How Prince William and Kate Middleton Ensure Their Kids' Lives Remain Surprisingly Normal

Before their tiny monarchs can be extraordinary, first Prince William and Kate Middleton want them to feel ordinary.

By Sarah Grossbart Apr 23, 2018 1:40 PMTags
E! Placeholder Image

The first few hours of the new prince's life were filled with the requisite pomp and circumstance.

Roughly three hours after Kate Middleton gave birth to her third heir in the refurbished Lindo Wing of London's posh St. Mary's Hospital, a placard placed on a gold easel outside Buckingham Palace proclaimed the news. By that time, the 8-pound, 7-ounce prince's official page on the royal family's website (in place since March) had been updated and a self-proclaimed Royalist Town Crier had announced the birth of the newborn on the hospital's steps, ending his bell-punctuated announcement with "God save the Queen."

Still to come: Baby's first photo shoot. As they have done with both Prince George and Princess Charlotte, Kate and Prince William will patiently face photographers' flashbulbs and hundreds of flag-waving fans.

Prince George's Cutest Photos

Heavy is the head that could one day, possibly, maybe wear the British crown. Occupying the third, fourth and now fifth positions in Britain's official order of succession, Kate and William's offspring face obligations most toddlers don't. Before celebrating their fifth birthday's, they've met a series of dignitaries, have been treated to a constant stream of gifts and have had everything from an Australian bilby to a Marc Jacobs lipstick named in their honor.

And yet William and Kate have strived tirelessly to instill a sense of modesty in their tiny monarchs. When William brought 4-year-old George's Christmas list to Santa it contained just one item (a police car!) and 2-year-old Charlotte has been known to wear her brother's hand-me-downs.

Perhaps most importantly, William and Kate have eschewed the teams of staffers that were historically called upon to raise a royal family, instead relying on the assistance of one full-time nanny. "As far as we're concerned, within our family unit we are a normal family," William told BBC News in 2016. "I love my children the same way any father does and I hope George loves me the same way any son does to his father, so we are very normal in that sense."

Pool/Sam Hussein/WireImage

Most royal watchers credit this mindset to the so-called "Middletonization" of the royal family. The thought is that when William wed a (gasp!) commoner he was exposed to a previously unknown, middle class way of live that was devoid of butlers and strictly enforced table manners.

But according to Catherine Mayer, author of Charles: The Heart of a King, William was actually influenced by taking stock of his own kin. As he understood, his father, Princes Charles spent a great deal of his childhood with nannies and found it tough to come to terms with the fact that he would one day become king. So with George, the most likely of their three kids to claim the throne, William and Kate "are trying to delay that moment of realization," Mayer told E! News in 2015, "and give him normality before they thrust this on him."

The Duchess of Cambridge

So while some 100 reporters were on hand to catch a glimpse of William entering Mr. Mynors's Nursery School in 1985, just one photographer captured George's arrival to Westacre Montessori in 2016: Kate. She released the pictures—as the couple have done to mark their kids' birthdays, christenings and other milestone occasions—but Kate owns the copyright meaning the images can't be turned into, say, a mug or trivet.

And while the royal offspring have tagged along for official tours in Australia, Canada, Poland and Germany and appeared at major events such as the Trooping of the Colour, for the most part they're kept so out of the public eye, that in 2015 CNN Royals Commentator Victoria Arbiter commented to E! News she was surprised George had "been seen in public so rarely."

Princess Charlotte's Baby Album

Credit William's smart thinking. In his early years of fatherhood, the royal accepted an air-ambulance pilot position that took the family 115 miles north of the palace walls.

Like him, he knew his mother, the late Princess Diana, had strived to give him and brother Prince Harry a normal existence. She would often dress the young royals in baseball caps and jeans and treat them to burgers at McDonald's. "But they were always photographed, there was always someone lurking in the bushes," explained Katie Nichol, author of Kate: The Future Queen. "William really doesn't want that."

By spending the kids' formative years in the relatively sleepy Village of Norfolk, "they can just have a normal childhood," noted Nichol, "which is what Kate had and is what I think William loves about the Middletons. And that's something he'd loved to emulate for his own family."

Photo by Chris Jackson - Pool/Getty Images

So just three days of Charlotte's 2015 arrival, William navigated the family's black Range Rover away from London and toward 10-bedroom Anmer Hall—the same 20,000-acre residence he and Harry had gleefully roamed as kids. There the newly minted family of four was greeted by just two subjects: a baby nurse and cocker spaniel Lupo.

Sheltered by cast-iron security gates, 12-foot pines and a no-fly zone that was placed overhead at William's request, George was able to tool around the sprawling yard, developing his love of anything with wheels. (See: scooters, combine harvesters and fire trucks.) And Charlotte was able to take her first stab at soccer. At a 2016 luncheon held in his honor, British Football Association president William reported to the crowd that the then-11-month-old was "a very good footballer. You hold her hand and she kicks it. Very sweet."

REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Still beholden to some royal responsibilities, William made select appearances throughout his two-year stint as a pilot, but a source told Vanity Fair in 2016 that he received grandmother Queen Elizabeth II's blessing to spend his early fatherhood years largely out of the spotlight. "William is very grateful," the friend told the mag. "It's enabling him and Kate to raise their family in a way that's as close to ordinary as they can get."

With just a handful of aides—including a housekeeper and nanny Maria Borallo—Kate ran their home less like a princess and more like a member of the hoi polloi. A top-notch cook, she would sometimes pop out to markets to buy local produce and enlist George and Charlotte as sous chefs. During an appearance this March, she revealed the duo love to make pizza dough "because they can get their hands messy."

Samir Hussein/Samir Hussein/WireImage

Kate and her charming prince would also indulge in dirty work. "William and Kate load the dishwasher themselves," royal expert Tom Sykes explained. "They do a lot of things, which frankly a lot of people in their position wouldn't do."

Should George and Charlotte fancy a playdate, the pair had plenty of friends a short drive from their 18th century manor. (The offspring of well-off farmers and landowners, their pals were affectionately referred to as the "turnip toffs.") Vanity Fair reported that William's cousin (and Charlotte's godmother) Laura Fellowes lived nearby with her equity analyst husband and they'd often bring their two sons over for a visit.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Of course George was just as happy with four-legged companions. The mag said the prince—described as both "lively" and "noisy" by his parents—often rode ponies at a friend's nearby home or bottle-fed piglets at Snettisham Park. A regular at the working farm, one visitor told the outlet, "He loves petting the animals, playing in the sandpit and driving the tractors around."

In that regard, he takes after his grandpa. Charles told Sky News in 2015, that the pint-sized heir is "one of those characters who naturally, instinctively likes to be outside."

Prince William's Family Album

Fortunately the small town vibe in Norfolk afforded the royals the opportunity to explore. The family, reported Vanity Fair, would visit parks, stroll through the countryside and eat at local haunts such as the Dabbling Ducks, the Kings Head and the Crown Inn.

"We are used to having royals in this part of the world," one neighbor told the mag. "We often see them out with George and Charlotte, but no one takes pictures or tries to talk to them. That's why they love it here. They love the normality of life in Norfolk, whether it's popping to the butcher or into a local toyshop to get another helicopter for George."   

Their blissful, bucolic existence came to an end last fall when the royals—in an effort to ramp up their official duties and charity work—relocated their kids, pup Lupo and hamster Marvin to their 20-room Apartment 1A on the Kensington Palace grounds.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images Royal Photographer

But even while living in a literal palace, they've taken pains to keep their offspring grounded. They chose to send George to Thomas's Battersea, a coed school, reportedly in the hopes that Charlotte could join him down the line. And not only do they make the roughly half-hour drive for drop-off themselves, but they both mingled with fellow new parents at a 2017 orientation. "They were there just chatting with the other parents. They seemed sweet a normal," a source told E! News at the time. "George was there as well. He met his new teacher."

As part of the curriculum at the nearly $8,000-per-term institution, the tot studies art, ballet, French, music and drama, the latter helping him land a coveted role in their annual holiday production.

"I went to my boy's nativity play. It was funny," William reported during a December visit with schoolchildren at BBC's Bridge House. "He was a sheep."

Courtesy of the Duchess of Cambridge

Charlotte, meanwhile, was enrolled in Willcocks Nursery School this January, just around the corner from the palace, so she wouldn't have to endure a long daily commute.

It's a drive that would have been made all the more painful without a device to distract her. According to Us Weekly, William and Kate have decreed that their kids should not have their own iPads. "They're very much seen as Mummy and Daddy's toys, not for children," a source told the mag. "As two people who grew up without gadgets for entertainment themselves, William and Kate are firm believers in toys, outdoor play, and encouraging an active imagination."


That means George and Charlotte visit beloved tourist haunts such as the dinosaur gallery at the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and London's Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. And they make good use of the green space on Kensington Palace's grounds. While planting winter bulbs with students from London's Robin Hood Primary School last November, Kate told the group, "I've got such fond memories of being in the garden and being outside from my own childhood, and I'm sharing that with my own children, George and Charlotte, at the moment."  

Royal Family Down Under

Though if William is to be believed, the tiny monarchs are not the best at following orders. "George rules the roost and Charlotte isn't far behind," he joked during a tour of Liverpool's Aintree University Hospital last September.

And William is happy to let his tiny heirs rule his life. "I take my duties and my responsibilities to my family very seriously," he told BBC News in a 2016 interview. "I want to bring my children up as good people…if I can't give my time to my children as well, I worry about their future."

Latest News