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From the very first moment Elizabeth and Philip knew they had to raise baby Charles to be a king English Headline


W HEN Elizabeth  gave birth to her  son and heir, one  of the first visitors to set eyes on the newborn prince described him as, “just a Plasticine head”.

The new mother had a somewhat different view, writing to a friend: “The baby is very sweet and we are enormously proud of him.”

An excited Charles and Anne with their mother in 1954, pictured by celebrated children’s photographer Marcus Adams

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An excited Charles and Anne with their mother in 1954, pictured by celebrated children’s photographer Marcus AdamsCredit: Camera Press
Charles kisses his mother’s hand after a polo match in 1985

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Charles kisses his mother’s hand after a polo match in 1985Credit: Getty
Charles poses to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday in 2016

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Charles poses to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday in 2016Credit: PA:Press Association

She continued: “I find it hard to believe that he is really mine, and each time I see him I have to convince myself that he is true.”

Elizabeth, then 22, had given birth at Buckingham Palace on November 14, 1948, after a 30-hour labour.

Philip had been banished to the squash court in order to work off the nervous energy that was driving everyone mad, but quickly appeared at his wife’s bedside to present a bouquet of red roses and carnations, her favourite flowers.

Ever-dutiful Elizabeth was thrilled to have a son, still the preferred option at the time to ensure the succession.

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In fact, on hearing that there was a male heir, her father’s press secretary Richard Colville exclaimed: “I knew she’d do it! She’d never let us down.”

But from the very first moment, Elizabeth and Philip knew that they had to raise this baby to be a king.

Training him for his future would be a public duty.

That meant that little Charles missed out on the carefree childhood his mother had enjoyed until she was ten, when the abdication of her uncle Edward VIII thrust her into the hot seat as heir.

Princess Elizabeth also had to leave Charles with her own parents while she spent long periods away, either visiting Naval commander Philip at his post in Malta, or travelling on overseas tours that her father, George VI, was too frail to do.

She had even more demands put on her after becoming Queen in February 1952, by which time Charles had a little sister Anne, born in August 1950.

Still, visitors were struck by the fun-filled family environment the Queen created whenever she had the chance.

A Grenadier Guard invited to Sandringham wrote home: “After tea, Charles dresses in a kilt and Anne puts on a white fairy dress with wings . . . then they kick their shoes off and go mad.

“Princess Margaret puts on a rock’n’roll record and the children caper all over the place.”

Then there was the tradition of the summer family cruise on the Royal Yacht Britannia, which began in 1955.

The yacht would be transformed into a playground, complete with a waterslide down a set of stairs, and there would be picnic expeditions to secluded beaches.

Decades later Anne recalled that at the end of that first annual cruise she did not want to leave: “I had to be carried off kicking and screaming.”

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Schooldays were less happy for Charles, who was sent to boarding school aged eight

Elizabeth thought her son — described by the Queen Mother as, “A very gentle boy, with a very kind heart” — would be better off taught at home as she had been.

But Philip was determined to toughen the Prince up, and Elizabeth deferred to him as head of the family, which she believed was “the natural state of things”.

Philip was himself also very harsh on Charles. Years later the Prince of Wales would remember being told to, “sit down and shut up the whole time”.

He also recalled the time he had been so proud to have his father in the audience when he played the title role in a school production of Macbeth.

But, the Prince wrote later, “All I could hear was my father and ‘Ha, ha, ha.’ ”

Anne was better able to cope with the Duke of Edinburgh, being far more like him in terms of bluff self-confidence.

After all, she was a princess who went on to tell a gun-wielding attacker attempting to abduct her: “Not bloody likely!”

I find it hard to believe that he [Charles] is really mine, and each time I see him I have to convince myself that he is true.

Queen Elizabeth II

She also had a special bond with her mother because of their obsession with horses, which was not shared by either Charles, or brothers Andrew and Edward, who came along much later.

Philip noted fondly of his daughter that, like her mother, “If it doesn’t fart or eat hay then she isn’t interested”.

Biting her nails anxiously throughout, the Queen would go on to watch her daughter compete in Britain’s equestrian team at the Montreal Olympics in 1976.

She was also there watching with concern as both Charles and Anne got married – and eventually divorced.

The disintegration of Charles’s relationship with Diana was especially painful to the Queen, as the Prince of Wales publicly turned on his mother and father, who he saw as having pushed him into the marriage.

She was “stunned” when he co-operated with Jonathan Dimbleby to write his 1994 biography, published in retaliation for Diana’s “True Story” book that had come out in 1992.

In Charles’s biography, the Queen was described as “detached” towards her son as a child and criticised for never sticking up for him when he was “frequently brought to tears by the mocking banter” of his father.

Stung, the Duke of Edinburgh protested: “We did the best we could.”

After tea, Charles dresses in a kilt and Anne puts on a white fairy dress with wings . . . then they kick their shoes off and go mad. Princess Margaret puts on a rock’n’roll record and the children caper all over the place.

Grenadier Guard

But at least by then, the Queen had grandchildren to distract her and bring her joy.

She became a grandmother for the first time in November 1977, causing an investiture at Buckingham Palace to be delayed by an unheard-of ten minutes.

When Her Majesty finally arrived, beaming, she explained to guests: “I apologise for being late, but I have just had a message from the hospital. My daughter has just given birth to a son.”

Little Peter, who Anne had with her showjumper husband Mark Phillips, was followed by sister Zara in 1981.

A year later, Charles’s first son Prince William was born, with Harry arriving in 1984.

The Queen was soon looking on happily as the youngsters created havoc on their visits.

William was especially fond of moves such as pretending to shoot tourists with a slingshot from the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

She also surprised guests at the Palace when a young Wills fell over and started crying for “Gary”.

She’s never dictated what she would do. It’s a quiet guidance. It’s something never seen, but it’s always there, and I think that has allowed me personally to explore and understand more about who I am and what I have to do.

Prince William

The Queen explained: “Oh, I’m Gary — he hasn’t learned to say Granny yet.

She tried to be a steady influence on Charles’s sons during their parents’ relationship problems, and particularly after Diana’s death in 1997.

In a 2016 documentary to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday, William recalled: “She’s never dictated what she would do. It’s a quiet guidance.

“It’s something never seen, but it’s always there, and I think that has allowed me personally to explore and understand more about who I am and what I have to do.”

Meanwhile, Harry said: “Behind closed doors, she’s our grandmother.”

The Queen was “hurt and disappointed” by Harry’s eventual decision to step back from his royal duties to make a new life in California.

But in tribute to her, Harry and wife Meghan Markle named their daughter Lilibet — the Queen’s pet name since childhood.

The passing of years also brought new warmth to the Queen’s relationship with Charles.

Behind closed doors, she’s our grandmother.

Prince Harry

And movingly, she got to explain publicly just how proud she was of him in a speech to mark his 70th birthday in 2018.

She said: “Philip and I have seen Charles become a champion of conservation and the arts, a great charitable leader, a dedicated and respected heir to the throne to stand comparison with any in history — and a wonderful father.”

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The same year, Charles brought down the house at a concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall to mark his mother’s 92nd birthday, taking the microphone and beginning a speech with: “Your Majesty, Mummy.”

As for Anne, she had summed up the Queen some years earlier with typical bluntness: “As with all mothers, she’s put up with a lot.”

The Queen with her first and only daughter Anne in 1950

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The Queen with her first and only daughter Anne in 1950Credit: Camera Press
The Queen and Philip with their oldest children, Charles and Anne, in 1970

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The Queen and Philip with their oldest children, Charles and Anne, in 1970Credit: Getty
Princess Anne at a function in Iran in 1971

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Princess Anne at a function in Iran in 1971Credit: Rex
Charles kisses his mother's hand at Prince William’s wedding in 2011

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Charles kisses his mother’s hand at Prince William’s wedding in 2011Credit: Reuters





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