As a young woman with the burden of the world on her shoulders, Queen Elizabeth was often forced to place duty before motherhood. Prince Charles, who was 3 when his mother was crowned, would make an appointment with her so she’d squeeze him in between meetings.

Later he’d describe his mother as “not indifferent so much as detached.” For her part, Princess Anne simply learned to be independent. By the time siblings Andrew and Edward came along, Elizabeth was more secure in her position and able to eke out more time to spend with them.

But it’s as a grandmother and great-grandmother that Elizabeth has really come into her own, maternally speaking, going from “Mother” to “Granny” to “Gan-Gan” with each successive generation of children. When he was very young, Prince William had his own special name for his grandmother: Gary!

Diana, Princess of Wales ,Prince William,Prince Harry,Queen Elizabeth II,Princess Margaret,Trooping the Colour
John Shelley Collection/Avalon/Getty Images

British columnist Richard Kay revealed that he learned of the nickname when young Wills took a tumble one day. “The queen was on hand after William fell over at Buckingham Palace, bawling ‘Gary, Gary,’” he wrote. “A guest who went to help asked who Gary was, assuming it must be a member of the royal household. ‘I’m Gary,’ explained the queen, as she scooped him up. ‘He hasn’t learned to say Granny yet.’”

William’s son George also has his own special moniker for Her Majesty. In a documentary to mark the queen’s 90th birthday, William’s wife, Kate, spoke about George’s relationship with his great-grandmother. “George is only two and a half and he calls her GanGan,” she revealed. “She always leaves a little gift or something in their room when we go and stay, and that just shows her love for the family.” And the royal brood continues to grow.

Queen Elizabeth posing with her great-grandchildren
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At last count, the 92-year-old monarch has eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren: Princess Anne’s grandkids, Savannah Phillips, 8, Isla Phillips, 6, Mia Tindall, 5, and 7-month-old Lena Tindall; and Charles’ grandchildren, George, 5, Charlotte, 3, and Louis, 9 months. Gan-Gan has her hands full!

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