Royal children are already expected to lead very different and complicated lifestyles filled with camera appearances and royal protocols, but there was one nanny who went a bit far with her bizarre rules for Prince William and Prince Harry.
After Princess Diana gave birth to her first child Prince William in 1982, Prince Charles felt that his wife “needed a nanny” for help, which was also the custom in the royal family. Therefore, the heir apparent employed Barbara Barnes to help.
Barnes, aged 42 at the time, was the daughter of a Norfolk forestry worker. She had been hired on the basis of a recommendation by Princess Margaret’s lady-in-waiting Anne Glenconner. She did not wear a nanny hat or uniform like her colleagues, and was strict with both Kensington Palace staff and the young princes.
In his biography “Battle of Brothers” about William and Harry’s rift, Robert Lacey described Barnes’s conduct with the young royals. As per The Sun, he wrote, “Barnes was equally firm with the children, not allowing them comfort blankets and refusing them shoes until they had learned to walk properly.”
“When they did get their first footwear, Nanny insisted on classic Start-Rites with button straps that were shaped to the boys’ feet. Trainers were banned,” Lacey further revealed.
Lacey added that a member of the Kensington Palace staff once told royal author Ingrid Seward that the nanny guarded the nursery floor “like the Vatican.” After William and Harry would wake up at dawn, she would “bring them into her bed most mornings to romp and play together, before giving them their breakfast and passing them on to their parents when they woke.”
She taught the young royals how to walk, talk, read, and chose their clothes and shoes, and became “something of a surrogate mother” particularly to William. She would take them on holidays to Scotland and the Scilly Isles, where she would set an action-packed agenda. Her closeness with the boys reportedly started bothering the Princess of Wales, who started giving Barnes the “cold-shoulder.”
The nanny then ended up mysteriously disappearing from the boys’ lives. Wendy Berry, the housekeeper of Charles and Diana’s Highgrove home, was quoted saying that “one weekend she [Nanny Barnes] wasn’t there any more.”
Barnes was replaced by Alexandra ‘Tiggy’ Pettifer, who looked after William and Harry from 1993 to 1999, with the last two years marking the time after they had lost their mother Diana. Pettifer had an even more controversial stint as a nanny, with Diana suspecting her of having an affair with her husband. Pettifer would also make headlines with her statements, like the one time she referred to the young royals as “my babies.”