The English Royal Nursery: The 1890s-1900s

The Duke of Windsor (Edward VIII) has written at length about his childhood. He is very critical of his parents, especially his father, George V. He appears, however, to have had very fond memmories of his nanny, Lala.

Nannie Lala

The Duke in his book, A Family Album recalls his nursery which he shared at Sandringham with Albert (George VI) and Mary and their beloved nannie, Lala (Charlotte Bill), before his father George V became king. Note that by the time the younger princes arrived (Henry, George and John) Lala was still there, but that it was more difficult to keep the children cooped up in the nursery:

Lala has vivid if not alltogether agreeable memories of the nursery at York Cottage, Sandringham, in which we were obliged to spend our early years. "The day nursery," she declares, indicating with a wave of the hand her modest suburban living-room, "was only about half as

Figure 1.--The Duke of Windsor's nanny, Lara or Charlotte Bill, is shown here about 1901 with two attendant nursemaids. I'm not sure what the boys wore after breeching, but given his fathers' tastes it was probably sailor suits. I've never seen photographs of them in smocks. Picture here is Edward (the Duke of Windsor I, Mary, Henry, and Albert (George VI).
big as this. There was very little room for toys in it. You had only one small-sized rocking-horse. Perhaps it was a good thing your sister didn't go for dolls. They would have cluttered the place up terribly."

These restrictions of our early environment were aggravated, at Frogmore, by the stuffiness of the rooms in which we spent part of the summer. They were right up under the roof, which was of the best quality lead-as we learned very soon when we took to clambering about on it-but on hot summer days had to be sprayed with water to prevent us from stifling. Some years before her death, .my mother remarked to Lala, apropos the changes in habits of upbringing: "Nurseries don't seem to be of much use any more. Nowadays the children are all over the house." But that was not for my childhood.

Lala used to have a hard time with my father [George V], who had strict views as to the correct conduct of children. "Can't you stop that child crying?" he would bark at her irritably, especially when I was being taken to see my great-grandmother at Windsor. I was a nervous child, she maintains; sensing what was in store for me, I would start to cry the moment I was led from our rooms at the Castle, and I would seldom leave off until the audience was over. Understandably, this unaffectionate greeting displeased the Queen, who would vent her irritation on Lala. "You had to mind your step," she recalls, "with Queen Victoria."

Nursery Clothes

I have few details on what the children wore in the nursery. One source tells me that the children, both the girls and boys, wore tussore smocks. The photograph of the children on this page with Lala shows the boys in sailor suits. Presumably they were dressed up for the photograph. They certainly look spic and span for the photographer. I'm not sure at what age they left off wearing smocks. I have not been able to find a photograph of the children in the nursery or wearing their nursery smocks. I get the impresion that their father did not approve of them being photographed in such informal clothes.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: June 28, 1998
Last updated: June 28, 1998