In her first ever podcast interview, the Duchess of Cambridge revealed the childhood experiences she shared with her ‘amazing granny’ are ones she now tries to give her own children.
Speaking on a special episode of Giovanna Fletcher’s Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast, Kate Middleton, 38, said time with her grandmother Valerie Glassborow, who worked as a Codebreaker at Bletchley Park during World War II, was an aspect of her younger years that ‘really stood out’ for her.
During the interview, which focuses on her early years work and landmark survey ‘5 Big Questions on the Under Fives,’ the royal told the author and podcast host it was part of her childhood she would like her three children, Prince George, six, Princess Charlotte, four, and Prince Louis, one, to experience.
‘I had an amazing granny who devoted a lot of time to us, playing with us, doing arts and crafts and going to the greenhouse to do gardening, and cooking with us,’ said Kate, in the podcast which goes live on Saturday.
‘And I try and incorporate a lot of the experiences that she gave us at the time into the experiences that I give my children now.’
Kate Middleton, 38, will feature on Giovanna Fletcher’s Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast on Saturday, where she discusses the Early Years and her landmark survey ‘5 Big Questions on the Under Fives. Pictured together
Kate praised her ‘amazing granny’ Valerie Glassborow (pictured), who worked as a Codebreaker at Bletchley Park during World War II
Having met in Birmingham at the launch of 5 Big Questions on the Under Fives, Kate and Giovanna sat down after a joint visit to LEYF Stockwell Gardens Nursery in London to talk about the work that has built up to the landmark survey, the importance of the early years, and some of their shared experiences as mothers to three children.
The Early Years episode discusses the 5 Big Questions on the Under Fives – a quick, online survey which aims to spark a national conversation on the early years that will ultimately help bring about positive, lasting change for generations to come.
It is designed to bring together the thoughts of as many people as possible – recognising that everyone has a role in ensuring strong, healthy foundations for the youngest in our society that will positively affect their lifelong outcomes.
Speaking of the survey, Kate said: ‘I think ultimately if you look at who’s caring and looking after and nurturing children in the most vital period from pregnancy all the way to the age of five, you know parents and carers are right at the heart of that, and families are right at the heart of that, and although I’ve spoken to the scientists and the service providers, it’s so important to listen to families.’
Kate explained to podcast host Giovanna that a ‘happy home’ and a ‘safe environment’ were also aspects of her childhood she wanted to provide her own children with (pictured together)
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis during a sneak peek of Kate’s stunning garden at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show on 20 May 2019
The Duchess of Cambridge with Prince Louis in the Adam White and Andree Davies co-designed ‘Back to Nature’ garden ahead of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London on 20 May 2019
‘What is it that they aspire to? What are their challenges? What we’re doing with the survey is asking people – what is it that matters for them in raising their children today.
‘It’s going to take a long time – I’m talking about a generational change – but hopefully this is the first small step: to start a conversation around the importance of early childhood development.’
‘It’s not just about happy, healthy children. This is for lifelong consequences and outcomes.’
Kate went on to say a ‘happy home’ and a ‘safe environment’ were also aspects of her childhood she wanted to provide her own children with.
‘As children, we spent a lot of time outside and it’s something I’m really passionate about. I think it’s so great for physical and mental wellbeing and laying (developmental) foundations,’ the mother-of-three said.
‘It’s such a great environment to spend time in, building those quality relationships without the distractions of “I’ve got to cook” and “I’ve got to do this.” And actually, it’s so simple.’
Kate’s codebreaking family history at Bletchley Park
The Duchess of Cambridge’s grandmother Valerie Glassborow and her twin sister Mary were among the codebreakers stationed at the top secret base at Bletchley Park during the Second World War.
The crack team, which also included famed British mathematician Alan Turing, of researchers and cryptographers was tasked with intercepting and interpreting enemy communication and breaking the German enigma code.
Enigmas, which resembled large typewriters, were used by German air, naval and army forces to safely send messages throughout the Second World War.
It used a complex series of rotors and lights to encrypt messages by swapping letters around via an ever-changing ‘enigma code’. The code was eventually broken in 1941 by mathematicians at Bletchley – a feat that proved a crucial turning point in the war.
Valerie Glassborow and her twin sister Mary worked in Hut 16 at Bletchley Park. She later married Peter Francis Middleton (pictured on their wedding day) and had four sons, Michael, Richard, Simon and Nicholas. Michael is the father of the Duchess of Cambridge
Two women work in hut 6 at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, during the Second World War. Cryptographers deciphered top-secret military communiques between Hitler and his armed forces, which ultimately aided the victory of the Allied forces
Then a young, unmarried woman, Valerie Glassborow worked in Hut 16 on the estate, which is no longer standing.
Many of her colleagues were ‘ordinary’ middle-class women like herself, whose work, kept secret for almost half a century, helped change the course of the war.
However very few went on to pursue a career in intelligence. Indeed of the 9,000 people who worked at Bletchley Park during World War II, just 600 women went on to join the fledgling GCHQ or other branches of the secret services.
Among those to leave the service for a life of domesticity was Miss Glassborow, who married Peter Francis Middleton in 1946 in the village of Adel, Yorkshire.
The couple went on to have four sons, Michael, Richard, Simon and Nicholas in quick succession.
Michael, the eldest, is the father of the Duchess of Cambridge and is known to have been close to his mother.
Miss Glassborow died in 2006, without ever speaking publicly of her wartime service.
A black and white photo offering a look inside one of the huts on the Buckinghamshire estate. Among the roughly 9,000-strong workforce was Valerie Glassborow, the paternal grandmother of the Duchess of Cambridge
The launch of the survey followed eight years of work by The Duchess of Cambridge in which she has explored how experiences in early childhood often lie at the root of the hardest social challenges the country faces today.
What we experience in the earliest years – from in the womb to the age of five – is instrumental in shaping our future lives.
Her Royal Highness has spent time meeting with families across the country and hearing about the issues they deal with day-to-day, in addition to speaking with academics, experts, organisations and practitioners.
In May 2018, The Duchess convened a steering group of experts to focus on how to bring about positive, lasting change in this area.
Speaking about the survey, visits and the podcast, Giovanna Fletcher commented: ‘It doesn’t matter who you are, what you have, or where you come from – we’re all trying to do our best with our children while continuously doubting our decisions and wondering if we’re getting it completely wrong. Talking helps unite us all.
‘Having been with the Duchess of Cambridge on a couple of engagements to celebrate the launch of the 5 Big Questions survey, it was clear how passionate she is about the Early Years.’
‘It was then beyond wonderful to sit and talk further about the survey, her work – for which she has so much knowledge, and her own experiences of being a mother. This is a very special episode of the podcast and I’m very excited for people to hear it.’
The Duchess of Cambridge paid tribute to her grandmother with a special ‘Codebreakers poppy’ in November 2019 , when she attended the wreath-laying service at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday