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The Royal Wedding: Nannies, Princes and Page Boys

Wendy Sachs
Feb. 26, 2018

Americans are enraptured with all of the feathered hat pomp, gilded carriage circumstance, and British royal wedding fever that's rippling across the Atlantic. 

We adore an old fashioned, common girl snags handsome prince love story.  Hollywood couldn't have scripted a better ending to the "Waity Katie" fairytale. 

Royal Wedding

While the media have been buzzing about who scored the coveted, gold-embossed invite to Westminster Abbey (the Sultan of Brunei and King of Tonga) and who got the royal diss (President Obama and Sarah Ferguson), what's only a passing mention are the kids who made the cut to the most exclusive wedding party of the 21st century.   

Relatively speaking, the royals have plenty to pluck from when it comes to filling its wedding party morning coats - dukes, earls, barons and too many viscounts and countesses to count. And while you may think that only purple-blooded children may qualify for the high profile position of page boy, think again. 

One of the chosen two boys is 8-year-old Tom Pettifer, the son of Prince William's beloved nanny, Tiggy Legge-Bourke. Tiggy's Tom is not raising any eyebrows at Buckingham Palace, because for the English there is nothing remarkable about including a former nanny's child in a royal wedding. The only nannygate that has the British press cackling is that Kate bears a remarkable resemblance to Tiggy while step-mum-in-law-to-be, Camilla, looks strikingly similar to Mabel Anderson, Prince Charles's childhood nanny. Forget about mommy issues, it seems it's their nannies whom the Windsor princes pine to marry.

The monarchy has long had an intimate relationship with its nannies. For hundreds of years, British nannies have raised future monarchs, not just in England, but everywhere from Siam to St. Petersburg. And because aristocratic mothers were distant and largely removed from childrearing, it was the British nannies who often formed extraordinary bonds with the children, sometimes rearing multiple generations of royal offspring. 

Dating back to the end of the 18th century, the royal nanny gig was coveted and respected. Prince Charles initially hired Tiggy when he separated from Diana in 1993. A former preschool teacher with a pedigree of her own - boarding and finishing school, where she studied French, cooking and skiing - Tiggy was perhaps the perfect royal nanny to the young princes. 

But like other modern moms, Princess Diana had nanny envy. British tabloids reported that Diana was fiercely jealous of Tiggy bonding with her boys and the princess allegedly became paranoid that Charles was shagging the Tigster and even wanted to marry her. After Diana's tragic death in 1997, Tiggy became a constant, stabilizing presence in William and Harry's lives. And William became increasingly protective of the relationship, as he got older. So it's not a shocker in the UK that William is now the godfather of Tiggy's son, Tom.  

American royalty, otherwise known as Angelina and Brad, have taken up the British model in child rearing, while on their own royal tours of duty supporting humanitarian causes. It's been reported that each of the six Brangelina children has his or her own personal nanny. The requirements for the job are strict: the nanny must have a college degree in education or child development and speak multiple languages.   

Royal Wedding

Today, nannies have gone mainstream. In the democratization of nannydom, more children on both sides of the Atlantic are being raised and forming long lasting bonds with their nannies  Unlike the retro royals, where Queen Mums were largely hands off, a working mom's relationship with her nanny can be intense and co-dependent. We see them as partners rather than surrogates. We completely rely on them so we can go to work and pay our bills.

Maybe it's the influence of the aspirational ABC reality show "Super Nanny," but as our needs for nannies increase, so do our expectations. What do American moms look for in a nanny? Care.com, the largest online resource for hiring nannies, knows that many moms want nannies with at least some college background. Multi-lingual nannies are also in high demand, with Mandarin and Spanish-speaking nannies trending in popularity. But ultimately, moms want nannies who are safe, loving and know how to properly discipline. We still pine for the quintessential Mary Poppins, who coincidentally, is British. 

The nanny/family relationship is intimate - even among us commoners. In America, the moms I know have loaned money, arranged for divorces, driver's licenses, education, and health care. We invite them to our children's birthday parties, holidays, and bar mitzvahs. Some families have sent their nannies' children to college or to camp.    

Will our nanny be at my children's weddings in 20-some years?  Perhaps. But she has promised to include my kids in her wedding party if she gets married. It's unlikely that there will be a horse drawn coach or carriage, but my daughter is already looking forward to being a flower girl and we're embracing the occasion as a family celebration.

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