Louis, Lili, and Royal Parenting

Lilibet Mountbatten-Windsor at her 1st birthday party, Frogmore Cottage

The Platinum Jubilee was ostensibly about celebrating public service that began in 1952 from a woman born in 1926, but there’s an argument to make that the House of Windsor’s children won the day on the subsequent news cycle.

Let’s start with the Sussex half of the equation. As far as we know, since Harry and Meghan left the UK shortly before the holiday season in 2019, the Royal Family hasn’t seen their now three-year-old son, Archie, in-person. When Lilibet, or “Lili,” was born last year, it was only three months after the Oprah interview, and though Harry and Meghan (but more frequently, just Harry) have returned since, their children have not. As such, this past weekend marked Lili’s first time in the UK.

A consistent strain of criticism aimed at the Sussexes has been focused on them “keeping” their children from the Queen and the rest of their extended paternal family. Against the backdrop of what else has been going on between the Sussexes and the Windsors, I’ve always personally found that argument to be a bit eyeroll-inducing, but whatever. Realistically, too, there’s been a pandemic going on, and even if the Sussexes flew privately, the Queen was strictly quarantined for an extended period of time.

Anyway, long story short, it’s been reported that the Queen finally met Lili on Thursday, the same day Trooping the Colour took place. There’s also been reports that the Sussexes requested to bring their own photographer to the event to capture family pictures, but the Palace said no. Instead, they oversaw the pictures being taken, which means that the Royal Family – not Harry and Meghan – own the images. For obvious reasons I think that was smart.

As we saw, the Sussexes released the above image of Lili taken from her birthday party (alongside another of Meghan holding her with family friends) on Monday after the Jubilee festivities had formally wrapped. Had there been one of Lili with the Queen that Harry and Meghan had access to, I think it’s a safe bet we would have seen it. To be honest, though, I think the release of this photo is one of the more blatant examples of Harry and Meghan’s displeasure with the current status quo.

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First, let’s harken back to Archie’s birth and christening in 2019. At the time, I defended the couple’s decision to obscure his birth and keep his godparents private on the grounds that they were drawing a firm line in the sand that while they were public figures, they didn’t intend for their children to be because Archie and Lili would never be working royals as junior grandchildren of a monarch (Charles, someday). Come the Oprah interviews – and a lot more information about what was going on behind-the-scenes – it’s become more obvious to me those acts were more about power plays against the media and the RF than charting a reasonable course of protection for Archie (and eventually Lili).

With regards to the Windsor breakup, Harry and Meghan are now in a position as financially independent philanthropist/activists to promote and protect themselves as much as they wish. So, if we take Harry’s hatred of the media at face value, and we accept that he was traumatized by the media’s actions during his formative years, then what’s notable to me is that *any* images of Archie and Lili are shared with the public. Bill and Melinda Gates, for example, don’t issue annual photos of their children. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much as a pap shot of George and Amal Clooney’s children. So, the publication of Christmas cards and birthday photos is a royal thing, plain and simple.

It’s also in line with Harry and Meghan’s repeated statements that they intend to highlight their children’s British heritage, and their public insistence on reminding everyone that Harry has maintained his place in the line of succession. Because, think about it this way, they didn’t release a photo of Lili from California on her actual birthday. They chose to do it from Frogmore Cottage at the close of Jubilee Weekend. Had they gotten their snap with the Queen, then I’m willing to bet that would have been the pic. So, what is it that they want?

Two years ago we know that what they wanted was to be financially independent working royals. Put another way, they wanted the autonomy that money brings to allow them to pick and choose the parts of being royal that worked for them. Critical press and a strict hierarchy? No. The platform and privileges? Yes. Today, they know that’s off the table. So, again, what do they *realistically* want? I think they are well-aware that their power and prestige comes from association with the Royal Family, so they’re not downplaying their royal ties, they’re amplifying them. And by amplifying them, they are able to execute the second and equally important prong of their agenda, which is something akin to revenge for how they feel they were treated 2017-2020***.

There’s been a lot of chatter about how poorly they were treated by the Royal Family over Jubilee weekend because they were seated apart from Charles, William, and co. I saw somewhere criticism that while the Jubilee in 2012 was all about “family,” this year it was all about hierarchy. Bullshit, if I may. 2012 saw Anne, Andrew, and Edward unceremoniously ousted from the Buckingham Palace balcony by Charles so he could highlight his sons and Kate. The public presentation of royalty has always been about hierarchy, and when that aligns with strong family ties, great, but Harry and Meghan absolutely played a role in the breakdown of those ties, even if you think the Windsors are the villains.

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I think it’s great that we got a photo of Lili. Truly. It’s a lovely picture and she’s adorable. But to think there isn’t an agenda behind that photo being released the day after the Jubilee festivities closed is naive, and the presence of that very transparent agenda is a *huge* part of why Harry and Meghan are kept at arms’ length.

Now, moving over to the Cambridge half of things. Well, actually, before I do, let’s state for the record that we now know that there wasn’t a meeting between the two families in-between the other events this weekend. I’ve seen some chatter about William and Kate “snubbing” Lili’s birthday party. No, they were in Cardiff with George and Charlotte and this past weekend was very much a working weekend. If Harry and Meghan were truly focused on rebuilding family relationships, and not simply tying themselves to the Queen as though she existed separately from the rest of her family and the institution of the monarchy, they likely would have stayed in the UK longer than five days during which they knew Charles, Camilla, William, and Kate would be working ’round-the-clock. They are under no obligation to rebuild those relationships, of course, but let’s not pretend like they extended some olive branch by their presence and were coldly rebuffed.

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Ok, *now* on to the Cambridges. On Thursday during Trooping, but especially on Sunday during the pageant, Louis brought “pleasure to the people” with his myriad facial expressions and behavior, which involved, in no particular order, covering his ears and acting as though he was being tortured by the flyover, covering Kate’s mouth with his hand, sticking his tongue out at her, and generally acting out. I thought nothing of it. To me, it seemed perfectly logical that a four-year-old would be bored to tears during events like these, have trouble keeping still, and likely get overstimulated by the people/noise while processing a lot of “new” during a break from his normal daily routine. I also thought Kate’s response, which was to mostly take it in stride, try to re-direct his attention, and keep any admonishments publicly pleasant was reasonable and pretty normal.

As for Louis covering his ears at Trooping, I want to point out that children on the Buckingham Palace balcony have been doing that for YEARS. Generations, in fact. Consider what those crowds and that noise looks and feels like to them. It’s overwhelming, at best. The most recent example I can think of is one of the flower girls at William and Kate’s wedding in 2011.

I’m saying all of this, of course, because Kate is getting shamed on social media for failing to keep Louis under control or not disciplining him harshly enough. I’ve seen several say that if Kate was really a hands-on parent, Louis wouldn’t behave like that, so Sunday is an indication that he’s primarily raised by nannies. I’ve seen comments that everyone would freak out if that had been Meghan and Archie (while everyone freaks out about Kate and Louis, so…). I’ve also seen conversation about whether Louis has some sort of behavioral problem.

Ugh, you guys. This is the crap that makes parenting so freaking hard, particularly on women (because, let me just say, no one is lambasting William, who was right there too). Louis was acting like a normal four-year-old boy with a lot of energy. George and Charlotte are older, and when they were his age they actually weren’t put in a situation like this for such an extended period of time. And Charlotte, who behaved beautifully at several engagements during the Jubilee, once had a temper tantrum on a German tarmac. She wasn’t being a brat, she was being a toddler.

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I would also flag that William’s antics as a child are still famous – he misbehaved so badly at Andrew and Fergie’s wedding in 1986 the Queen once had to run after him because he tried to chase a carriage. Those antics also included sticking his tongue out and generally being restless during what was – to him – a boring ceremony in a stuffy church. To the best of my knowledge, William has not behaved that way in Westminster Abbey since 🙂

As for the Meghan v. Kate of it all, just no. If Meghan was getting shamed like this, I would jump on here to say the same thing. While I may not care for Harry and Meghan’s interview style, I am very confident that they are wonderful parents.

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What I saw on Sunday was a restless little boy who was clearly comfortable with his mother, and a mother who did an admirable job of keeping her composure while her little one acted out in front of millions.

Or, in the words of columnist Kerri Sackville:

“Now, there are two types of people who judge others for their parenting: the child-free person who is quite sure their future hypothetical kids would never do whatever this actual human child is doing, and the lucky parent whose child responds beautifully to whatever discipline/parenting regime/wooden spoon they are dishing out. You know who doesn’t judge others for their parenting? Those of us who know how hard it is.”

***This link is to an article I wrote in January 2020, just a week or so after the Sussexes’ initial announcement to leave. It was actually interesting to look back on it 2.5 years later and see what turned out to be true. For those newer to this site, it’s also a good rundown on how I’ve approached the younger royals over the years. I’ll put it here again for the good of the order in case it’s of interest.

10 thoughts on “Louis, Lili, and Royal Parenting

  1. PinkChampagne

    Sussex Photo Release: Let’s face it, either the Sussex release a photo of Lili, or the paps will stalk them to get it. There has always been an intense interest if the children will look African American, more white, etc. This is a strategy that many “high value” photos employ. Like When Jolie-Pitt were having babies. While the Clooney’s do keep their children well hidden, it’s not pap shots they are worried about but real significant threats due to Amals work. So not really comparable.

    Kate/Louis: Kids will be kids and, as a parent, they are unpredictable and have their own brain and heart and do things their own way. However, that being said, I was surprised Louis felt so comfortable putting his hand over Kates mouth, wiggling his fingers at her from his nose, sticking his tongue out at her…as though it happens all the time. He seemed at ease being aggressive with her. So, maybe she is a pushover mom and the nanny handles more of the discipline. But whatever it is, I hope they get a handle on it.

    1. It is nonsensical to suggest that a photo released the Monday after Jubilee Weekend when Lili is a year old (and when there was already a photo released of her in December) has anything to do with staving off paparazzi.

      As for the rest, thank you for exemplifying exactly the sort of offensive and unhelpful commentary I was referencing.

  2. Why doesn’t the press just ignore the Sussexs? ANSWER: you make money from exploiting them and what you have turned into a “fued”. The Windsor family would be able to get their act together a lot faster if you stopped playing up all the negative possibilities. This time you use a photo of a 1 year old as your lead, and a headline leading us to expect lots of pics of ALL the children.
    All Harry has done is stop being part of the working family and was basically forced to emigrate because of the papparazzi keeping Meghan in an impossible situation. Emmigrating is a painful experience … but since none of you have had that experience, you sit and gossip endlessly about how awful he/they are. None of us know what’s really going on, but at least the readers do not exploit them for profit.

    1. 1. A personal blog is not “press.” I don’t make money off of this site.
      2. Yes, a brand new photo of Lili was included in a post that was about the release of said photo
      3. Your misunderstanding of a headline is something I’m confident you can process on your own time
      4.Your summary of Harry and Meghan leaving the UK speaks to a poor understanding of what happened. There are plenty of resources where you can learn more – books, actual media outlets, and personal blogs like this that are inherently based in opinion. The choice is yours.

      Best of luck to you.

      1. Lesleyc19

        Well said. I never for one moment thought you were using the baby’s picture as clickbait or that there’d be myriad other pictures. Your blog post was entirely fair. I enjoy the posts you write and I may not agree with everything and I appreciate the lack of emotion and just the facts.

        Personally, I think Meghan thought she was going to live a life of celebrity and that opening a community centre in Wigan was not she thought she’d be expected to do. Well in this job when supported by the taxpayer you take the good with the bad. As for her bad treatment from 2017 – she was feted and welcomed by the UK and not forgetting the taxpayer stumped up £34m for a wedding that really the sixth in line just wasn’t entitled to.

        As for Kate’s parenting – I defy anyone to keep children still and well-behaved for four plus hours unless they’re sedated and strapped to a chair!

  3. LEW

    I entirely concur that if the Sussexes had a picture available with HMQE, that is the one they would have used. However, Lili is a lovely baby, whatever the context of the photo. I too am a little surprised that they didn’t stay on to spend more time privately with their family but their call. I’m now dreading that book rather more, however.

    In terms of parenting, I find the amount of vitriol being directed at Kate and/or Louis from some quarters incredible, when all that happened is a full on not much more than a toddler behaved as such at events that must have been overwhelming for him at times. I think Kate handled it very well (and I laughed so much when every time the camera panned to the Royal box at the pageant, he was being held by someone different as a containment exercise, so typical) There are other shots at the same occasion showing him cuddled up with and kissing his mother but fairly understandably, his antics have had more press.

    If Meghan and Harry had taken little Archie and there had been the same situations as with Louis. I would be saying exactly the same things. Cheap shots about perfectly normal parenting are uncalled for.

    Thanks as always for the considered and fair take on events, Rebecca.

  4. Agnieszka

    Thank you for another interesting and insightful commentary. I find your posts very helpful in understanding what’s going on with The Queen and her family.
    It really saddens me to see people attacking Catherine for her supposed lack of parenting skills. And she seems to be such an attentive mother. Kids will be kids. I believe I would find it difficult to go through such an event without fidgeting or commenting on things around me (and I’m 50 not 5).

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