Prince William recently praised the Queen's "love of family and home", saying he felt privileged to witness her humour and kindness. It's a side of the famous matriarch that is less known, perhaps because her impeccable public record obscured her role as a loving mother and grandmother. The truth is, she was very maternal, but was often pulled away from her children because of royal duty.
The Queen showing off her young family in 1951 the year before ascending the throne
In 1948, Elizabeth became a mother, aged 22, with the birth of her first child, Prince Charles, who was followed by a sister, Princess Anne, in 1950."Don't you think he is quite adorable?" she asked a friend of her firstborn. I still can't believe he is really mine. "Ten years after Anne's arrival came her second son, Andrew, in 1960, and Edward followed four years later.
She adored being a mother but public duty often took her away from the children
The age gap between her elder and younger children can probably be explained by just how busy she was after ascending the throne aged 25 in 1952.Two years later, the night before she and Prince Philip set off on a six-month tour of world the Queen tucked Charles and Anne into and promptly burst into tears.
Leaving the youngsters for half a year was a great sacrifice, but, ever the professional, she revealed no glimmer of her private turmoil in public.
Her children recall growing up in an atmosphere of 'tremendous fun'
With time her schedule became more relaxed, and Prince Andrew recalled grewing up in an atmosphere of "wonderful fun".It also left time for the royal mum to spend her evenings reading bedtime stories to Edward, the child courtiers referred to as "her baby".
The royal family circa 1966
Her elder children were in no doubt they were loved too, with Anne later praising the Queen as "a marvellous mother". She also has a special bond with her grandchildren, especially William who shares her destiny as a future monarch.
The Queen was delighted when he became a father for the second time, remarking that it was "lovely to have another girl in the family".