Look at How Much the Royal Family Has Changed Over the Years
Aside from the money, the style and the glamour associated with the British royal family, the fascination with the British royal family is partly derived from its longevity and endurance. The members of the royal family, unlike, say, a President or Prime Minister, can be known by several generations because their terms don’t expire.
The royal family is made of figures that you knew as children and that you have watched grow into the icons that they have become. The world watched as Prince Charles became King Charles III and as William became the heir apparent. And as their titles (and hairlines) changed, we’ve all changed too.
Watching those sad little princes at their mother’s funeral grow into adults with big happy families really puts things into perspective and gives hope for the future. It’s almost hard to believe just how much time has passed, and if it makes you feel old – sorry – but rest assured it makes us feel old too.
Here you will find 16 photos of the royal family showing how much everyone in the British Royal Family has changed. Looking back on some of these photos, it's so clear how fleeting time really is. And as we say goodbye to the Queen, we bow to a new King. Let’s take a look!
Then: Elizabeth II
Born in Mayfair, Elizabeth II was the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York who later became King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. When her father ascended the throne in 1936, she became the heir apparent. Due to the times, she received a private education at home and undertook public duties during WWII.
In 1947, she married Philip Mountbatten, whom she would remain married to until his death in 2021. They would have four children together, including Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward. After her father died in 1952, Elizabeth II became the Queen of the United Kingdom at the age of 25 years.
Now: Elizabeth II
Elizabeth II would carry on her royal duties for most of her life, including giving speeches to Parliament and public outreach, as well as regular visits with the Prime Minister and other world leaders. While her role as Queen was significant she did not hold absolute power like the many kings and queens before her.
Elizabeth II died on September 8, 2022. She was under medical supervision, but despite their efforts, the passing of the Queen was inevitable. The death of Elizabeth II set in motion Operation London Bridge which was a plan that included the Queen’s funeral, which took place on September 19, 2022.
Then: Prince Philip
Philip Mountbatten was born the Prince of Greece and Denmark, having been born into both royal families. He received his education from Germany, France and the United Kingdom and joined the royal navy in 1939. He was 18-years-old when he began corresponding with the 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth.
In 1946, Philip was granted permission to marry Elizabeth by the King himself. Prince Philip became the husband of Elizabeth II in 1947 and served as her consort when she ascended the throne in 1952. And since they remained married until his death, he became the longest-serving royal consort in history.
Now: Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
By 2009, Philp had already earned the distinguishment of being the longest-serving consort in history. He was also the oldest male British royal and the third longest-living member of the British royal family. But after suffering from a number of health problems, in 2011, he announced to the world that he would be greatly reducing his duties.
For his 90th birthday, the Queen gave him the title Lord High Admiral. In 2017, he finally retired from his royal duties and continued to be hospitalized due to his declining health and in 2019 because of a car crash. In April 2021, Prince Philip died at the age of 99 in Windsor Castle.
Then: Prince Harry
Prince Harry is the son of King Charles III and his first wife, the late Diana, Princess of Wales. As the Youngest son of King Charles III, he is the fifth in line of succession. Born on September 15, 1984, in Paddington, London, he was christened Henry Charles Albert David on his name day, December 21st.
Harry was just a boy when his mother and father divorced in 1996, which is a big enough blow for any kid, and a year later, he faced the death of his mother in a car crash. And since then, he’s been through a lot, attending various independent schools and completing his education at Eton college. In 2005, he entered in the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and joined the Alamein Company. Later on, he trained to become an officer and was commissioned as a Cornet in the Blues and Royals.
Now: Harry, Duke of Sussex
Prince Harry served until 2015 and described his time in the army as the happiest time in his life in the documentary series The Me You Can’t See. His reasons: “Because I got to wear the same uniform as everybody else. I had to do all the same training as everybody else. I started from the bottom like everybody else.“
Having never enjoyed the spotlight of being a Prince, it’s really no surprise that Harry ended up abandoning his royal duties after marrying civilian Meghan Markle in 2018. In 2020, the two of them decided to step back as senior members of the Royal family to spend time in both the United Kingdom and North America. They are now financially independent and no longer represent the crown.
Then: Meghan Markle
Meghan Markle is unlike any other member of the royal family. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Meghan Markle was merely an American civilian before becoming a member of the royal family. She began acting at Northwestern University and sought a career in acting thereafter. Her most notable work was on the television series Suits in which she played Rachel Zane.
She was married to film producer Trevor Engelson from 2011 to 2013, but true love came to her in 2016 when she began a relationship with Prince Harry. Both of them became subject to scrutiny but none of it drove them apart. In November 2017, the couple announced their engagement.
Now: Meghan, Duchess of Sussex
In preparation for their wedding, Meghan Markle had to be baptized and confirmed into the Church of England. That May in 2018, their wedding ceremony took place, and thereafter, the Duke and Duchess lived at Nottingham Cottage and later Frogmore Cottage at Windsor Castle. In May 2019, Markle gave birth to their first son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor.
Since early 2020, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have stepped down as senior members of the royal family, abandoning their royal duties and living financially independent. It is worth noting, however, since stepping down, she still legally holds the title Duchess of Sussex. After suffering from a miscarriage, Markel had a second child, a daughter named Lilibet Mountbatten-Windsor in June 2021. Both Harry and Meghan were in attendance at Elizabeth II’s funeral.
Then: Prince William
Prince William is the heir apparent to the British throne as he is the eldest son of King Charles and his late mother, Princess Diana. Like his younger brother Harry, he attended private schools and went to Eton College. He finished his education with a Scottish Master of Arts degree in geography at the University of St Andrews.
He then trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and served in the Blues and Royals. In 2008, he graduated from the Royal Air Force College Cranwell and joined the RAF Search and Rescue Force in 2009. Starting in 2015, he served as a full-time pilot for the East Anglian Air Ambulance for two years. Having met her in his college days, Prince William and Catherine Middleton had an on-again and off-again relationship that ultimately led to their engagement in 2010.
Now: William, Prince of Wales
The wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton took place at Westminster Abbey in London, and just before the ceremony, Prince William became the Duke of Cambridge, among other titles. As a married couple, they moved into Nottingham Cottage as their main London residence. Prince William would become a father in 2013 when Catherine gave birth to Prince George.
Today, Prince William has three children and his marriage to Catherine Middleton is going splendidly. He is sitting on the bulk of a £12.9 million inheritance that he and his brother got from their late mother. That number has grown significantly over the years. William has been actively performing his royal duties and, like his mother, has been proactive in humanitarian efforts. Since his father’s ascension to the throne in 2022, Prince William has been given several new titles, including Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland.
Then: Kate Middleton
Catherine, Princess of Wales, is married to Prince William, the heir apparent to the British throne, making her the next likely Queen Consort. Catherine Middleton was born in Reading but grew up mostly in Bucklebury, Berkshire. She earned her education at St. Andrew’s School and Marlborough College. Thereafter she studied art history at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.
And it was at that University that she met Prince William in 2001. However, they didn’t begin dating until 2003. They split in 2004 but resumed their relationship shortly after. Their rollercoaster relationship ended again in 2007 but they reconciled once more at the Concert for Diana later that year. By 2010, William and Catherine became engaged.
Now: Catherine, Princess of Wales
After marrying at Westminster Abbey in 2011, Catherine gave birth to her first child, Prince George in July 2013. In May 2015, she gave birth to a second child, Princess Charlotte. And most recently, she gave birth to her third child, Prince Louis in April 2018. In addition to their human children, William and Kate also have two Cocker Spaniels named Lupo and Orla.
Since her marriage to William, she has assumed all of her royal duties and commitments, including charity work for organizations like Action for Children, the National Portrait Gallery, Action on Addiction and the Royal College of Obstetricians, among others. Upon her marriage, she became the Duchess of Cambridge and has since the death of Elizabeth II, has become the Princess of Wales.
Then: Prince Charles
Charles was born in Buckingham Palace during the reign of King George VI. He was just three years old when his grandfather died and his mother Elizabeth II ascended the throne. In 1958, he became the Prince of Wales. Like his father, he was educated at Cheam and Gordonstoun. After earning a Bachelor’s degree at the University of Cambridge, he served in both the Air Force and the Navy from 1971 to 1976.
His marriage in 1981, to Lady Diana Spencer, was a huge spectacle. The wedding costed an estimated $48 million, which adjusted for inflation is almost three times that. An estimated 750 million viewers watched from all over the globe. But it was all for naught, for the marriage started to fall apart within the first five years. Charles resumed an affair with Camilla Parker Bowles in 1986 and Diana had her own relationships as well. They had a legal separation in 1992 and they divorced in 1996.
Now: King Charles III
Charles would not remarry until 2005. He became engaged to Camilla Parker Bowles early that year and they would have a civil ceremony rather than a church ceremony due to the controversy surrounding her, given that she was previously married. The ceremony took place at Windsor Castle but his parents did not attend.
Charles would remain the Prince of Wales until 2022 when his mother Queen Elizabeth II died. Upon her death, he became King Charles III. In a statement, at his mother’s funeral, Charles III said, “As we all prepare to say our last farewell, I wanted simply to take this opportunity to say thank you to all those countless people who have been such a support and comfort to my Family and myself in this time of grief.”
Then: Camilla Parker Bowles
Camilla is not the most beloved member of the royal family, but she’s certainly been a subject of interest for quite a while. Raised in East Sussex and South Kensington, she was educated in France, Switzerland and England. In 1973, she married a British officer named Andrew Parker Bowles with whom she had two children.
Before and during their respective marriages, Camilla and Charles were involved in an affair that attracted a lot of scrutiny for the pair. Camilla ended up getting divorced in 1995 and Charles in 1996. Following their divorce, Camilla and Charles would carry on their relationship as Charles refused to give it up, despite the negative publicity.
Now: Camilla, Queen Consort
Camilla and Charles would eventually marry in 2005. While the wedding was quite controversial, nobody could stop their blessed union. Although it took place as a civil ceremony rather than a church ceremony. Neither of their parents was in attendance at the wedding. After becoming the Duchess of Cornwall, she earned a higher rank as the second highest woman in the British order of precedence.
In 2022, after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Charles has become King Charles III and Camilla is now Queen Consort. While she had previously expressed interest in having the title of princess consort, Elizabeth II expressed her own wish that Camilla be known as Queen Consort – and so it is.