Gallery! Royal Nannies Through The Ages: The Women Who Have Cared For Royal Babies In The Past

tiggy and harry

by Emily Gilbert |
Updated on

Whether it’s friendly nursery staff, a trusted childminder or an experienced au pair who lives under your roof, many parents turn to third parties when they need support in looking after their little ones.

And the Royal family is no different; generations of future kings and queens have been raised in part by people they were not related to – including baby Prince George, whose new nanny, Maria Teresa Turrion Borrallo, was announced today.

Here we take a look back through some of the most instrumental women in our monarchs’ lives, including the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William – and the lasting influence they have had on Britain’s Royal family.


Royal Nannies

Jessie Webb1 of 8

Jessie Webb

Jessie, now 71, was one of the Royal family’s most trusted members of staff in the 1980s, having helped Princess Diana and Price Charles care for William and Harry when they were tots. She was even asked to come out of retirement when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge moved to Kensington Palace last September to help them with Prince George – although she was adamant that she would only work for three months until they could find a younger replacement. With her no-nonsense demeanor and Cockney accent, Jessie was said to have been firmly in the princes’ corner and would happily tell off their father when he wound them up before bedtime.

Barbara Barnes2 of 8

Barbara Barnes

Appointed to the position of head nanny on Prince William’s birth, Barbara stayed as a live-in childcare provider at the palace until the day her charge started primary school. However, Princess Diana was thought to have felt threatened by Barbara, and believed she acted as though the princes were her own sons.

Olga Powell3 of 8

Olga Powell

Not many people would dare reprimand a prince – but when Olga arrived at Kensington Palace in 1982 to support Princess Diana, she made it clear from the outset that she would help instill the kind of firm discipline in William and Harry that their mother wanted for them. Discipline that, on occasion, even stretched to a clip round the ear! Starting out as a deputy to Barbara Barnes, Olga took over as head nanny and became a stern but loving figure in the lives of her young charges for the next 15 years. William even turned to her for support from his boarding school in Berkshire when his parents split up, and made sure he was free to attend her funeral in 2012.

Tiggy Legge-Bourke4 of 8

Tiggy Legge-Bourke

Probably the most controversial Royal nanny ever, Tiggy was the stuff of tabloid dreams when she kept getting into trouble while caring for the young Princes William and Harry. She was criticised by the Princess of Wales for her heavy smoking near the boys and once referred to the young Royals as ‘my babies’, earning her a healthy dose of scorn from the general public.

Mabel Anderson5 of 8

Mabel Anderson

With Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip required to travel around the Commonwealth on lengthy tours, the young Prince Charles has credited his nanny Mabel for providing essential emotional support during his formative years. He even asked that she return to care for Prince William when he was born, but Diana was said not to be too keen on the idea, so Barbara Barnes was appointed head nanny instead.

Helen Lightbody6 of 8

Helen Lightbody

Along with Mabel Anderson, Helen was responsible for the care and protection of Prince Charles when he was a boy. Indeed, the two women became stand-in mother figures when the Queen was absent – as she was for his first three birthdays.

Clara Knight7 of 8

Clara Knight

Affectionately known as Alah, Clara had been the Queen Mother’s own nanny in her childhood and was asked to come back when the two princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret, were young. Alah was one of our now Queen Elizabeth and her sister Margaret’s primary caregivers throughout the Second World War until she died suddenly in the mid-1940s, to the great sadness of the Royal family.

Marion Crawford8 of 8

Marion Crawford

Having joined the Royal household in the 1920s as a governess, Marion’s role was supposed to have centred on privately tutoring the two young princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret. However, her knowledge of child development – she was studying child psychology at the time – and ability to soothe little nine-month-old Lilibet when her Royal parents went overseas meant she was quickly promoted to main nanny. She stayed with the family until the late 1940s, and on retirement wrote a tell-all book about her time with the Royals. However, the Queen Mother felt ‘Crawfie’ had betrayed her trust and she was quickly shuffled out of the Royal circles and never spoken about again.

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