Why the Queen’s grandchildren saw their beloved 'Granny' as 'the boss'

The Queen, Meghan Markle, Prince Harry, Prince William and Kate at the RAF centenary celebrations in July 2018 on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
The Queen, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the Prince and Princess of Wales at the RAF centenary celebrations of 2018. Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

The Queen was not only the matriarch of the nation, but also of a large family - leaving behind eight grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.

Prince William said she had a "wonderful" influence on his children, describing her as a “role model for the rest of their lives”.

As thousands of mourners passed through Westminster Hall to see the Queen Lying in State on Friday, the late monarch's children paid tribute by holding a vigil.

Tonight, all eight of her grandchildren will do the same by standing guard around her casket for 15 minutes in silence.

Prince William, Prince Harry, Peter Phillips, Zara Tindall, Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie, Lady Louise Windsor and Viscount Severn all held a deep respect and admiration their grandmother.

The Queen with three of her grandchildren – Zara Phillips, Prince William and Peter Phillips, on board the Britannia in 1985. Credit: Ron Bell/PA

In a touching tribute to the monarch following her death in Balmoral on September 8, William said: "I have had the benefit of The Queen’s wisdom and reassurance into my fifth decade. “My wife has had 20 years of her guidance and support. My three children have got to spend holidays with her and create memories that will last their whole lives. “She was by my side at my happiest moments. And she was by my side during the saddest days of my life. I knew this day would come, but it will be some time before the reality of life without Grannie will truly feel real."

The Prince of Wales previously said of her: “She may be my grandmother, but she is also very much the boss.”

The Queen with members of the family on the stern of the Britannia at Portsmouth in 1997. Credit: PA

The Queen's experience and unprecedented knowledge of royal matters meant she was well placed to offer advice to the younger members of the family as they navigated their way through life in the monarchy.

Ahead of William’s 2011 wedding, the Queen told him to “bin” a list of 777 dignitaries, governors and others he was given as potential guests, as it contained no-one he knew.

The Queen with her daughter-in-law the Countess of Wessex and granddaughter Lady Louise Windsor at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in 2011 Credit: centre

William told author Robert Hardman: “I rang her up the next day and said ‘Do we need to be doing this?’ And she said ‘No. Start with your friends first and then go from there’. And she told me to bin the list.

“She made the point that there are certain times when you have to strike the right balance, and it’s advice like that which is really key, when you know that she’s seen and done it before.”

William, in his red tunic, and his new bride Catherine in front of the Queen on his wedding day. Credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA

But the Queen was also a stickler for tradition and she remained set on customs and procedures, as well as matters that affected the future or workings of the institution.

William had wanted to wear his RAF uniform to his wedding, but the Queen insisted he wore his red tunic of the Irish Guards as Colonel of the regiment – his most senior military role.

“I was given a categorical ‘no, you’ll wear this’,” William said. He added: “That ‘no’ is a very good ‘no’. So you just do as you’re told.”

When the Duke and Duchess of Sussex wanted to step down as senior royals, carry out some royal duties and still earn their own money, the Queen remained firm – there would be no half-in, half-out role for Harry and Meghan.

The remarkable life of the Queen remembered in our latest episode of What You Need To Know

Harry and the Queen during a reception to meet teams of wounded servicemen and women. Credit: Yui Mok/PA

But despite reported tensions with the family, Harry still had a great affection for his grandmother.

They once appeared in a spoof video together to promote the Invictus Games, with the Queen dismissing a challenge from the then US president Barack Obama and his wife Michelle with “Oh really, please”.

In 2016, Harry echoed William’s thoughts, saying: “I still view her more as the Queen than my grandmother. You have this huge amount of respect for your boss and I always view her as my boss.”

He described his respect for her, with Meghan saying how “wonderful” the Queen was, in the same Oprah interview which sparked such controversy.

In a touching tribute after her death, Harry told of his precious “earliest childhood memories” with his beloved "Granny" and described how she lovingly hugged his children – Archie, three, and Lilibet, 15 months.

He said: “Granny, while this final parting brings us great sadness, I am forever grateful for all of our first meetings—from my earliest childhood memories with you, to meeting you for the first time as my Commander-in-Chief, to the first moment you met my darling wife and hugged your beloved great-grandchildren. “I cherish these times shared with you, and the many other special moments in between. You are already sorely missed, not just by us, but by the world over."

The Princess Royal’s daughter Zara Tindall was close to her grandmother, sharing a love of horses and riding.

The grandchildren would greet the Queen with a kiss on both cheeks followed by a curtsey or a bow.

The Queen greets her granddaughter Zara Phillips. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Zara once said: “I curtsey to her every time I see her. The thing with my grandmother is she is still my grandmother and she’s very approachable, but she’s also from an era where that was how it was done.”

All the grandchildren have fond memories of family summers spent with the Queen at Balmoral, Christmases at Sandringham and visits to Windsor.

While marking the Queen's 90th birthday, her eldest grandson, Peter Phillips, said: “We had a lot of fun and there was a lot of space for kids to run around in and it wasn’t just us, it was the Waleses (William and Harry), Freddie and Ella Windsor and the Gloucesters.

“So there was quite a gang of us growing up in that age and it was a lot of fun. We caused quite a bit of mayhem and chaos.”

Joe Biden has said the US is considering dropping the prosecution of Assange Credit: Niall Carson/PA

The Queen adopted a no-nonsense attitude with her grandchildren, with William once describing how she gave his cousin Peter an “almighty" reprimand after their antics with a quad bike at Balmoral.

He said: “We were chasing Zara around, who was on a go-cart, and Peter and I managed to herd Zara into a lamppost and the lamppost came down and nearly squashed her.

“I remember my grandmother being the first person out at Balmoral running across the lawn in her kilt, (she) came charging over and gave us the most almighty bollocking, and that sort of stuck in my mind from that moment on.”

The Queen urged Charles and Diana to deal with William’s behaviour as a youngster. Credit: PA

Eugenie has described the Queen as “invincible” when supported by her late husband the Duke of Edinburgh.

Lady Louise Windsor, 18, and her brother Viscount Severn, 14, live in Bagshot Park, Surrey, not far from the Queen’s Windsor Castle home, and spent many hours regularly visiting the late monarch.

Their father, the Earl of Wessex, said in his tribute that he had taken “huge pleasure in seeing our James and Louise enjoying the places and activities that their grandparents loved so much”.

Edward added: “Given that my mama let us spend so much time with her, I think she also rather enjoyed watching those passions blossom.”

Viscount Severn and Lady Louise Windsor after the Trooping the Colour ceremony in 2019. Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

Lady Louise, who is studying English at St Andrews University and who bears a strong resemblance to the Queen as a child, is a skilled carriage-driver, following in the footsteps of her grandfather Philip.

The Queen was left a large gaggle of great-grandchildren, who she was also known to dote over.

When she met great-grandson George soon after he was born in 2013, it was the first time in almost 120 years that a reigning monarch had met a future king three generations ahead.

William described her as a “wonderful great-grandmother” to his children and a “role model for the rest of their lives”.

The Waleses children called their great-grandmother Gan-Gan. She would always leave a small gift in their room whenever they came to stay.

Lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic meant the Queen was separated from her wider family for many months.

A touching family photo of the Queen and Philip surrounded by seven of their great-grandchildren at Balmoral was shared in 2021 following the duke’s death.

In 2016, the Queen was pictured by celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz with five of her great-grandchildren and her two youngest grandchildren.

The Queen sat with a young Charlotte on her lap, and Mia Tindall, then two, was proudly holding the Queen’s famous black handbag.