Families: We Are All The Same Behind The Smiling Photographs

It is safe to read this post. Don’t worry, there will be no mention of the ‘B’ word. Not even a mention of politics – we are all so fed up with the current bombardment of news from Westminster. This week Poppy Patmore is away and so I want to talk about a subject that is dear to my heart –  families.

It was so heartwarming to see that wonderful picture of Prince Charles celebrating his 70th birthday last week surrounded by his very beautiful family. And then I got to thinking. Which is always dangerous. Firstly what I love about this new and modern royal family is that behind the very carefully choreographed photo (note that it was all colour co-ordinated) is a family just like all of ours… a little dysfunctional. So are they starting to be more like all of us? That is, normal?

We all know that well-known quote from Harper Lee, “You can choose your friends, but not your family.” I would add that in the majority of cases you can also choose to make them your friends.

Families: We Are All The Same Behind The Smiling Photographs

Each of us has a unique and colourful childhood that creates the people we are today. Navigating that time with characters from our families – from the big-talking uncles, gossiping aunts, fighting siblings and neurotic parents – either makes us into accomplished diplomats or amazing magicians, depending on whom you ask.

Look at that Royal picture again and what it is made up of.  Two young men who lost their mother at a young age, three divorcees, one mixed race member by marriage, all three men married to older women and if we are to believe the press, competitive sister-in-laws! It is quite a mix and yet they seemed to have all found some sort of harmony to make it work. To top it all the patriarch and head of the family is probably the oldest apprentice in the country. He is still working at 70 years and in training for the real job!

Now if I was to orchestrate the same family photo I would have an equally non p.c. group. One divorcee, one mixed religion marriage, four unmarried young people but two with life partners (so OH and I are led to believe).

The colour co-ordination could work as we recently celebrated a big birthday and the theme was Hint of Purple and they all participated (daughters more than sons). However my girls have not ever been to the School of How to Walk in Heels and so flatforms or wedges would be more their shoe of choice. Getting the partners in the picture would have been a challenge as I am not sure it is their thing i.e. it would show too much of a commitment to my daughters and that would be way too suggestive!  Both boys have girlfriends but we are not allowed to call the young ladies that and to quote my sons, “It is complicated.”

I told you navigating the minefield of family life is tricky and can sometimes be explosive. Back to the royals who have to play their family life out in public.

Families: We Are All The Same Behind The Smiling Photographs

There was that time when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took their two young children to Canada. Flying with children is a challenge on its own. The world’s press were there to record the moment they walked down the aeroplane steps and it all looked so perfect. Then on closer inspection, we saw a grumpy face on young Prince George. It may have been because he was having to wear shorts with black socks and black lace-up shoes, which is an odd look for a youngster but presumably what is required of a young Prince. Princess Charlotte had a bit of a strop on the tarmac and meanwhile William and Kate were coping with all of this whilst having to greet dignitaries. Kate had the additional issue of coping with two young children wearing a tight dress, high heels, immaculate make-up and hair.

When my kids were young it was leisurewear on planes and rarely any time for even a smudge of lippie.

Like all families, the Royals are very good at putting on a good public front. They may have the staff, the money and the professional photographer (it would be a selfie with our family or some random passer-by with our iPhone who would take the photo) but it is still a wonderful family photo. They might look like a divinely happy family but behind the scenes we are all trying to paper over the cracks and look our best for whoever views the picture. In our case it might go up on Facebook and get a few ‘likes’ but with the Royals it was on the front page of every newspaper and was greeted with great enthusiasm.

Can you imagine getting all those people aged 7 months to 71 years looking good, facing the right way and smiling? Well done to Chris Jackson, the photographer, for making them all laugh and creating such harmonious happiness.

Families are thrown together not by choice but by fate, and forced to make the best of it. Whether by luck or fate, I’m thankful for my family. They are a perpetual source of inspiration and perspiration. They not only challenge me but give me laughter along the way. I am sure Prince Charles, as he celebrates his 70th birthday, feels much the same way!


  1. What a lovely piece, Annabel. You are so right about families and how they look from the outside compared to what’s happening on the inside. Like you, I am very grateful for mine (most of the time!).

    • Social Media like Facebook and Instagram unfortunately make it all look like we have perfect families…..we are all far from perfect!! Ax

  2. Beautiful piece, Annabel. Your experience of family life and mine are very similar! Ours is underpinned with a lot of laughter and we see a lot of our children and grandchildren which my husband and I never take for granted.

  3. Hey I already posted a msg about this lovely post Annabel but for some reason it wouldn’t send or it’s out there in the ethos somewhere,technology a mind of its own.
    It is indeed a happy family, but it would be so complete if Harry and Meghans baby were therer( well he or she is in her tummy) and Diana looking down on them would be so proud of her ‘boys’and their families, flaws and all. All families have them but love conquers all the ups and downs that life throws at all of us. I feel blessed I have a lovely family, yep flaws as well.
    Roll on spring to see the new baby and of course nicer weather on the horizon too.
    Love Pamela from Wales UK x

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