It’s fair to say that Prince William is a man of many titles. He’s known, for example, as not only His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge but also both His Royal Highness The Earl of Strathearn and Baron Carrickfergus. And of course, one day, he’ll also be king. According to his wife, Kate, though, William’s eldest son isn’t nearly so formal when addressing his father. Instead, he has a rather sweet nickname for the prince.
But before William and Kate ever became parents, they first tied the knot at London’s Westminster Abbey. And, as is befitting of a future king, the 2011 wedding was an extremely high-profile event. The ceremony was watched by many, too: in the U.K. alone, more than a third of the population tuned in to see the prince and his bride say their vows.
That same year, the governments of the Commonwealth also decided to change the law with regards to future royal heirs. Now, royal children would be placed in line to the throne in the order in which they were born. Previously, a female child would have been pushed down the line of succession if a brother was born after her.
As it turned out, though, William and Kate’s first child was a boy: Prince George Alexander Louis. And news of George’s birth on July 22, 2013, was greeted with great excitement, as he would almost certainly one day be king. The young prince was honored, too, when the time came for him to be christened, with the Royal Mint creating commemorative coins to mark the occasion.
Then, on May 2, 2015, Prince George gained a sister: Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. Her first middle name is in honor of the Queen, it has been reported, while her second acts as a tribute to William’s late mother and the grandmother of his children.
But, as many know, William and Kate didn’t stop at two kids. On April 28, 2018, they had their third child and second boy: Prince Louis Arthur Charles. And little Louis made history from the moment he was born, as he was the first male child to be placed behind an older sister in the line of succession to the British monarchy.
Obviously, the three children of Kate and William will never have entirely normal lives. Despite their parents’ attempts to keep George, Charlotte and Louis largely away from constant public view, the media still tries to find out all they can about the trio. And even though the young royals are still just kids, they’re already considered fashion icons; brands often receive boosts from pictures of Charlotte in their clothes, for instance.
Despite the media spotlight, though, the Duke and Duchess reportedly try to treat their children like normal kids. And this may partly come down to the way in which William himself was raised. His mother, Diana, sometimes let both William and his brother, Harry, experience what life was really like outside of the palace by, for instance, vacationing at Disney World.
In fact, George may not even recognize that he’s expected to be king one day. In 2018 royal biographer Catherine Mayer told E! News that Kate and William had decided not to inform their son of this fact until he is older. “With George, they are trying to delay that moment of realization and give him normality before they thrust this on him,” Mayer said.
Mayer went on, “[The likelihood that George will become king] will be, nevertheless, part of his upbringing both in terms of what he sees his parents and grandparents doing and probably quite soon a beginning of an understanding that he is in public life and what that means.” By contrast, William himself knew from a young age that he would eventually be king.
But, of course, no-one will have the throne until the current Queen dies or abdicates. And though she’s now 92 years old, she remains active and is seemingly in good health. Elizabeth makes time for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, too, even if she does hold the highest office in the land.
What’s more, certain tidbits have emerged about the Queen and her grandchildren’s interactions behind closed doors. For example, Daily Mail writer Richard Kay has reported that William had a rather unusual name for his grandmother while he was growing up. When William was two, apparently, he fell over in front of the Queen and started crying “Gary, Gary.” After a visitor asked who Gary was, however, the Queen explained that William hadn’t yet learned how to pronounce “Granny.”
One would probably receive a hard stare after calling the Queen “Gary” without the excuse of being both two years old and her grandchild. But her closest family members are permitted to give her nicknames, it seems; Prince Philip, the Queen’s husband, allegedly calls her “cabbage” when the two are alone.
This detail, in fact, is featured in one of the many screen versions of the Queen’s life. Specifically, it pops up in the 2006 movie The Queen, starring Helen Mirren as Elizabeth and James Cromwell as Philip. “I inquired in royal circles and was told on very good authority that that is what the duke sometimes calls the Queen,” screenwriter Peter Morgan told The Times that year.
However, nastier nicknames have been used for the Queen throughout her life – with some even coming from other family members. The disgraced King Edward VIII was one such offender. In letters released in 1988, it transpired that he called Elizabeth II “Shirley Temple” after the child star – and the epithet wasn’t meant to be flattering.
But what about the new additions to the royal family? Well, Prince George apparently has a rather sweet nickname for his great-grandma. In a British TV documentary that aired in 2017, Kate explained, “George… calls her ‘Gan-Gan,’” she said. And when speaking about the Queen’s relationship with her grandchildren, the duchess added, “[Elizabeth] always leaves a little gift or something in [the kids’] room when we go and stay.”
Apparently, “Gan-Gan” is a nickname that’s been in the royal family for generations. William and Harry are said to have used the term to refer to their own great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, while Charles reportedly used the word when talking about Queen Mary.
Meanwhile, the members of the royal family who are not related to Elizabeth by blood, such as Kate and Meghan Markle, are allowed to call her “Mama.” Even so, they have to get to know her first. According to Majesty magazine editor Ingrid Seward, Meghan will call the Queen “Ma’am” first before switching to “Mama.”
And William himself has had his fair share of monikers over the years. As a young man at the University of St. Andrews, for example, William’s friends reportedly called him “Steve” in order to keep his identity somewhat under wraps. Kate, who went to the same college, may therefore have potentially used that name to refer to the prince at some point.
That’s not even to take into consideration the plethora of surnames that William has to choose from. Technically, his last name is Mountbatten-Windsor: Windsor being the royal surname selected by King George V in 1917, and Mountbatten having once been the last name of Prince Philip.
However, both William and Harry can use “Wales” as a surname if they so wish – as Harry did when he joined the British Army. And as William is also known as the Duke of Cambridge, he can also take on the last name “Cambridge” if needed. So, too, can his three children.
Then, of course, there are the pet names that William and Kate reportedly call each other. And Kate apparently has a nice one for her husband, according to Australian TV presenter Charlie Albone. He claims to have heard the duchess calling William “babe” when the pair were at the Chelsea Flower Show.
Kate isn’t alone in referring to her partner in an affectionate manner, either, as Meghan has also been overheard calling her spouse by a cute name. In April 2018 Harry’s then-fiancée attended a performance of Hamilton, after which she posed for photographs with both the cast and her husband-to-be. During that occasion, however, Meghan apparently slipped up for a moment and – rather adorably – called Harry “my love.”
That said, royals aren’t really supposed to show affection towards one another in public. It’s considered unprofessional, since attending events together is technically part of their day jobs. They don’t usually hold hands if they’re being photographed, either; even the Queen isn’t known to embrace Philip when the two are out and about.
While Meghan and Harry have been on public view, however, they have clasped hands and even kissed on occasion. “There is no protocol that says [that Meghan and Harry] cannot show affection on official engagements, and these gestures make them relatable and lovable to the public,” royal specialist Myka Meier told People in 2018.
Regardless, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have gone somewhat against the grain of royal expectations. There was even once a time when the British royals weren’t huge on showing public affection to their children. When Prince Charles was born in 1948, for instance, it was into a family that seemed to believe that children should be seen and not heard. Elizabeth reportedly often left him behind at home, too, while she attended to royal responsibilities abroad.
But things are somewhat different when it comes to the new generation of royal children. Yes, Kate and William took George with them when they went on their first royal tour after his birth. At eight months old, George spent three weeks in New Zealand and Australia – both with his parents and at playgroups.
George isn’t completely free from the demands of royal protocol, however. Perhaps you’ve noticed that he always wears shorts? Well, a longstanding tradition of the British upper class dictates that boys are supposed to not “advance” to pants until they’re eight years old. George still has a few years to go, then, before he can ever don any slacks.
A little discipline has supposedly seeped into the royal children’s day-to-day lives, too, if reports that they have a very no-nonsense nanny are to be believed. But no matter the rules that they must follow, George and his siblings are still allowed to be children. And for George, that involves getting to call his father something other than “father” or “dad.”
We now know the nickname that the young prince has chosen, too, as Kate let the details slip during a visit to the English city of Leicester. She and William were there in part to honor the five victims of a October 2018 helicopter crash at the grounds of soccer club Leicester City.
William had actually known two of those who had perished in the accident. Among them was club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, whom the duke referred to in his tribute speech as “a man who cared deeply about his family and his community.” The other individual was pilot Eric Swaffer, who, William said, had been “a man [he] had [had] the privilege to fly with in the past.”
But despite the solemnity of the occasion, Kate and William did get to have some lighthearted talks with volunteers whom they met at the stadium. Leicester City fan Fiona Sturgess even managed to speak to the duchess about the royal children.
And Sturgess later told E! News the details of the conversation that she had had with the mother of three. “Kate said that William was playing [soccer] with the children last night. And one of them said, I think it was George, ‘Are you playing [soccer] tomorrow, Pops?’” Sturgess explained.
When news of that name reached the wider media, moreover, some people seemed very amused. “‘Pop’ is reminiscent of… the name of a 1950s American soda shop, diner or drive-thru,” online magazine Bustle wrote with glee. “The fact that a five-year-old British heir to the throne tosses that around to his super-distinguished dad… priceless.”
William, too, opened up a little about his family life while at the Leicester City grounds. When the royals were given bespoke soccer jerseys emblazoned with their children’s names, the duke joked that his kids would probably fight over the garments.
And that revelation is just one of several insights that Kate and William have provided about their children. For instance – and courtesy of his father – the world now knows that one of George’s favorite pastimes is dancing.
Similarly, Kate has chosen to speak on the record about her experiences as a parent. One such conversation came in January 2019, when the duchess helped launch London-based charity helpline FamilyLine. And during that event, she was surprisingly candid about how hard being a mom can be.
“Everybody experiences the same struggle,” Kate said. “You get a lot of support with the baby years – particularly in the early days, up to the age of about one. But after that, there isn’t a huge amount. Lots of books to read.” And it’s not just Kate who’s willing to talk about parenting: her husband is, too.
William revealed in 2019, for instance, that his prior experiences as an air ambulance pilot had impacted him with regards to his kids. “I still find it very difficult to talk about [certain things I saw on the job],” he told leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “I get very emotional about it because it relates very closely to my children.”
So, it seems, raising children is practically as full of ups and downs for royals as it is for regular folk. But Kate and William’s kids are growing up fast – and maybe George calling his dad “Pops” will one day be just a memory.