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In The Crown, the Princess of Wales is shown to be a hands-on mother, even insisting that Prince William come on the tour of Australia with her and Prince Charles. This was unprecedented at the time ‒ indeed, when the Queen and Prince Philip went on their tour of Australia not long after Her Majesty came to the throne, they did not take Charles and Anne with them. In episode six of the Netflix drama, Olivia Colman as the Queen seems confused as to why Diana would want to take her baby with her.
She says: “We never took the children anywhere. When we went to Australia in 1954 we left them at home for five months.”
Princess Margaret, played by Helena Bonham Carter, questions whether this might have had “consequences”, to which the Queen simply says: “On what? The tour was a triumph.”
This confusion arguably reflects how the Queen actually felt in real life too.
According to royal biographer Sarah Bradford, Viscountess Bangor, she made a staggering remark about Diana’s mothering technique.
When William was very small and his nanny was on holiday, Diana looked after him herself at Balmoral.
The Queen reportedly said: “I don’t understand why Diana had to do all this; there are millions of housemaids around.”
Ms Bradford explained that this comment highlighted the “huge divide” between their parenting styles.
She also described how the Queen would hold back her opinions on the subject when Diana and the boys were visiting her.
The royal expert told the Daily Mail last year: “I don’t think the Queen could understand how important it was to Diana to be a hands-on mother.
“I remember one courtier describing the Queen as ‘frigid’ when Diana and the boys came to tea.
“I understand what he was trying to say, but it wasn’t so much frigidity as shyness.
“She was holding back because their ideas on bringing up children were different.”
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In many ways, Diana was a break from the royal mould, but how she raised her children particularly stuck out.
She wanted to be the one who took William and Harry to school and she wanted to be there when they got back.
This was in stark contrast to the Queen, who left most of the raising of her children to nannies and other staff members.
This was in part due to the fact her role as Queen meant she was extremely busy, and in part because of the era in which she had young children.
When the Queen had her children, in the Forties, Fifties and Sixties, it was customary for children of royal or aristocratic parents to have a full-time nanny and for most of the actual care-giving to be left to staff members.
Meanwhile, Diana was a young, modern royal who wanted to do things in a different way.
For Diana, who had what she described as an “unhappy” childhood, it was important that she had a close relationship with her sons.
She had a challenging relationship with her own mother, Frances, who she felt had abandoned her after her parents’ divorce.
She also disliked her stepmother Raine and used to taunt her as a child with chants like: “Raine, Raine, go away.”
However, later in life she and Raine got on much better and Diana realised she had done a lot to help her father, who suffered from ill health for a long time.
The Crown also touches on the Queen and her relationship with her children.
In episode four she worries that she “failed” as a mother, because all four of her offspring were such challenging characters, who seemed rather “lost”.
Charles and Anne were both deeply unhappy in their marriages, Andrew displayed some concerning traits and opinions and Edward was being bullied at school.
She says to the Duke of Edinburgh: “What does that say about us as parents?
“I spoke to Mummy about it. She said that I must not blame myself, I’m already mother to the nation.”
Despite these words of comfort, she says she felt she had failed, especially with Charles.
She says: “I remember insisting that I would never let the nannies do it. Bath time.
“But when it came to it, I sat in a chair in the background because I don’t know how to hold him, touch him.”
Prince Philip tells her to “stop this nonsense” and that he is a “perfectly good mother”.
While The Crown is a work of fiction, it is noteworthy that it has picked up on these differences in how these two mothers took on their roles.
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