Prince George at 10: His Upbringing as Heir to the Crown, Plus a New Birthday Photo for the Young Royal
Prince George at the trophy presentation during the Gentlemen's Singles Final match during the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships, July 16, 2023. Photo: Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images
And just like that, Prince George is 10! On Saturday, July 22, the second in line to the British throne turns double digits. Doesn’t it feel like just yesterday Kate and William were nervously giving the world a peek at their firstborn on the steps of the Lindo Wing St Mary’s Hospital? We seldom hear about how the Wales children spend their birthdays — likely no Kardashian kids’ giant blow-up Stormiworld slides or Camp North glamping via private plane — but the Palace traditionally issues to the press an annual birthday portrait. In the past, Mom Kate often took the picture herself, but this year the photo was snapped by portrait photographer Millie Pilkington while the young royal was sitting on a set of steps at Windsor Castle.
George often seems older than his years. It might be all the formal clothing both for his public school days (which is what private school is called in Britain) and for public appearances — from Wimbledon to the Party at the Palace, George is always neatly buttoned up in suit jacket and tie. He has also been front and centre for moments of national celebration (the Platinum Jubilee, the coronation of his grandfather) and mourning (the funeral of Elizabeth II). George and sister Charlotte, 8, who will someday be the Princess Royal, behave impeccably, with a poise well beyond their years at these national milestone events. Little Louis, 5, their younger brother, still gets a bit of a pass on the public stage; his antics charmed the world over the past year as he made his debut in the limelight while still in kindergarten.
William and Kate have been especially careful about building a solid family foundation for their children. The Windsor tradition has not always been so progressive about protecting its heirs. Things were simply not “done” that way in the time of Queen Elizabeth, who was raised by governesses and schooled at home. And though the then Duke and Duchess of York and the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were known to be a tight-knit unit, referring to themselves as “Us Four,” the demands on the King and Queen when he acceded the throne meant long separations.
Then there is the story of King Charles, who was also raised by governesses, then sent away to boarding schools from a young age. Much has been made of Charles’ sadness as a child, the lack of maternal warmth and a Papa who wanted him to be more disciplined and less artsy, including by Charles himself in the 1994 Jonathon Dimbleby biography, Prince of Wales: A Biography, with which he co-operated. But there is no doubt the era and ethos in which Charles was reared was very different from today.
Diana’s modern parenting ideas and enthusiastic embrace of her role as Mom to William and Harry is often credited as a big change in how future monarchs are being reared. Her insistence on as much normality as possible — doing daily school runs herself, taking the boys to McDonald’s — has had lasting effects.
In fact, it seems Queen Elizabeth, and now the King, have supported William and Kate in building their marriage and their family slowly and steadily. The early years of their marriage were out of the public eye in the main, spent in Wales where William worked air ambulance duty. Then the young years with their children were spent at Anmer Hall in Norfolk, away from the camera lenses of London. Their latest move to Windsor appears to be from a desire to keep their children close to home at day school in the Berkshires. Still, a recent tour George took with his parents at Eton, his father’s alma mater, indicates boarding may be a possibility in the future.
We seldom hear George speak, and I’m sure this is quite on purpose. One photo series of four generations of heirs (Queen Elizabeth, then Prince Charles, William and George with cookery star Mary Berry was a fun exception). It means we don’t know much about his personality. That is as it should be: underage royals deserve a chance to grow up outside the microscope slide. It also gives him time to learn the theatre of public appearances before he has to perform.
Due to the high profile events of the past few years, we have seen George more often in the past few years. He always seems delighted to attend sporting events with his parents, and cheers along fearlessly, seemingly used to the many lenses focused on him in public. Hopefully, the ballast of his settled home life and parents who co-operate on the rearing of all their children will help George as he grows into his own spotlight, in the fullness of time.