small moment between the monarch and her grandson. This didn’t occur on her actual birthday, though. Seeing as how the Queen is the Queen, she gets to celebrate two birthdays: her real one, on April 21, and her official one, commonly on the second Saturday in June. And one of the events that coincides with her official birthday is the Trooping the Colour ceremony. So this particularly special one took place on June 11, 2016.
Whenever a Trooping the Colour takes place, members of the royal family gather on the Buckingham Palace balcony to watch the army troops pass by. It’s an event that dates back to at least the 17th century, but now it’s broadcast live on the BBC. Thousands of royal family fans watch it both on the television and in person at the palace, too.
And it was thanks to the presence of the cameras that the media was granted a tiny insight into Queen Elizabeth’s family life. It was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, but it was still pretty funny. First, Prince William crouched down next to his own son, the then two-year-old Prince George, to watch the Royal Air Force flyover happening overhead.
But it seemed that the Queen did not approve. Indeed, she nudged her then 33-year-old grandson’s shoulder and appeared to indicate with her gloved hand that he should rise to his feet. “Stand up, William,” she apparently muttered, her exasperated expression one familiar to any parent. And, perhaps looking a little embarrassed, William did in fact stand up.
Meanwhile, little Prince George did not seem to approve of his family’s shenanigans. As William stood up, George slapped his hand to his face in a comical face-palm. Of course, he could have just been shielding his eyes from the sun in order to see the overhead planes better, but the former interpretation is far funnier.
The video of the Queen, William and George subsequently went viral. “Come for the Queen scolding William, stay for the George face-palm,” wrote one person. The clip was retweeted multiple times. “This is what one calls a normal family! Doesn’t matter who you are, we are still human beings, love it!” read one of the comments posted on Twitter.
A few people, though, did mildly criticize the Queen. “First couple of times funny, then I’m thinking, he is tending to his son. She is a bit heartless, he’s only being a good dad,” came one comment. “If that was my mom I would have stayed at the eye level of my baby and made him feel included,” came another.
And indeed the Queen’s parenting style has been analyzed plenty over the years. For instance, when she gave birth to Prince Charles in 1948, royal children were meant to be seen and not heard. Their parents were supposed to focus primarily on their duties and leave the tricky business of child-rearing to nannies and nurses.
Moreover, Prince Charles reportedly grew up without much close affection from his mother and father. In one incident from May 1954, the Queen and Prince Philip returned from a six-month tour of the Commonwealth and apparently greeted their children with handshakes, not hugs. It seemed that the Queen knew no other way to raise children; after all, her own parents had behaved in the same way to her.
Many rumors have circulated over the years about the Queen’s parenting of her children, too. In 2002 The Daily Telegraph published a rather critical piece about her perceived failings as a mother. “The Queen is not much good at showing affection. If I were Prince Charles, I’d think my mother had been unfeeling,” said one anonymous senior courtier.
The paper also said the Queen would rebuke her children if she considered them to be displaying “bad manners” around her. “When members of the family got bumptious, she would sometimes slap them down in public,” a one-time Master of the Household told the newspaper.
Many believe it was Princess Diana, mother to Princes William and Harry, who ended up modernizing the royal approach to parenting. She reportedly gave herself the final word on the boys’ schools, their day-to-day clothing and their nannies – instead of letting royal assistants take the helm. Diana also apparently made sure to always put them, rather than her duties, first. In a nutshell, people say she arranged her life around them rather than the other way round.
Tellingly, Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, appear to follow in Diana’s footsteps when it comes to raising their children. For example, Queen Elizabeth regularly left her young children behind when embarking on royal tours, but William and Kate have gone a different route. So when they visited Australia and New Zealand in April 2014, they took George along with them.
However, it’s likely that the world will never know for certain what the Queen is really like as a mother. The monarch rarely gives interviews, after all, and much of what she says about her family is carefully prepared for the public. And while her relationship with Charles is often speculated about, a lot of what’s written is just that: speculation.
But it does seem true that Queen Elizabeth doesn’t go in for public displays of affection. It’s rare to see her even holding the hand of Prince Philip, her husband of 70 years. So when she and Prince Charles were pictured embracing at the funeral of Charles’ godmother Countess Mountbatten in June 2017, it was a touching moment.
Yet the Queen may have felt that William acting too fatherly with George in public was inappropriate for that particular occasion. Queen Elizabeth is, after all, devoted to her duties as a monarch, and these responsibilities doubtless sometimes outweigh her duties as a parent. Certainly, she didn’t even attend Prince Charles’ wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles – reportedly because she felt that as head of the Church of England she couldn’t support a marriage between two divorced people.
Nevertheless, the Queen is apparently a very good great-grandmother to Prince George and his sister, Charlotte. It’s a more casual relationship, it seems, than she perhaps had with Charles. In 2017, for instance, Kate Middleton revealed that Prince George called the Queen “Gan Gan,” the same nickname generations of royals have used for their great-grandmothers.
So while the clip of Queen Elizabeth scolding Prince William is funny, it’s also a fascinating look into how the royal family operates and how their way of raising children has changed over the years. What’s more, there could be more royal kids on the way. Indeed, after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding in May 2018, they too might start a family. One thing’s for sure, though: future royal offspring will grow up in a loving environment.