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Princess, Mom, Queen – 60 Years on the Throne, 63 Years of Motherhood

This week, I was happy to discover Mamamia, an Australian website covering everything from “pop culture, politics, body image, food, motherhood, feminism to fashion and celebrity.” It’s a site full of good stuff.

Tucked in below an article on how Facebook has been removing pictures of breastfeeding mothers to enforce their “no nudity” policy, Mamamia ran an article on Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee year.

I appreciate the “Watercooler” editorial mix, placing the headline Women demand right to have breastfeeding pics on Facebook next to the headline Queen has reigned for 60 years.

The first headline grabbed my attention; I read the second because it was right there.

The diamond jubilee article included a gallery of photos from the Queen’s life. This (uncredited) photo of the Queen (then known as Princess Elizabeth) caught my eye:

The new mom aura surrounding Princess Elizabeth as she holds her first child, Prince Charles, gives this royal photo an unusual feel, despite the grandeur of the setting.

Normally, I would not have too much to say about the Royals, but I'm interested in birth and motherhood and enjoyed being reminded that Queens and princesses give birth too!

So, I undertook some research and while not expecting to find the Queen’s birth stories on the Internet, I did discover these interesting facts:

  1. Princess Elizabeth gave birth to Prince Charles in November 1948 at home. Okay, home was Buckingham Palace and a hospital suite had been set up ahead of time.

  2. Princess Elizabeth labored under anesthesia. Considering the birthing practices of the period, this was likely to have been administered via a mask. While she gave birth, her husband, Prince Phillip, passed the time playing squash.

  3. Sir John Weir, an official physician to the royal family, confided that as the Princess delivered her baby, he’d “never been so pleased to see a male organ in all his life.”

  4. Two weeks after the birth, Princess Elizabeth wrote in a letter to her cousin Lady Mary Cambridge, “I still find it hard to believe that I really have a baby of my own!”

  5. Princess Elizabeth breastfed Charles for almost two months. She stopped when she caught measles and her son was temporarily sent away for fear that he would catch the disease.

  6. Shortly after Charles’s first birthday, Princess Elizabeth joined her husband in Britain’s naval port of Malta, leaving her son under the care of nannies and her parents, the King and Queen. This was the first of a many extended periods spent far away from Charles and her subsequent children. It was considered normal for her to prioritize her dedication to her husband and state duties above maternal affairs.

  7. Her daughter Ann was born in August 1950 and Princess Elizabeth breastfed her for several months.

  8. In February 1952, at the age of 25, Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II. It is considered unlikely that as Queen, she breastfed the two children that followed, due to her state duties.

  9. The Queen was one month short of her 38th birthday when she gave birth to her fourth and final child, Edward.

  10. Accepting constitutional advice from her grandmother, Queen Mary, and the then British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, the Queen agreed that her children would keep her family name of Windsor. This caused long-standing tension between the Queen and her husband Prince Phillip. “I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his children,” Prince Philip declared to his friends at the time.

My Conclusions

Even when you're Queen of England:

  1. The birthing options presented by modern medicine are not necessarily going to be the best for you and your baby.

  2. The pressure to deliver a male heir must be maddening, especially when you, a woman, are “next in line” and even more so, in hindsight, once you have spent 60 years running the “family business.”

  3. Combining motherhood and a career will always involve a balancing act.

What are your thoughts on the Queen and motherhood?

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