My advice to Princess Charlotte: Look to your great-gran - Christa Ackroyd

A couple of weeks ago a neighbour asked our two middle grandchildren what they wanted to be when they  grow up.

The Queen is a great role model for Princess Charlotte, says Christa Ackroyd. (AFP via Getty Images).

It’s a bit early for career advice perhaps, considering they are five and four, but nevertheless they gave it some serious thought before answering.

Matilda, the sensible one, announced she wanted to be a vet because then she could help animals. Or maybe a doctor, she added, because then she could take care of poorly people. Bless her earnest little face. It brought tears to my eyes.

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Now Margot is a completely different kettle of fish. “And what do you want to be, Margot?” asked the neighbour.

“A tortoise”, came the reply. “But you can’t be a tortoise”, insisted her big sister, “you’re a girl.”

“Yes, I can,” came the determined reply. “Mummy says I can be anything I want to be if I work hard at school.” (She started last month and I could hear more than a touch of parental psychology in her answer).

But she is spot on in her thought process, although a tortoise is maybe stretching it a bit far, considering that of all the things she needs to learn, coming out of her shell is not one of them. Who does she take after, I wonder? I tell you this not as a proud grandparent (though I am) but because that is how her mummy and older sister were brought up – believing anything is possible.

And they have both passed it on to their girls, telling them they are in charge of their destiny, which they must follow, regardless of what anyone tells them.

It’s what my parents taught me, even when my comprehensive school English teacher laughed when I suggested I wanted to be a journalist. If you dream it you can be it.

Now I am sure our little ones will change their minds many times before settling on a career. The exciting thing about life, particularly if you’ve lived a lot of it, is that you come to realise it is not mapped out for you, that you are in charge of your own destiny.

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No matter how ridiculous your ambitions may seem to others, you must always follow your heart. Or as my dad once put it, “A day doing a job you love will never seem like doing a day’s work at all.”

Which is why speculation about what Princess Charlotte may do in later life other than be a princess is totally bonkers. And in a way also rather sad.

And another reason why I would rather Margot dreamed of being a tortoise than a princess. Because being a princess definitely isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, whatever Disney may say.

Princess Charlotte seems a sweet girl, though judging by some of the photographs she certainly has her moments, which of course she should do. She is only six years old, whatever her station in life. So any speculation that she could amass a fortune far in excess of brothers George and William because she is a cutie is not only premature but simply ridiculous.

Even more ridiculous when one newspaper calculated it could be as much as £3.6 billion because of clothing sales.

As if a little girl should be defined by how she looks and what she wears when she is older, princess or not. I really thought we had grown up a bit on that front. So here is my advice to Princess Charlotte. If you need a role model look no further than great granny. What an inspiration.

This week our Queen, at the age of 95, is recovering by doing “light duties” after a brief stay in hospital. When you consider the Queen has her own physician at the Palace it must have been of enough concern, or perhaps simply necessity, to require hospitalisation.

But whatever some newspapers suggest to the contrary, there is the public face of the monarchy and the private one. And health definitely belongs on the private list.

The Queen’s health is her own business, though of course as someone who loves the monarchy, or at least our monarch, all we can do is wish her well and admire her tenacity as she remains at home, though still at her desk as she prepares to address next week’s Glasgow climate-change conference via video rather than in person.

She is approaching 100. She has clearly been unwell but still she soldiers on because that is the job she signed up for, a job for life. And one she has given herself to wholeheartedly.

It is understood she has agreed to rest to be well enough to attend this year’s service of remembrance in Westminster Abbey. I do hope she is well enough to be there. And I hope she is there for many years to come. Last year she returned to London amid the pandemic for the first time in eight months to attend and to lay a floral tribute based on her wedding bouquet on the grave of the Unknown Warrior, a gesture followed by many a Royal bride.

This year will be her first as a widow, so it will be particularly moving for her. But she will face her duty with stoicism and dignity. She always does.

Like so many readers I have never known a life without our Queen. She is a constant, even in times of uncertainty, and next year we will celebrate her Platinum Jubilee as our longest-serving monarch.

She is as wise as her years. She still twinkles despite family crises. She is quietly knowing, effortless, wise and in private I am sure she is a hoot. But above all she is a role model for all generations.

Princess Charlotte will be able to choose her own destiny. Her parents have already decided on that. The Queen could not. But she has given us her all and still refuses to take life easy, whatever her doctors advise.

So God Save the Queen, say I, and long may she reign over us.