Royal Parenting Decisions That Caused Controversy

The following article includes brief references to sexual assault allegations.

The British royal family is always a hot topic. From conflict among family members to new revelations in interviews and documentaries, fans can't seem to get enough of the rumors surrounding life in Buckingham Palace. With the long list of rules royal parents are expected to follow, it is perhaps no surprise that they often make headlines for their parenting decisions. The demands of royalty are a lot to keep up with. For example, royal parents reportedly must ensure their children follow a strict dress code, receive a top-notch education, learn more than one language, and more.

It's completely understandable that modern-day royals sometimes bend these strict rules, but this doesn't always end well. Those who are passionate about the traditions the British royal family has followed throughout history might not be thrilled about certain controversial parenting decisions. We saw this with how many reacted to Princess Diana's efforts to maintain normalcy for her royal sons. Now, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are often on the receiving end of similar criticism, as well as Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Keep reading to find out more about the royal parenting decisions that caused controversy over the years.

Kate Middleton reportedly asks the public for parenting advice

It might be hard to believe that the Princess of Wales turns to social media for parenting advice, but Kate Middleton is allegedly no different from other moms when it comes to seeking guidance online. According to a source cited by Express, the mother of three allegedly has anonymous accounts on the parenting resource sites Mumsnet and BabyCentre. The unnamed insider went on to claim, "She has adopted an anonymous name, and mainly posts questions about issues she and Prince William disagree on, like watching cartoons before bed." Who could've guessed that there's a chance Kate's fans have unknowingly chatted with her online?

Apparently, the royal mom could never go public with the fact she uses these sites. Perhaps the things she supposedly posts could stir up a bit of controversy. "Using these websites has really helped Kate, although she'd never admit to using the web for advice — the Royal Family tend to 'just get on with it' when it comes to raising children," the anonymous source continued. According to Heart, Prince William may have hinted that his wife does in fact use Mumsnet while speaking to the site's co-founder, Justine Roberts.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle aren't working royal parents

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's exit from their roles as working members of the royal family was arguably one of the most controversial royal parenting decisions in recent history. Buckingham Palace made the official announcement in February 2021, but it seems that the world is still reacting to the couple's departure years later. Harry and Meghan offered their own explanation for their exit in a statement shared with the public, and it appears that their decision had a lot to do with how they wanted to raise their kids. "This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity," the couple previously shared in a statement posted on Instagram in January 2020.

Harry and Meghan's exit resulted in widespread criticism. For example, longtime Markle critic and UK broadcaster Piers Morgan took to Twitter to allege, "People say I'm too critical of Meghan Markle — but she ditched her family, ditched her Dad, ditched most of her old friends, split Harry from William & has now split him from the Royal Family. I rest my case." Still, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex stood firm in their decision and went on to share more about their lives after leaving the UK in the 2022 Netflix docuseries "Harry & Meghan."

Princess Diana broke royal protocol at Harry's school

The late Princess Diana was adored by many for her non-traditional approach to royalty. However, the People's Princess was scrutinized by those who didn't find her behavior quite as endearing. As a result, her parenting choices were often brought into question. One of the most famous examples of Diana's humility took place back in 1991. The mom broke royal protocol when she joined in on the parent race at Prince Harry's school. According to CNN, there is an unspoken rule that royals should not be seen barefoot in public, but that didn't stop Diana from tossing her shoes aside and racing barefoot to support her youngest son at the event.

This was only one of the mother's many attempts to ensure her sons had normal childhoods despite their status. Princess Diana's former chief of staff, Patrick Jephson, spoke to ABC News about the late royal's efforts. "She made sure that they experienced things like going to the cinema, queuing up to buy a McDonalds, going to amusement parks, those sorts of things that were experiences that they could share with their friends," he revealed.

Diana's sons were educated outside of Buckingham Palace

Princess Diana changed Buckingham Palace forever when she became the first royal parent to allow her children to receive a public school education. According to Hello! magazine, the British royal family was traditionally educated by a governess within Buckingham Palace. Queen Elizabeth II, for example, was taught by governess Marion Crawford before later attending private tutoring from Henry Marten, the vice-provost at Eton College.

Diana enrolled Prince William and Prince Harry in preschool at Mrs. Mynors' nursery in London. This non-traditional decision wasn't exactly unusual for the late princess given she made an effort to ensure her children had a normal childhood, as previously mentioned. It seems that Diana's bold choice influenced her sons because they both sent their children to school outside of Buckingham Palace. Kate Middleton and Prince William sent their eldest child, Prince George, to Westacre Montessori nursery school, and then the co-educational school Thomas's Battersea. In September 2022, all three of the couple's children were enrolled in Winkfield Row, England's Lambrook School.

Considering Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's departure from their roles as working royals, it's kind of expected that their little ones will receive an education outside of Buckingham Palace. Like Diana, the couple appears to want their children to live normal lives. Their son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, was enrolled in a Californian preschool, and it seems likely that younger sister Lilibet will also attend a nearby preschool in the future.

The People's Princess brought her children along on official trips

Princess Diana went against another royal tradition by bringing Prince William and Prince Harry along on royal trips. She first sparked controversy for this decision when she and then-husband Prince Charles were accompanied by William during their tour of Australia and New Zealand. The young prince was only nine months old at the time, but it seemed that his parents were determined to not leave him with nannies back at home. The couple and their kids also toured Canada as a family in 1991, despite their relationship reportedly being on the rocks at the time, per E! News. Throughout history, royal parents left their little ones with royal staff while they traveled, so this was a rather shocking move at the time.

Like Diana's decision to enroll her sons in school outside of Buckingham Palace, this controversial choice also changed royal tradition forever. It is now common for children to join their parents on royal trips. For example, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle brought four-month-old Archie Mountbatten-Windsor along during their tour of Africa in 2019. Meanwhile, in 2016, Prince William and Kate Middleton traveled with their two eldest children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, when they toured Canada.

Prince Louis' antics caused controversy

You might remember that little Prince Louis was caught on camera making funny faces at mom Kate Middleton during the late Queen Elizabeth's Platinum Jubilee in June 2022. The then-four-year-old was also seen covering his ears and gesturing for Kate to be quiet. The hilarious moment quickly turned controversial, however, after fans began pointing out what they felt was a double standard. Some social media users suggested that the public's reaction would have been different if Meghan Markle's children were caught misbehaving on camera.

Journalist Soledad O'Brien took to Twitter to write, "(Imagine all the royal press and racist headlines had this been Meghan and little Archie)." Author and activist Adeshola Mos-Shogbamimu tweeted in part, "Royal Experts'/Media would've dissected Archie's behaviour/torn into him/labelled him with all kinds of behavioural disorders if he'd smacked Meghan Markle's mouth shut as Louis did to his mother Kate & pulled hair." Other social media users criticized Kate's handling of Louis' behavior

For their part, Kate Middleton and Prince William eventually addressed their youngest son's silliness in a statement shared to their official Twitter account. "We all had an incredible time, especially Louis..." the couple shared alongside the eyes emoji in a lengthy statement that recapped the Platinum Jubilee.

Queen Elizabeth supported Prince Andrew as he faced allegations

The late Queen Elizabeth II made a questionable decision after her second son, Prince Andrew, faced sexual assault allegations in connection with an August 2021 lawsuit. The accuser, Virginia Giuffre, was also allegedly a victim of Jeffrey Epstein's sex trafficking ring. Giuffre's lawsuit (via The U.S. Sun) stated in part, "Twenty years ago Prince Andrew's wealth, power, position, and connections enabled him to abuse a frightened, vulnerable child with no one there to protect her. It is long past the time for him to be held to account." Andrew has continued to deny these allegations, but his friendship with Epstein was well-documented and later revisited in the Peacock documentary "Prince Andrew: Banished." In 2022, he settled the case ahead of going to trial for an undisclosed sum.

Prince Andrew was stripped of his military affiliations and royal patronages due to the allegations; however, the queen didn't exactly cut ties with the prince entirely. Andrew was seen walking Queen Elizabeth to her seat at Prince Philip's memorial. Nigel Cawthorne, who wrote the book "Prince Andrew: Epstein, Maxwell and the Palace," spoke to Newsweek about Andrew's controversial appearance. "Andrew is obviously pushing himself to the fore," he shared. "It seems that Charles and William weren't particularly pleased." 

The queen never addressed her son's allegations publicly, but the book "Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait" (via the Daily Mail) shared the moment Andrew allegedly spoke to his mother about the scandal. She reportedly only responded with, "Intriguing."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Harry and Meghan named their daughter after the queen

Although Prince Harry and Meghan Markle reportedly aren't on good terms with King Charles and Prince William, it seems they've always been fond of Queen Elizabeth II. They even named their daughter, Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, after the late monarch. According to BBC News, Lilibet was the late queen's childhood nickname. However, Harry and Meghan actually received quite a bit of backlash for giving their daughter this moniker.

An anonymous Buckingham Palace source alleged to the BBC that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex did not get the queen's permission to name their daughter after her. This claim conflicted with a statement from the couple's spokesperson. "The duke spoke with his family in advance of the announcement — in fact his grandmother was the first family member he called," they said. "During that conversation, he shared their hope of naming their daughter Lilibet in her honour. Had she not been supportive, they would not have used the name." 

For their part, Harry and Meghan seemed to be particularly bothered by this accusation because they reportedly had their lawyers urge media outlets to refrain from claiming they hadn't spoken to the queen about using her nickname. Harry even allegedly threatened to take legal action over this allegation.

Sarah Ferguson left her baby behind for a royal tour

Sarah Ferguson made headlines back in 1988 after she left her six-week-old daughter, Princess Beatrice, behind while she traveled throughout Australia as part of her royal tour. The Duchess of York was away from the infant for a total of six weeks. Express noted that the new mom reportedly wanted to bring Beatrice along but her then-husband, Prince Andrew, allegedly refused. Ferguson put the rumors to rest when she explained why she decided to leave her daughter at home during a 1989 interview with the late Barbara Walters. 

"After nine months of looking enormous and big and your poor husband has had to look at you like that," she said. "It was his turn. Just to make sure that he knew he was very important." Fergie noted, "People might be a bit tired of my putting my husband first." If Ferguson was looking to escape criticism, this interview might not have been the best move. It turns out that even her friends allegedly didn't think she was thrilled to be a parent. That same year, one unnamed pal claimed to People (via Express), "She just isn't the totally committed mother type. That doesn't mean she doesn't adore Beatrice. But she is more happy to get away at times."

To be fair, Ferguson is proud of her close relationship with Beatrice and younger daughter Princess Eugenie, telling Harper's Bazaar in 2018, "The only thing I know I've done 100% right is be a good mother. I'm proud to say I'm the best mom I know."