GREAT BRITAIN: Mother to Dozens

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At 33, fresh-faced Mabel Anderson is still unmarried, but by custom she is always to be addressed as "Mrs." in her job at Buckingham Palace. The daughter of a Liverpool policeman who was killed in the blitz, she first appeared on the national scene when Prince Charles was in need of an assistant nurse. She turned out to be the only applicant who was "not shaking with nerves." This week Mrs. Anderson officially rises another notch—as fulltime "nanny" to the still-unnamed prince born to Queen Elizabeth II a month ago.

It is her job each morning to inform Her Majesty by direct phone just when the little prince will be ready for his bath. Mabel Anderson, who went to work at 14, never took a course in child psychology in her life, and since the Queen and Prince Philip will be able to spend no more than an hour or two in the nursery each day, she bears a heavy responsibility. But over the centuries, England has come to expect that its nannies will measure up.

My Confidante. This vast legion of starched and unruffled ladies, of whom Sir Alan Herbert once wrote, "Other people's babies, that's my life/Mother to dozens and nobody's wife," is a British institution; and historians are inclined to wonder whether the Empire would have been possible without them. "My nurse was my confidante," wrote Sir Winston Churchill; though he loved his mother "dearly," he did so only "at a distance." In Victorian and Edwardian days, the nanny's career tended to follow a pattern. She was usually the promising "girl from the village," who was taken in as a young "tweeny" and slowly made her way to that precarious rank that hovered between those who were servants and those who were "quality." In time, she succeeded to the reigning nanny. From that moment on, her life had only one purpose.

Night after night she would eat her supper on a tray, alone by the fire. But once the children were up next morning, the loneliness vanished. No boy could ever be more splendid than her "young gentleman," and no girl more dainty than her "young lady." Her children did not bite nails, climb trees or throw naughty tantrums. If they did, there could be a paddy whack on the "sit-upon." But when sickness fell, it was nanny who sat by the bedside all night. In 1946, when the famed Alah died after being nanny to the Queen Mother, the Queen and Princess Margaret, she was placed in a grave alongside that of the Queen Mother's own brother.

The Way. Like sturdy tweed and good Scotch, the nanny has been exported to the whole world. From Brighton and Cheltenham and Tunbridge Wells she has gone forth in her sensible shoes to teach the English way to King Hussein, ex-King Farouk, Prince Rainier, and the daughters of the King of Denmark. So ubiquitous was her kind, in fact, that former French Premier Georges Bidault once bitterly complained: "Too many important Frenchmen have been given an inferiority complex for life by being brought up by English nannies."

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