The Queen had been an absentee mom thanks to her many duties as the monarch while Diana had been a hands-on mother.
Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Diana are believed to have had a relationship fraught with complications. The young princess always felt "misunderstood" in the midst of the royal family because she was a bit of a rebel. In a 1991 letter to "dear and special" friend Dudley Poplak, she wrote that she felt "extremely isolated" and "continually misunderstood" by Charles' family, according to Daily Mail.
Lady Diana had been considered a solid match for Charles but she was someone who challenged the monarchy in her ways. For instance, she picked her engagement ring from a catalog instead of getting it custom made as was the tradition, according to GoodHousekeeping. She had also refused to say that she would "obey" Charles during the wedding vows. In the documentary Diana: In Her Own Words, the People's Princess had accused the Queen of not helping her when she went to her about her marriage troubles. In 1986, she asked her for advice since "her marriage was loveless" but the response she received was inadequate.
"I went to the top lady and said: ‘I don’t know what I should do.' She said: ‘I don’t know what you should do.’ And that was it. That was ‘help'" she said. The Princess and the Queen also differed in their parenting styles.
Now, Sarah Bradford, Viscountess Bangor, revealed that during one meeting between the Queen, Prince William, Prince Harry, and Diana, the monarch came across as "frigid" though it was something else entirely. Bradford said it was "shyness" since the two women had contrasting ideas about parenting. The Queen was trying to be polite and not comment on Diana's method of how to raise her kids, Bradford said, as per Daily Mail.
"I don’t think the Queen could understand how important it was to Diana to be a hands-on mother. I remember one courtier describing the Queen as 'frigid' when Diana and the boys came to tea. I understand what he was trying to say, but it wasn’t so much frigidity as shyness. She was holding back because their ideas on bringing up children were different," she said.
This wasn't the only incident. "Once at Balmoral, when William was very small, his nanny was on holiday so Diana was looking after him. The Queen was surprised and said, 'I don't understand why Diana has to do this; there are millions of housemaids around.' It shows the huge divide between parenting then, in Diana's era, and even today with William and Harry who are proving to be extremely hands-on fathers," said Bradford, a royal biographer.
Her hands-on approach meant that she was able to spend a lot more time with her sons after the divorce. But, even before the divorce, she made sure that they have a normal childhood.
"If she was entertaining she would eat in the dining room with the guest, and William and Harry would join her. If she had a lunchtime engagement the boys would eat with nanny in the nursery, and at night if she was alone with the boys it would be called 'all in' in the dining room. That meant the starter, main and pudding would all go into the dining room together on the sideboard. That way she didn't need a butler going in and out listening to things. They could shut the door and be private. Just her and the boys," said Darren McGrady, their personal chef. "If they wanted to eat in front of the TV in Charles's study, which had become their TV room, she would let them. And play on their PlayStations. She wanted them to be normal," he added.
Personal trainer Carolan Brown narrated another incident, which left Charles fuming but Diana was in peals of laughter. "One day William and Harry let a stink bomb off in the hall after Diana had taken them to the joke shop, and then they let another off in Charles's office. He went absolutely mad, but Diana just laughed," the trainer said.
Her former bodyguard, Ken Wharfe, added that she had made it clear to her personal secretaries that she didn't want to be disturbed before 9.30 am as she wanted to take her kids to school herself.
"That was important for her. And she wanted to be back from any engagement at the end of the day so she could be in the nursery for when the kids came back or to oversee an afternoon with their friends," he added.
Compared to this, the Queen had been largely absent from her children's lives because she had a retinue of people available to take care of them, and she let them. She was also likely far busier than the princess.