The British royal family is regal, fascinating, and super historical, and they refuse to push the women in the family aside in favor of men. As the Windsors continue their reign into the 21st century, they’ve become increasingly more modern, outspoken, and connected with the people.
Women in the royal family, in particular, have helped shape how the family is perceived on a global scale, as well as how humanity should view and reach out to one another. These women have ruled and shaped the British royal family for decades.
Queen Elizabeth II
The queen was 25 years old when her father King George VI died, and she succeeded the throne. She is now the longest reigning ruler in the history of the monarchy. Throughout her reign, she’s dealt with naysayers (namely men) who thought she was unfit for her role, but from the very beginning, she proved them wrong.
She stood with her country during and after the horrors of World War II. At 19, she was a trained driver and mechanic with the rank of Second Subaltern earning the title of Junior Commander. She also used coupons and rations to pay for her wedding dress when she married Prince Philip in 1947.
Commanding her Prime Ministers always to keep her in the loop, the queen also has the first and last word on how her family should behave and how they are perceived.
Next: The people’s princess
The late Princess Diana was barely an adult when she married into the royal family in 1981. Though her marriage to Prince Charles of Wales was fraught with tension, unhappiness, and infidelity and her life was cut tragically short in 1997, Prince Diana helped reshaped the crown as we know it today.
The People’s Princess, as she was called, had a profound compassion for others. Her humanitarian work included fighting against the HIV/AIDS stigma at a time when it was ravaging the world. She also took her sons Prince Harry and Prince William to visit homeless shelters, and even spoke candidly about her tumultuous marriage, struggles with an eating disorder, and depression.
In a 1995 interview with BBC’s Martin Bashir, she explained, “By the time William arrived, it was a great relief because it was all peaceful again. I was well for a time. Then I was unwell with postnatal depression, which no one ever discusses postnatal depression. You have to read about it afterward. And that in itself was a bit of a difficult time.”
Next: A modern duchess
Duchess Kate Middleton
Like her late mother-in-law, Duchess Kate Middleton is also very much beloved. After she began dating Prince William in college, the duchess was thrust into the spotlight, but she has handled it with grace and dignity.
Not only is she super stylish, but she’s also been open about parenting her children without much help, promoting mental health awareness, art, and sports. During her Heads Together initiative with her husband Prince William and her brother-in-law Prince Harry she said,
It’s a common thread, wasn’t it? Mental health sort of seemed to run between all the different areas we were working in. So whether it’s homelessness and the military with yourself [Harry] or addiction and bereavement with me, there was this, sort of an underlying thread, wasn’t there, of mental health and this idea that I suppose all of us coming together to find a common theme.
Next: The highest ranking British woman after the queen.
Duchess Camilla Parker Bowles
Since she was caught up in a scandalous affair with Prince Charles while he was still married to Princess Diana, Duchess Camilla Parker Bowles isn’t exactly the most beloved woman in England. However, after going public with their relationship and marrying the future king, Brits are slowly embracing the Duchess of Cornwall.
The highest ranking British woman after the queen, the duchess reportedly loves the limelight and refused to cower in the background, despite embarrassing details of her affair with the prince being made public. With a plethora of charities and tons of royal events, the duchess hasn’t let her past dampen her present or future.
Next: A very rebellious royal
The queen’s younger sister, Princess Margaret, was a legend before her time. The late princess was charismatic, rebellious, and outspoken during a time when women were continually stifled in society. For a royal in particular, the princess certainly did what she wanted when she wanted, and she was mercilessly scrutinized for it.
Princess Margaret hated the confines of being a royal, and she let everyone know. According to The Telegraph, “While Princess Margaret was attending a high-society party in New York, the hostess asked her politely how the Queen was keeping. ‘Which one?’ she is said to have replied with her typically razor-sharp wit. ‘My sister, my mother, or my husband?’”
The late princess laid the foundation for the women in the royal family to always be themselves.
Next: An unlikely royal
Duchess Meghan Markle
An unlikely new royal has charmed all of England and shined an entirely new spotlight on the British royal family. An actress who starred on the beloved USA series, Suits, Meghan Markle has always been an outspoken feminist and advocate for equal rights for women.
Markle has worked extensively with organizations like One World Vision, She also served as an ambassador for United Nations Women, among others. Additionally, she isn’t afraid to serve the crown her way. She’s open with people, often hugging them and grabbing their hands. She and Prince Harry also love PDA, and she’s not afraid to break protocols.
Next: A transparent princess
The eldest daughter of on-again, off-again couple, Prince Andrew and Sarah “Fergie” Ferguson, Duchess of York isn’t your typical princess. Princess Beatrice graduated from Goldsmiths College in London with a degree in History and History of Ideas.
Highly educated, the princess started her own charity, Big Change, which identifies and supports charitable projects throughout the UK that improve the lives of young people. She’s also remained extremely close to her mother Fergie, who has had more than her fair share of scandals.
Most importantly, the princess has remained outspoken about her struggles with dyslexia, which have helped young people across the globe who also struggle with learning disability connect with her.
Princess Beatrice has said, “It’s never been more important than now to really stand up to say what you’re proud of, what you’re passionate about — and what your battles are. I think by sharing it suddenly makes it OK … It reframes the conversation; you immediately feel calmer.”
Next: The first royal with a personal Instagram account.
Like her big sister, Princess Eugenie is also leading the royals into a new modern era. The younger princess has a combined Bachelor’s degree in art history, English literature, and politics from Newcastle University has been open about her struggles with scoliosis. Now, she is the first royal to ever have a personal Instagram account.
If you recall, shortly after Markle announced her engagement to Prince Harry, she shuttered all of her social media accounts and her personal lifestyle site, the Tig. Princess Eugenie, on the other hand, is using the social media platform to share a more personal side of her life and to connect with young people.
She debuted her account on International Women’s Day with the caption, “I can think of no better day than today, International Women’s Day, to launch my personal Instagram. I hope to use this platform to share the causes, passions, and people close to my heart.”
As the princess gears up for her royal wedding to her longtime beau, Jack Brooksbank, we wonder if she’ll be sharing any special wedding details. Like her sister, Princess Beatrice, the princess is keeping the royals modern.
Next: A royal whiz kid
She’s only a toddler, but Princess Charlotte is already switching things up for the next generation of royals. Though she will soon be a middle child, even if her younger sibling is a boy, he can never trump her in the line of succession. Just before the tiny princess was born, the queen signed the new Succession to the Crown Act of 2013, solidifying Princess Charlotte’s place in line.
The young princess is reportedly already a sports whi,z who loves her tricycle, playing soccer, tennis, and rough-housing with her big brother, Prince George.
Next: The princess who thwarted her own kidnapping.
Anne, Princess Royal
The queen’s only daughter has stayed pretty low-key aside from her tumultuous first marriage, which ended in the early ’90s. Born during a time that allowed her younger brothers to skip ahead of her in the line of succession, Princess Anne was able to live a fairly private life at a time when we seem to be increasingly obsessed with the royals.
Still, the Princess Royal never let archaic sexist rules define her. In fact, she is an accomplished equestrian who competed in the 1987 Olympics and, in 1974, she was able to escape when a man tried to kidnap her.
She told the BBC later, “It was all so infuriating; I kept saying I didn’t want to get out of the car, and I was not going to get out of the car. I nearly lost my temper with him, but I knew that if I did, I should hit him and he would shoot me.”
Being a princess doesn’t mean you can’t be badass.
Next: A women who hasn’t let scandal phase her.
Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York
Though she is technically no longer a royal after divorcing Prince Andrew in 1996, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York remains in a relationship with the prince and stays somewhat tied to the royal family. The duchess’ break with the royal family began in 1992 when she was photographed topless with oil tycoon, John Bryan.
She and the prince separated shortly after that, but the scandals did not stop there. In 2010, the duchess was exposed by an undercover journalist who offered her $500,000 for access to the royal family. She accepted his offer and a $40,000 downpayment.
Still, Fergie hasn’t let her past scandals stop her from being an amazing mother. In an interview with Hello Magazine, she said
A table can’t stand on three legs, really, so you have the Duke and I, and the two girls. We’re a family unit, and we lead by example. We support each other emotionally, and we support each other health-wise. At least every two weeks we sit down and communicate, the four of us. I think the one thing I’ve done incredibly well – although I say it myself – is that I’m a really good mum. And I think my girls shows that.
Next: A royal without a title.
When Zara Tindall was born, her mother, Princess Anne, chose not to give her a royal title. While many folks were shocked by the decision, Tindall is grateful for the freedom that it has allowed her.
In a 2015 interview with The Times, she said, “I’m very lucky that both my parents decided to not use the title and we grew up and did all the things that gave us the opportunity to do.”
Like her mother, Tindall is an accomplished equestrian and has even won a silver medal at the London 2012 Olympics as a member of the Great Britain Eventing Team.
Though she doesn’t have a title, Tindall is super tight with her family, and she happens to be Prince George’s godmother.
Next: A legendary queen
Queen Mary of Teck
When she was growing up, Queen Elizabeth was very close to her grandmother, Queen Mary of Teck, who was a devoted wife and mother. The young queen often sought her grandmother’s advice in the early days of her reign.
Like Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary was a proactive royal. According to Mad Monarchist, during World War I, “She saw to it that everything was rationed (as it was for the people) and even though it caused her great emotional distress she frequently visited the badly wounded troops of the BEF evacuated from the front in France and Belgium.”
Next: The woman who toppled the crown.
We know Wallis Simpson as an American divorcee who almost brought the crown to its knees. Though she was never officially a royal, Simpon’s relationship with King Edward VIII led to his abdication.
In fact, when Queen Elizabeth’s uncle abdicated the throne, and her father became king, the royal family was forever changed, as was the queen and her lineage.
Next: The most beloved royal
Lady Sarah Chatto
The daughter of the late Princess Margaret, Lady Sarah Chatto is called the most loyal and trustworthy royal. Kind and thoughtful, Lady Sarah cares nothing for the fanfare and the limelight that her mother adored.
She shares a very close relationship with her aunt, Queen Elizabeth II, and she brings out a softer side of the head of the royal family. An insider told The Daily Mail, “The queen adores Sarah and seeks out her company as often as possible. She is her absolute favorite younger royal. They are hugely at ease in each other’s company. Much giggling can be heard when they are together. They share a sense of loyalty, fun, duty and the ridiculous.’
Choosing to live the way she wants, Lady Sarah is unassuming and even rides public transportation. She is said to be “shy and almost embarrassed with no grandeur at all. Take royal events — she’ll be on the balcony, but she never pushes herself to the middle or the front, like some.”
Lady Sarah proves that you can also have a private life in the limelight.
Follow Aramide Tinubu on Twitter @midnightrami.
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