LONDON (Reuters) – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the best advice the late Queen Elizabeth gave her on becoming a leader and a mother was “you just get on with it”.
Ardern, in London for the queen’s funeral on Monday, became the first woman in the country’s history to give birth while in office when she had her daughter in 2018, and was pregnant when she first met the queen.
Ardern, 42, is one of the few elected leaders to hold office while pregnant. Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto gave birth while she was prime minister in 1990.
Elizabeth, who already had two children when she came to the throne in 1952 aged 25, had two more children during her reign and so had good advice, Ardern said.
“… when you think about leaders who have been in that position, there was Benazir Bhutto, there was myself. But before that, there was the queen. There were so few to look to,” Ardern told the BBC’s “Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg”.
“And so I said to her, how did you, how did you manage? She just said, ‘well, you just get on with it’. And that was actually probably the best and most, I think, factual advice I could have.
“You do you just take every day as it comes, and she did. But I have such respect for her because I see now what it takes to be a mum and a leader.”
The queen herself spoke of the “blessings of home and family” during her Christmas address of 2017, after celebrating 70 years of marriage to Prince Philip, who died in 2021. The queen died on Sept. 8 aged 96.
Her children – Charles born in 1948, Anne in 1950, Andrew in 1960 and Edward in 1964 – have acknowledged and paid tribute to her dual roles as mother and monarch over her 70-year reign.
“Dear Mummy, Mother, Your Majesty, three in one,” Andrew said in a statement on Sunday.
“Mother – of the nation, your devotion and personal service to our nation is unique and singular … Mummy, your love for a son, your compassion, your care, your confidence I will treasure forever.”
The queen and Philip famously embarked without their children on a six-month tour of the Commonwealth at the end of 1953, after her coronation.
Her only daughter, Princess Anne, dismissing any suggestion from the media that the queen was a distant mother, said in a BBC interview in 2002:
“We as children may have not been too demanding in the sense that we understand what the limitations were in time and the responsibilities placed on her as monarch in the things she had to do and the travels she had to make.
“But I don’t believe any of us for a second thought she didn’t care for us in exactly the same way as any other mother did.”
(Additional reporting by Michael Holden and Paul Sandle Writing by Alison Williams; Editing by Frances Kerry)