From the moment they welcomed their first child Prince George into the world, Prince William and Kate made it clear that they would be modern, hands-on parents. The couple have carved their own paths as 21st century royals, while also bearing in mind the importance of royal tradition. William and Kate have taken decisions that suit both them and their young children, but also William's grandmother the Queen. When it comes to parenting, they have done things their way, but have been mindful to keep within the boundaries of royal expectation.
The first sign that Prince George and Princess Charlotte's upbringing would be slightly different to their dad William's was at their birth. In keeping with tradition, Kate chose to follow in other royal mums' footsteps by having her children at the exclusive Lindo Wing of Saint Mary's hospital in Paddington, London. New parents William and Kate proudly stood on the hospital steps in July 2013, presenting their newborn son George to the waiting press and the world. They posed for photographs and spoke to the media, with William revealing that he had already changed George's first nappy. But unlike Prince Charles and Princess Diana, who were driven back to Kensington Palace by a chauffeur in 1982 when William was born, the Cambridges made their own way home as most parents of their time would. William impressed royal watchers as he expertly strapped George into the car seat, before driving his baby boy and wife Kate back home.
It didn't take long for the new family to retreat to the countryside, where they could raise George in the privacy of their Norfolk home, Anmer Hall. William and Kate were given the ten-bedroom mansion as a wedding gift from the Queen, and made the decision to move there shortly after George's birth. Life in the country suited the family's needs; Kate took to growing her own vegetables in their garden, there was plenty of green space for George to play and drive his mini tractor around, while William and Kate could also practise a game of tennis in their newly-renovated tennis court.
Emily Nash, HELLO!'s royal correspondent, said: "This is all part of William and Kate's plan to give their children as normal an upbringing as possible. Spending their children's early years at Anmer has given the royal couple a chance to give them time out of the spotlight, which will become harder when they move back to London. They are preparing George and Charlotte for life in the royal family and keeping all the associated traditions, but at the same time, they want them to enjoy the same everyday experiences of other children their age, like going to the shops, the playground or petting zoo without any fuss." Emily added: "William, having grown up very much in the spotlight, is keen to protect his own children as much as he can. After all, they have a lifetime of royal duties ahead of them, so there is no rush!"
The first official portrait of George was, surprisingly, taken by Kate's father Michael Middleton. It was released in the summer of 2013 when the Prince was a mere tot, and marked a stark difference from William and his brother Harry's first official photographs. As a talented photographer, Kate has broken with royal tradition by releasing photos of George and Charlotte that she has taken on her own camera through the years. But the Duchess has also been conscious of Windsor family tradition, and has hired professional royal photographers to capture her children's special milestones, such as Prince George's first birthday portraits.
The first tour abroad is always a momentous milestone for any royal child. George did follow in his father's footsteps by accompanying William and Kate to Australia when he was just eight months old. William was a similar age when he made the trip Down Under with his parents Charles and Diana. Princess Charlotte was slightly older when she undertook her first tour, this time to Canada, one of the Queen's favourite destinations.
By releasing adorable photographs and making high-profile appearances with their children, William and Kate have struck the right balance of giving their fans and royal watchers what they want, while also being eager to protect their youngsters. The couple have warned off paparazzi, reminding them that George and Charlotte deserve the right to "a safe, happy, and private childhood". George's first day at nursery was a very low-key affair. No media were invited to attend; the Duke and Duchess dropped off their son by themselves and it was keen shutterbug Kate who took photographs of George outside the nursery. The couple decided to wait until George had come home from his first day to notify the press, so that they could celebrate their son's milestone in private. William, meanwhile, started nursery with absolutely no discretion. More than 100 pairs of eyes were on the little Prince as he arrived at Mrs. Mynors' Nursery School shortly after 9:30 in the morning in September 1985. William was forced to face dozens of reporters and photographers as he walked towards the nursery at 11 Chepstow Villas in central London – a far cry from George's first day of pre-school in the country.
A move back to London was no doubt inevitable for the Cambridges. William and Kate have stepped up their duties as senior royals, while London provides more opportunities for their children. The Duke and Duchess are preparing George and Charlotte for city life, but the couple have once again slightly strayed from royal tradition. They made the surprise announcement that their son George will attend Thomas's Battersea in September – and not Wetherby School in Notting Hill that William and his brother Harry attended. As royal reporter Emily notes: "George's first day at school will be a lot more low key than William's, when there was a sea of photographers outside the school as he arrived. There are likely to just be a handful of photographers and TV cameras present to capture the moment on behalf of the world's media."
William and Kate have always fiercely guarded their children's privacy and now that they are leaving the comforts of their country home, the couple are as keen as ever to protect their brood. A team of gardeners has been busy planting native conifer trees alongside Kensington Palace so that Prince William and Kate's Apartment 1A home will be shielded from prying eyes. Royal sources have told HELLO! that the trees are being planted for reasons of "privacy and security". The royals may be preparing to move back to the city, but William and Kate's priority of protecting their children and giving them as normal – and modern – a childhood as possible will not have changed.