The royal family then and now: How they've changed over the years

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Growing up in the public eye is par for the course for the royals. But even with all the pomp and ceremony that comes with growing up in palaces and castles, there are still some rights of passage that remain the same for kids everywhere.

While the Queen's life was very different being home educated by governesses and receiving private tuition in constitutional history from the Vice-Provost of Eton College, Prince Charles' generation had a much more recognisable upbringing – albeit extremely privileged.

Buckingham Palace balcony
The royal family on the Buckingham Palace balcony. Photo: Getty Images

He and his siblings (except Anne) went to Gordonstoun School, a boys school in Scotland like his father before and Charles was the first heir apparent to earn a university degree attending Cambridge University where he did a Bachelor of Arts. 

For each milestone events of a royal's life – their first day at school, graduating university or being made a prefect – photographers were there to capture these moments, not just for their family but for the whole world to see. 

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And even those who joined the royal family later like Kate Middleton, discovered it's wasn't long before photos were being snapped and shown in papers and magazines around the world.

So just how much have the British royals changed? Here's a nostalgic look back at the most senior royals over the years...

Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth wearing orange
Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on October 07, 2021. Photo: Getty Images

Her Majesty The Queen, 95, had no idea what was in store for her when she was a young child. Yes, she was born into the British royal family, but it was her uncle King Edward VIII who was on the throne. 

When he abdicated for love, her father took his place and she became heir apparent. Suddenly her country became her duty.

Queen Elizabeth II as a young princess
Queen Elizabeth II as a young princess and at her coronation. Photo: Getty Images

Above the young princess is seen at the tender age of 14 months. The 12-year-old Princess Elizabeth in the Royal Box at the Aldershot Tattoo. At her wedding to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in 1947; and at her coronation, when she became Queen on June 2, 1953 in Westminster Abbey – she was just 27 at the time.

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, pointing into the distance
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, on July 9, 2021 in Cardiff. Photo: Getty Images

Prince Charles, 72, is the first born child of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip and as such has spent his whole life in the spotlight. He was only four when his mother became Queen. 

Prince Charles as a baby, at six years old and as a young man. Photo: Getty Images
Prince Charles as a baby, at six years old and as a young man. Photo: Getty Images

Princess Elizabeth poses with Charles for his first birthday portrait; Six-year-old Charles at the door of The Welsh House, a miniature house donated to Princesses Margaret and Elizabeth by the people of Wales in the grounds the Royal Lodge in Windsor; And the young 19-year-old prince at the 1967 State Opening of Parliament.

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge

Prince William and Kate Middleton in Northern Ireland
Prince William visits the City of Derry Rugby Club on September 29, 2021. Photo: WireImage

Prince William, 39, is the first born son of Charles and his first wife Diana, Princess of Wales. There has always been a strong affection for William, not only by the British public but across the globe, especially after losing his mother so tragically.

Prince William over the years. Photo: Getty Images
Prince William over the years. Photo: Getty Images

Above is the late Princess Diana with baby Wills during their tour of New Zealand; Prince William during a skiing holiday to Austria in 1991; Prince William celebrating his 18th birthday at his school Eton College where he was one of small group of elected prefects; And William on the balcony at Buckingham Palace after his wedding to Kate Middleton.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge 

Kate Middleton in Londonderry
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge last month in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Photo: Getty Images

She may not have been born into the royal family but the fascination over Catherine, or Kate Middleton as she is often still referred to, is huge. After all, she will be queen when William becomes king and she is also the mother to future king, Prince George.

Kate Middleton when she was in university
Kate Middleton faced scrutiny when she started dating William at university. Photo: Getty Images

Interest really picked up on Kate, now 39, when it was reported that William had become serious with his University of St. Andrews girlfriend. 

The first picture is of Kate sighted prior to her graduation ceremony (third picture) at the university where she obtained a 2:1 degree in the History of Art. She was also spotted at Cheltenham Race Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse in the early days of her dating William.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex

Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle speak during the 2021 Global Citizen Live
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle speak during the 2021 Global Citizen Live festival in New York. Photo: Getty Images

Harry, 37, may have retired from royal life but that hasn't stopped the interest in his life. Since marrying American actress Meghan Markle, the Prince has moved to Los Angeles where they live a more private life with son Archie and daughter Lilibet. 

But over the years, the public have seen Harry grow from a shy little boy into a cheeky larrikin and finally into the family man that his mother Diana would have wanted him to become.

Prince Harry from child to man
Prince Harry growing up in the public eye. Photo: Getty Images

At just one, little Prince Harry was adorable in his playroom at Kensington Palace; At the tender age of six he was already comfortable in a suit as he attended an Easter service; Prince Harry during 'The Wall Game' at his school Eton College, a type of football loosely related to rugby; And Harry in 2019 just after becoming a father.

Princess Beatrice of York

Princess Beatrice as a child and with her husband
Princess Beatrice is recognisable by her red hair! Photo: Getty Images

Being a grandchild of The Queen and a cousin to the future king has meant that Princess Beatrice, 33, has also led her life in the public eye. The daughter of Prince Andrew, Duke of York and Sarah Ferguson she has been photographed throughout her childhood.

Now a mother herself to daughter Sienna who was born last month, she will continue her life in the royal family with her husband, property developer Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi.

Beatrice is seen as a toddler visiting her newly born sister in hospital; As a 20-year-old she attended a charity launch with her mother Sarah Ferguson; And in the late stages of pregnancy with her husband Edoardo at Wimbledon.

Princess Eugenie of York

Princess Eugenie as a child, at university and with her husband
Princess Eugenie hasn't changed much. Photo: Getty Images

Like her sister Beatrice, Eugenie, 31, has grown up in the public eye. She is very popular both with senior royals and her cousins alike. She also became a mother this year giving birth to son August in February.

The photos above show eight-year old Princess Eugenie at Wentworth Golf Club for a charity golf match in aid of Children In Crisis; Eugenie attending her graduation ceremony at Newcastle University in 2012; And with her husband Jack Brooksbank at The Grove hotel at an event to raise money for The Black Heart Foundation.

Who is your favourite royal over the years?

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