Emirates Team New Zealand were given a boost in the form of two surprise VIP visitors to their UK base last week – the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. While wild weather is normally a sailor’s nemesis, it played into the hands of the team at the syndicate’s Portsmouth base – William and Kate (both 33) asked to visit the syndicate after rain called off a day of racing.
The duo became firm fans of our team after their Kiwi tour last year, which saw them race against one another on the Waitemata harbour. “It was ladies first,” recalled William as he shared a laugh with chief executive Grant Dalton. “That was a great trip. We loved it.”
The parents to Prince George (2) and Princess Charlotte (11 weeks) left their children at home with their trusted nanny, Maria Borrallo, while soaking up the sailing atmosphere. The royal couple are required to attend a number of official royal engagements, which means they need trusted help at home. Maria (44), a Norland nanny, has proven herself to be an invaluable member of the staff, able to handle boisterous George, so well in fact, that when his sister Charlotte arrived, the duke and duchess decided not to hire additional help.
So what does it take to be a Norland nanny? Just like Mary Poppins, a Norlander is the nanny that every well-to-do parent dreams of employing. It’s not surprising that royal couples, from Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips to the Duke and Duchess of York, and Wills and Kate, have chosen Norland for their offspring.
Norlanders are graduates of Norland College, in Somerset, which runs a highly prestigious training course in early years development and learning. Not a lot has changed since the college’s founder, Emily Ward, introduced the country’s first formal childcare training in 1892. Students still learn skills such as menu planning, folding a cloth nappy correctly and sewing – in case they need to run up a fancy dress costume, for example. They also still wear a brown uniform similar to the one established in the late 19th century to distinguish trained nannies from housemaids.
These days they are also taught self-defence, and how to steer safely through a skid on the roads, plus the best ways to help their charges learn through play. It may sound like an easy life – but getting in to Norland College is notoriously tough and students are expected to work hard. Hundreds of young hopefuls apply each year – mainly girls, although the college took on its first male student a few years ago – but only 40 or so ever start the three-year course.
Anxious to weed out those hoping to use the job as a short cut to travel and mixing with the rich and famous, the college insists that the candidates who make it to the interview stage write an essay on why they want to attend, provide a portfolio of previous experience and read a children’s story.
“If you don’t meet the teachers’ expectations they will tell you,” reveals one graduate. “They want the best from you because the best will be expected of you.”
And with a number of those clients being royal, it’s little wonder the regime remains so strict.
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