It’s been said that Her Majesty was really in her element behind the scenes with one of her 13 great-grandchildren on her lap.
They say your family is your legacy, and on top of being the longest-reigning monarch in British history, the Queen has a huge legacy—four children, eight grandchildren and a literal gaggle of beautiful great-grandchildren (13 to be exact). Over the years, we’ve been treated to a measured number of family photo ops that show Her Majesty posing with her littlest family members, plus some delightfully candid moments at events like Trooping the Colour. But we’ve also gotten some sweet and often hilarious soundbites from the famously quick-witted monarch, who died peacefully at age 96 today. Over her many years, she has clearly come to accept that kids will be kids!
And there were LOTS of kids around. Her grandkids are Savannah (11) and Isla Phillips (10); Mia (8), Lena (4) and Lucas Tindall (1); Archie (3) and Lilibet (1) Mountbatten-Windsor; Prince George (9), Princess Charlotte (7) and Prince Louis (4); Siena Mapelli Mozzi (11 months); and August Brooksbank (1).
Take a look at the Queen’s best posed and candid photos with her great-grandchildren and some of our favourite stories and soundbites.
2018: Posing with Prince Philip and their then-seven great-grandchildren in a photo snapped by the Duchess of Cambridge.
She’s known to be called “Gan-Gan” by her great-grandchildren, but the Queen has had even funnier nicknames in the past. Daily Mail columnist Richard Kay once told a story about a time when little Prince William fell at Buckingham Palace and cried “Gary, Gary!” While everyone was sure Gary had to be a royal staff member, the Queen breezed in, scooped up the little prince and said, “I’m Gary. He hasn’t learned to say Granny yet.”
2016: Posing with her then-five great-grandchildren to celebrate her 90th birthday.
Before Prince Louis became the king of funny faces, then-two-year-old Mia Tindall stole the show holding the Queen’s handbag for this Annie Leibovitz portrait—and the backstory is pretty hilarious. Mia’s dad, Mike Tindall, who is married to the monarch’s granddaughter, Zara, told Good Morning Britain that the purse helped with a little bout of the terrible twos. “She was being a bit naughty,” he explained. “The Queen got it quite right when she told her, ‘Just hold the handbag now,’ and she did that. It ended up being a great photo of her.” He added, “It will be something we’ll always cherish, I think.’
2022: Prince Louis takes a moment from being a living meme to listen to his Gan-Gan. (Well played, granny).
Though she may have tried chatting with Prince Louis to stop his animated displays on the balcony at Trooping the Colour, mischievous moments were nothing new to Her Majesty. In a 2018 documentary, the Queen showed off her holiday decorations and got real about kids and Christmas trees. “The children love knocking those off. Well, my great-grandchildren do. Anyway, they enjoy themselves.” She also shared a royal parenting hack: “The great thing is to make them decorate it and they’re a bit more careful.”
2015: The Queen has a chat with a toddling Prince George at Princess Charlotte’s christening.
Speaking of Prince George, back in 2013, when the world was overcome with royal baby fever waiting for him to be born, Her Majesty gave us a chuckle when asked by some children whether she’d prefer a great-grandson or a great-granddaughter. “I don’t think I mind,” she said, adding, “I would very much like it to arrive. I’m going on holiday. No sign yet.”
2015: She only had eyes for baby Princess Charlotte during the Cambridges’ visit to Balmoral.
Kate gave some insight into how the Queen dotes on her great-grandchildren during ITV’s Our Queen at Ninety documentary in 2016. “She always leaves a little gift or something in their room when we go and stay, and that just shows her love for the family.” The duchess added: “The queen was really thrilled that [our second child] was a little girl, and I think as soon as we came back here to Kensington Palace [from the hospital], she was one of our first visitors here.” She enjoyed seeing the siblings’ relationship blossom, and during an event in 2018, after an attendee told her that their youngest rules the roost, the Queen explained, “It’s like that with Charlotte and George.” Which probably brought back memories of her strong-willed daughter, Princess Anne.
2019: The Queen was all smiles while meeting Prince Harry and Meghan’s firstborn, Archie.
Queen Elizabeth always kept up with technology (she was the first in her family to tweet, after all)—especially when that meant staying connected to far-off family. Once Prince Harry and Meghan moved to California, they kept in touch with Gran over Zoom, and in a call with Archie to celebrate her birthday, the Queen was quick to note that he’d inherited his dad’s signature red locks, according to royal reporter Katie Nicholl.
2016: Her Majesty posed next to an adorable Prince George in another photo for her 90th birthday (that was also turned into stamps of their faces).
The Queen’s life will go down in history, but these moments with her family were arguably among the most important. “The queen [was] in her element [with] her great-grandchildren sitting on her lap and having that family time,” royal expert Kerene Barefield told Us Weekly. Though the world never got to see those moments between the ever-private monarch and her family, these little glimpses give us insight into what those special times were like.