Royals who were unrecognizable when they were younger
It may seem like just the other day that royals Prince William and Prince Harry attended their mother Princess Diana’s funeral. It was perhaps the most tragic event to affect the royal family in modern times. Nevertheless, it was over two decades ago that we learned of Diana’s passing. Since then, both William and Harry have transformed from young boys into respected men who would no doubt make the late princess proud.
But William and Harry aren’t the only two royals who have gone through dramatic transformations over the years. In fact, over the last century, many members of Britain’s elite have changed before our very eyes. Everyone from the Queen Mother (Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon) down to one of the newest additions to the royal family, Meghan Markle, have undergone transformations worthy of recognition. Here are some members of the royal family who look nearly unrecognizable compared to how they looked in their younger years.
The Queen Mother: 'a veritable heroine' through and through
Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was born in the year 1900, and she was her parents’ ninth child. Even so, her biography, The Queen Mother: The Untold Story of Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, Who Became Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, explains that she was a “much longed-for baby” and was born into an “unusually happy” family — which turned out to be a good thing.
Bowes-Lyon, or the Queen Mother as she would later be called, lived through two world wars and survived a serious house fire at Glamis Castle. After the fire, she was called “a veritable heroine” due to “the salvage work she performed within the fire zone.” Her life may have been full of dramatic events, but it was a life well-lived.
In the early 2000s, although she was obviously not as spry as she used to be, she spent the week before her death talking on the telephone with old friends. In the end, Bowes-Lyon lived to be 101 years old. “As so often had occurred during her life,” her biography states, “the occasion was almost perfectly staged. Her death was peaceful and painless.”
Queen Elizabeth II: once an unlikely ruler, now a colorful queen
Queen Elizabeth II was born as Princess Elizabeth to the Queen Mother in 1926. According to Royal Sisters: Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret, England was “on the brink of industrial chaos” during that same year. That chaos would continue throughout the first half of the Queen’s life.
Although it may be hard to picture Queen Elizabeth as anything other than, well, the Queen, that wasn’t always the case. Her parents desired a large family, and, if she’d had a brother, she would not have taken the throne. Additionally, her uncle was expected to marry and have children — any of whom would’ve bumped her down the line of succession.
Despite the odds, Elizabeth became Queen of England after her father’s sudden death — when she was just 25 years old. And, in 2015, she became the world’s longest reigning monarch. In her decades on the throne, her fashion has evolved to include bright, easily recognizable colors and some incredibly funky hats. That takes some serious confidence, but, as the head of the royal family, we’re sure she’s got what it takes.
Prince Charles: from a timid child to the future king
“Poor little chap, two-and-a-half hours after being born, he was being looked at by outsiders — but with great affection and good will,” Major Thomas Harvey, Queen Elizabeth’s private secretary, is quoted as saying about newborn Prince Charles in the biography Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life. And this was all before his mother took the throne.
Charles was the first of four children born to Princess Elizabeth and he was only around 5 years old when she was crowned. As a young boy, Charles was timid, per his biography. He had a tendency to withdrawal “at the hint of a raised voice.” He was also an intelligent child. Winston Churchill even once remarked, “He is young to think so much.”
While Prince Charles’ later years involved a tumultuous marriage to, and a subsequent divorce from, Princess Diana, his image has long since been restored. In April 2018, Queen Elizabeth named her eldest son her successor. However, only time will tell if he’s truly ready to become king.
Princess Anne: a lifelong equestrian enthusiast
In 1950, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip welcomed another child, Princess Anne. When she was young, she developed an interest in horseback riding and would go on to pursue her passion through equestrian competitions. According to her biography, the princess won the individual European championship in 1971. Unfortunately, for reasons mostly to do with “troubles with her horse,” she did not participate in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany. However, she did participate in the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada.
It was through her love of horseback riding that Anne would bond with her first husband, commoner and fellow equestrian enthusiast, Captain Mark Phillips. Some 19 years and two children later, Anne divorced and remarried a former aide to her mother, Commander Timothy Laurence.
Although the Princess Royal has changed since her days as a golden-locked little girl, she still loves — and rides — horses, as of this writing.
Prince Andrew: a groundbreaking infancy and a scandalous adulthood
As you can see from the photo above, Prince Andrew was an adorable baby. He was the third child of Queen Elizabeth II but her first since becoming the Queen of England. His birth also marked the first child to be born to a sitting monarch in over a century, according to Andrew’s biography. The prince was also born a decade later than his big sis, Princess Anne.
When Andrew was just 13 years old, he left home to attend Gordonstoun School in Morayshire, Scotland, a prestigious boarding school. In the late ’70s, he joined the Royal Navy and became a helicopter pilot — a position he held for 22 years.
Although Andrew leads a relatively quiet life compared to some of the other members of the royal family, his name was plastered all over British tabloids in the mid-’80s for his relationship with, and later marriage to, Sarah Ferguson. Ten years later, the couple divorced. Andrew seems to have bounced back rather well, though the drama of his past still follows him.
Prince Edward: from a 'bookish child' to a full-time royal
Much like Andrew, Prince Edward keeps a low profile. Well, as low of a profile as is possible for a royal. Edward is the youngest child of Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II. His biography described the prince as a “bookish child” and an introvert who liked to “spend time alone.” By the time he went off to boarding school in Scotland, he excelled in both sports and academics. His top grades enabled him to complete two terms at the Collegiate School in New Zealand and pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree.
After earning his degree, he trained to become a member of the Royal Marines. Unlike older brother Andrew, who remained in military service for decades, Edward decided that he wasn’t exactly cut out for the Marines. Instead, he began a career in theater and television production. By 1993, he had formed his own television production company.
Nevertheless, he was still a royal — and a prince, at that. In 2002, he stepped down from his company in order to focus on his royal duties. Although Edward may still be that same “bookish child” in many ways, he excels in royal service.
Prince William: a tragic childhood and an epic future
“William’s arrival in the world could not have come at a better moment,” states Prince William: The Man Who Will Be King. “Britain was in a triumphant mood; the Falklands War … was over.” As it happens, it was formally declared over on the day before the prince arrived. The prince’s birth was also special as he was Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s first child and, of course, a future heir to the British throne.
William’s mother knew she didn’t want her children “to be seen and not heard” or “banished to the nursery.” Despite her best intentions, she still struggled to adjust to motherhood — which was made infinitely harder by “postnatal [or postpartum] depression,” according to William’s biography.
Sadly, William was just a teenager when his parents divorced and when his mother died in a tragic car accident. And although we may never know just how teenage William managed to recover from losing his mom, we do know that he grew up to be someone Diana would be proud to call her son. Over half of Brits also approve of Prince William — 56 percent feel he’d make a great future king.
Prince Harry: from party boy to Prince Charming
While William may have gone through his younger years without making too many blunders, the same can not be said for his younger brother, Prince Harry. “Ever since he lost his mother when he was just twelve years old, Harry has had a place in our hearts,” royal expert Katie Nicholl explained in Harry: Life, Loss, and Love. “It is why he has always been forgiven for those well-documented falls from grace.”
While Harry is now — keyword: now —the epitome of a well-behaved prince and loving husband, you can’t forget some of his missteps, like the “colonial” (more like Nazi) costume he wore when attending his friend’s birthday party in 2005. Some of his less offensive offenses include playing strip billiards in Vegas and, while at a party in Croatia, falling into a pool after getting what can only be assumed as super drunk.
Harry may still have his adorable ginger-colored hair, but thankfully he’s changed in pretty much every other way.
Meghan Markle: from Hollywood to British royalty
Three years before Prince Harry came into the world, Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland welcomed home a healthy baby girl named Rachel Meghan Markle. Unlike Harry who grew up among royalty, Meghan was raised by parents who worked in show business. Though, it wasn’t always as glamorous as it may sound.
When speaking with Elle, Markle discussed what it was like growing up with a white father and an African American mother in Los Angeles, Calif. circa the 1980s. As a child, she heard her mother get called “the ‘N’ word.” Markle revealed, “My skin rushed with heat as I looked to my mom. Her eyes welling with hateful tears, I could only breathe out a whisper of words, so hushed they were barely audible: ‘It’s OK, Mommy.'”Markle takes pride in being biracial and is still very close with her mother.
And while there’s no doubt that the Duchess of Sussex grew up to be a physically stunning human being, she’s also proved that she’s anything but superficial.