Photos Show How Fatherhood in the Royal Family Has Changed

In an authorized biography of Prince Charles, author Jonathan Dimbleby wrote that Charles was mostly raised by nannies and staff.

Queen Elizabeth holding Princess Anne and Prince Philip holding Prince Charles circa 1951.


The Queen holding Princess Anne and Prince Philip holding Prince Charles circa 1951.

Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Prince Charles was born in 1948, four years before his mother, then Princess Elizabeth, became queen.

“Such an upbringing was by no means rare in those days (at least those households that could afford the appropriate staff),” Dimbleby wrote in “Prince of Wales: A Biography.” “Although Prince Charles was not starved of parental affection, it was inevitably the nursery staff (interpreting the will of their employers) who taught him to play, who witnessed his first steps, who punished and rewarded him, who helped him put his first thoughts into words.”

The Duke of Edinburgh still found moments of levity with his children amid a busy royal schedule.

Prince Charles and Princess Anne being pushed on a swing by Prince Philip


Prince Charles and Princess Anne being pushed on a swing by Prince Philip the grounds of Balmoral.

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Prince Philip pushed Prince Charles and Princess Anne on a swing at Balmoral Castle.

Prince Philip and Prince Charles’ father-son relationship wasn’t always easy.

A black and white photo of Prince Charles talking to his father Prince Philip in front of a fireplace at Sandringham.


Prince Charles talks to his father Prince Philip in front of a fireplace at Sandringham.

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Prince Philip saw that Charles attended his former school, Gordonstoun in Scotland, which was far from the family’s home. Charles reportedly had a tough experience at the school.

Dimbleby wrote that Charles was “inevitably separated from his parents more than they might have wished,” causing him to feel that his parents were “emotionally distant” as well.

Prince Charles has recalled how matter-of-fact his father could be when dealing with his family.

Prince Charles and Prince Philip watch races at the Derby


Prince Charles and his father in 1993.

Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

In a 2021 documentary released after Prince Philip’s death, Charles recalled his final conversation with his father, which was on the topic of Philip’s 100th birthday party. (Philip would pass away two months before he turned 100.)

When Charles asked his father about the celebrations, Philip responded quickly, “Well, I’ve got to be alive for it, haven’t I?”

Charles responded: “I knew you’d say that!”

In the same documentary, Prince Harry also shared how matter-of-fact his grandfather could be.

He said that when he came home from the Middle East and saw his grandfather, “There wasn’t a deep level of discussion, more a case of, ‘Well you made it. How was it?’ That’s how he was.”

But their close bond remained.

Prince Philip and Prince Charles in 2016.


Prince Philip and Prince Charles in 2016.

Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images

Prince Philip and Prince Charles often sat together at royal weddings and events.

Prince Charles released a heartfelt statement when Prince Philip, his “dear Papa,” died at the age of 99 in April.

Prince Charles kisses his father Prince Philip in 2017.


Prince Charles kisses his father Prince Philip in 2017.

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

“As you can imagine, my family and I miss my father enormously,” the statement read. “He was a much loved and appreciated figure and apart from anything else, I can imagine, he would be so deeply touched by the number of other people here and elsewhere around the world and the Commonwealth, who also I think, share our loss and our sorrow.

The statement continued: “My dear Papa was a very special person who I think above all else would have been amazed by the reaction and the touching things that have been said about him and from that point of view we are, my family, deeply grateful for all that. It will sustain us in this particular loss and at this particularly sad time. Thank you.”

When his sons were small, Prince Charles said he “mucked around with them a great deal.”

princess diana prince charles prince william australia


Prince Charles and Princess Diana with Prince William in 1983.

Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty Images

“As they get older, the more things perhaps they, being boys, can do with their father. That’s obviously more and more enjoyable. But I’ve always mucked around with them a great deal,” he said in the 1994 documentary “Charles: The Private Man, the Public Role.” “When William was tiny, I used to muck around with him as much as I possibly could.”

After Princess Diana’s death in 1997, Prince Charles took on the role of a single father.

Prince Charles poses with Prince William and Prince Harry on vacation in Switzerland


Prince Charles poses with Prince William and Prince Harry on vacation.

Ken Goff/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Prince William, who was 15 when his mother died, and Prince Harry, who was 12, acknowledged their father’s difficult position in a 2017 BBC documentary.

“He was there for us,” Prince Harry said. “One of the hardest things for a parent to have to do is to tell your children that your other parent has died.”

Prince William practiced using a baby car seat before the birth of his first child.

Prince William with a newborn Prince George.


Prince William with Prince George.

REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

On a February 2020 episode of the podcast “Happy Mum, Happy Baby” hosted by Giovanna Fletcher, Middleton revealed how nervous she and William were about bringing Prince George home.

“The duke, when he put Prince George in the car, that was seamless,” Fletcher said of the televised moment after George’s birth, when William and Middleton were shown fastening their newborn into the car seat.

“We didn’t think so at the time,” Middleton said. “We even tried to practice with a little baby doll, but you know, it just never works out the way you planned it, so it was quite hard to do that on the world’s stage.”

When Princess Charlotte came around, he began watching YouTube tutorials to figure out how to style her hair.

Prince William holds hands with Prince George and Princess Charlotte.


Prince William with Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

While visiting Blackpool in March 2019, William joked with a local dad in the crowd, telling him he learned how to make a ponytail by watching videos online.

He told him: “Never try to do a ponytail! It’s a nightmare!”

Kate reportedly joined in on the debate, asking her husband: “Have you tried to do a plait? It’s the weaving … really hard.”

William replied: “I can do a ponytail, but that’s about it as I don’t have enough hair to practice on!”

When Meghan Markle gave birth to Archie in 2019, William welcomed his brother to “the sleep deprivation society that is parenting.”

The royals on Charles' 70th birthday, including William and Kate, Harry and Meghan, Camilla, and George, Charlotte, and Louis.


One of Prince Charles’ official 70th birthday photos.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

In the video clip, shared by Kensington Palace on Twitter, William and Middleton said they were excited to meeting the newest member of the family.

“We’re absolutely thrilled, and looking forward to seeing him within the next few days when he’s quietened down,” William said. “I’m very pleased and glad to welcome my own brother to the sleep deprivation society that is parenting!”

In Harry and Markle’s tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey, Harry said taking Archie on bike rides is a highlight of their new lives in California.

Harry and Meghan laughing while baby Archie sits on Meghan's lap, laughing.


Prince Harry and Meghan Markle with Archie.

Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images

“This year has been crazy for everybody, but to have outdoor space where I can go for walks with Archie, and we can go for walks as a family and with the dogs, and we can go on hikes,” Harry told Winfrey in the interview, which aired in March 2021. “We’ll go down to the beach, which is so close.”

“I guess, the highlight for me is sticking him on the back of the bicycle in his little baby seat and taking him on these bike rides, which is something I was never able to do when I was young,” he added.

On an episode of the podcast “Armchair Expert,” Harry spoke about how he hoped to “break the cycle” of pain and suffering in his family.

Prince Harry with baby Archie in Canada


Prince Harry with Archie.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex/Instagram

“There is no blame,” he told host Dax Shepard in the episode, which aired in May 2021. “I don’t think we should be pointing the finger or blaming anybody, but certainly when it comes to parenting. If I’ve experienced some form of pain or suffering because of the pain or suffering that perhaps my father or my parents had suffered, I’m going to make sure I break that cycle so that I don’t pass it on, basically.”

He later added: “It’s hard to do but for me it comes down to awareness. I never saw it, I never knew about it, and then suddenly I started to piece it together and go, ‘OK, so this is where he went to school, this is what happened, I know this about his life, I also know that is connected to his parents so that means he’s treated me the way he was treated, so how can I change that for my own kids?'”

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