Prince Louis, the Cambridges’ youngest son, turns 3 on Friday – St George’s Day – and you can already begin to see his character emerging. He is the classic, cheeky, third-child scamp.
It’s the royal tradition to release a picture on a child’s third birthday – part of the unwritten deal that, in return for official photographs, the paparazzi will leave the royal family alone.
It helps, too, that the Duchess of Cambridge has become a considerable photographer in her own right, which means her subjects are at their most relaxed for her to capture these fun intimate portraits. The sort you only get from a little boy looking at his beloved mother, pleased as punch that he’s mastered the crucial little boy’s art of turning his bike handlebars – racing style.
Aside, perhaps, from the preppy shirt collar poking out, Louis could be any kid in the park, with his sporty Adidas trainers (seldom seen in royal photo shoots), practical rucksack and bike – perfectly fitted to his size. The setting, too, is striking. There are no signs of royal life, none of the grandeur that would go with a shoot at Kensington Palace or Anmer Hall, the Cambridges’ country place at Sandringham.
So little Louis is about to move on from the terrible twos phase. But the truth of it is that three can be a tricky age, too. Some parents talk of their “threenagers” – the infants who are three going on 13, with all the willfulness and attitude that entails.
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Three, say the childhood experts, is the classic age when children start walking up and down stairs, one at a time. It’s the age children start kicking, throwing and catching balls. They climb, run more confidently and suddenly take off on their scooters – or balance bike like the one Louis is on.
This is the age that children start to really develop their character, body, mind and emotions. They know the difference between feeling happy and sad, afraid and angry. They show affection for familiar people. And clearly there are buckets of affection here from Louis aimed at the most familiar of all people – mummy.
So how does little Louis compare to the other royals at 3?
The picture is more posed than that for his little brother and that isn’t surprising. Instead of being taken by his mother, it was by professional photographer Matt Porteous.
The photograph was taken in a far more traditional royal setting – a typical rural scene at Anmer Hall. George was pictured with Lupo, the Cambridges’ English cocker spaniel, who sadly died last year, aged 8. Lupo was bred from Ella, a dog belonging to Michael and Carole Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge’s parents.
Yes, Prince George looks very happy in the company of his beloved dog. But he is altogether neater than his little brother, with his arrow-straight parting and clothes that are particularly immaculate, given that he isn’t in school uniform.
A charming picture, of course, but one much more like previous royal portraits than the relaxed Louis photograph.
This picture was taken four days after her third birthday by her mother, the Duchess of Cambridge.
In a charming shot, Princess Charlotte is shown kissing her baby brother, Louis, not yet a fortnight old. The picture is completely relaxed and natural – what could be less staged than a sleeping baby? Charlotte is in a charming, blue, neat-as-a-pin top.
The picture was taken at Kensington Palace, the Cambridges’ London home, though all the signs of grandeur and history that echo through the 17th-century palace are avoided. This photograph could be taken in any room in the country, with a little girl getting to know her baby brother.
This picture was taken a few months after the Prince’s birthday by Getty photographer Anwar Hussein, on August 16, 1985, in Aberdeen as William left the Royal Yacht Britannia with his mother, the Princess of Wales.
In his cable-knit cardigan, blue shorts, white ankle socks and smart leather shoes, he looks strikingly more formal than his own children. Even though Princess Diana was keen to do things differently, Prince William belonged to a royal age that was still steeped in convention. His outfit could have been worn by his father, Prince Charles, over 30 years earlier.The red carpet, too, shows how even a three-year-old Prince William is embarked on a lifetime of royal duty. At this stage in his life, Prince William’s parents were still relatively happily married – Prince Harry was not yet one at the time.
Pictured the day after his birthday, this was Prince Harry’s first day at Mrs Mynors’s Nursery School in Notting Hill. Prince William went there, too, and he accompanied Harry on his first day, as did his parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
Harry wears the school uniform of the time – neat blue shorts and a blue sweatshirt with the black sandals that belong to a more formal age. He is already perfecting his royal wave and getting used to the attention of the royal press pack. One thing hasn’t changed – Prince Harry’s affection for his Thomas the Tank Engine bag is echoed today by thousands of three-year-old Thomas fans still today.
It was taken at Buckingham Palace and, unlike modern royal photos, has the grand background of a royal palace – the picture frame, the embroidered sofa, the floral arrangement.
Prince Charles is pictured in the sort of children’s clothes that were popular at the time but now look rather formal. George VI, too, for all his palpable, natural affection to his grandson, is immaculately dressed in a double-breasted suit. The king’s gaunt expression is a sign that he has just got out of hospital after an operation. Less than three months later, he would sadly die, aged only 56, from lung cancer, leaving his daughter Princess Elizabeth, to become Queen at only 25. She turned 95 this week.
Here is little Lilibet, later Queen Elizabeth II,in 1929, at Glamis Castle, Angus, the childhood home of her mother, the Duchess of York, and the ancestral home of her grandfather, the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. She is dressed rather informally for the time, to suit her outside playtime on a bridge at Glamis. At this stage, her younger sister, Princess Margaret, was yet to be born – she arrived in 1930.
The throne would have been far from her mind – and her parents’. Her grandfather, George V, was still king, and her uncle, the Prince of Wales, was due to inherit the throne in 1936. The idea of the Abdication – and that the Prince of Wales would have no children, leaving her as the heir – would have seemed remote at the time. And so this curious, polite little girl could enjoy running round her Scottish home without a care in the world.
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