Growing up royal isn’t what it used to be.
Fans of the British royal family have grown accustomed to seeing Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis in both formal and casual settings. They appear alongside Queen Elizabeth on the Buckingham Palace balcony for Trooping the Colour, and weeks later they’re snacking from the trunk of the car while dad Prince William plays polo.
However, this contemporary way of raising monarchs-in-training wasn’t always the case.
“Even the Queen in the ’50s said she wanted her children brought up as normally as possible,” biographer Ingrid Seward, author of Royal Children, says in this week’s PEOPLE cover story. “But it’s a fantasy [to say that].”
When Prince Charles and Princess Anne were young, they were only able to see their monarch mother at two appointed “meetings” each day. Even when Prince Andrew and Prince Edward were born in the 1960s, it was a “nanny-dominated world,” says Seward.
In addition, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip would often leave their children at home while traveling on royal tours. “People didn’t travel with their children then,” Seward explains. “There wasn’t so much communication — the nanny would ring up and announce to Charles, ‘Mummy’s on the phone from Australia.’ “
Princess Diana made it a point to give her two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, as normal a childhood as possible despite their royal roles. They would be seen on the regular outings kids take, from trips to the amusement park to McDonald’s.
Diana also made sure to spend lots of time with her boys, even bringing a nearly 1-year-old William on tour, a first for a royal baby.
William and Kate followed Princess Diana’s lead when they took George on tour Down Under when he was just 9 months old, and brought Princess Charlotte along to Canada when she was just 2. Harry and Meghan Markle will do the same this fall when they bring Archie, born May 6, on their royal tour of Africa.
“This will be their first official tour as a family!” they announced on Instagram, in another contemporary twist.
Despite having the help of trusted nanny Maria Turrion Borrallo, Kate and William are making sure to follow in Diana’s footsteps and be hands-on parents.
“The Cambridge kids are really lively,” a source tells PEOPLE. “You can see Kate is a great mom. Clearly the kids are having fun.”
Meanwhile, William is “very much the modern dad.” He makes sure to practice “active listening” by squatting down to his children’s eye level when speaking with them — a move that inspired actress Anne Hathaway to do the same.
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An insider says that “George is more reserved, and Charlotte is more outgoing.”
Both personalities were on display at Kate and William’s charity sailing race last week, with Charlotte playfully sticking out her tongue at one point.
“Kate just handled it wonderfully,” says a longtime royal observer. “She just laughed, and it was really lovely to see. For once you looked at them and thought, ‘They’re a family,’ rather than ‘the royal family.’ “