When some of the young members of the British royal family — Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis — appear in public, they're often accompanied by their neatly dressed, dark-haired nanny, Maria Borrallo.
Borrallo began working for the family in 2014, when Prince George was just eight months old, but it's a role she rigorously trained for. She was educated at Norland College, a prestigious academy that trains the nannies of the world's wealthiest families.
Before Norland was established, explains social historian Dr. Louise Heren, "Britain, and most European countries, had some form of children's nurse, but they would learn on the job. So, you could go from being a scullery maid to getting bumped up to lower nursery maid. And then eventually, one day, you might make children's nurse and be looking after the family."
There was no formal childcare education until 1892, when a primary school teacher named Emily Ward realized that was an opportunity.
"She realized that the nurses and nursery maids were all uneducated, so the crème de la crème of the country's children were being raised by uneducated women," says Heren. "She thought there was a business opportunity in training children's nurses who could both raise and educate the next generation of our upper classes."
Ward founded Norland College in Bath, England, and at first the training program only lasted a few months. Still, the cost to attend was a bit steep.
"The fees for getting the education at Norland Institute were beyond most working-class young women," says Heren. The women who enrolled tended to have "a tiny bit of family money," she says. "They were things like a greengrocer's daughter, or the daughter of people who had their own small business."
The tuition was well worth it. In those early years, women who landed a nanny position after their training at Norland started with salaries around £30 to £40 ($38 to $50) a year, on top of having their expenses paid by their employers. It was great money, especially for a woman in that era.
As Norland's reputation grew, so did its student body. "It went from a handful of young women to start with who signed up to attend for a couple of months," says Heren. Today, students at Norland study a 4-year course, graduating with a B.A. in Early Childhood Education and Care.
Another of Ward's major ambitions for Norland also came to pass.
"For Emily Ward, it was always one of her aspirations that she would be placing young women in aristocratic families, if not royal families," says Heren. "Very quickly, she managed to place a couple of girls within the German aristocracy which worked really well until World War I kicked off."
Things got complicated for many of the Norlanders spread across Europe in the early 20th century, as Heren detailed in her book "British Nannies and the Great War: How Norland's Regiment of Nannies Coped with Conflict and Childcare in the Great War."
"There was one young lady who managed to look after a branch of the Imperial family in Moscow and St. Petersburg," Heren says. "When the revolution kicked off in 1917, she managed to escape with them to Finland, but sadly, she died in the 1919 influenza epidemic."
Through it all, Norland carried on, with a curriculum designed to produce childcare professionals who are equipped to deal with just about anything.
What Are Norland Nannies Trained to Do?
"They have a little bit of medical training, which covers basic nursery ailments like chicken pox, measles, whooping cough, cuts and grazes, all that kind," Heren says. "They learn some nutrition for young children. They learn cooking skills."
The Norlanders, once placed in a family, could be both caretaker and tutor, thanks to their education. "They taught the children to read and write, basic arithmetic, singing, piano and other musical instruments. Basically, it was an early 20th century British education that they'd been trained to offer," says Heren. "They'd trained to deal with children up to the age of, quite precisely, 7 years, and 11 months." That's because at 8, most young ladies would be passed to the care of a governess, and boys would be, as Heren puts it, "packed off to prep school."
Over the years, Heren says, other schools with a similar model have been "spawned off the back of Norland, because there were other people who thought, oh, that's a good idea, I'll try that." But Norland College has outlasted them all to remain the only official nanny training program in England. It's still producing the most well-respected nannies in Europe, though now they're not limited to just young women.
"I would argue that is largely because Norland has protected its reputation with really high-level training of the young women, and now young men, that join them," Heren says. "I think part of Norland's success is the caliber of the people that it has trained, because it's highly selective."
The Norland Nanny Uniform
A Norland nanny is easy to spot, thanks to the unmistakable uniform; a crisp, light brown dress with white trim and a short-brimmed hat emblazoned with a gold "N."
"It's an old-fashioned uniform. It's traditional," Heren says. And though for the most part, Norland graduates dress in more modern clothing after graduation, sometimes their employer will ask them to wear the Norland uniform.
"At some point," Heren says, "the Princess of Wales has asked their nanny to wear a uniform on public duty. Not always, but at some key events."
The Norland Heritage
But while the uniform may seem a bit old-fashioned, the school's curriculum covers some very modern things; the unusual situations that might possibly arise while caring for the children of the world's most powerful people.
"They do lots of exciting things," says Heren. "There's some self-defense. They practice evasive driving or driving in snow, ice, fog; difficult conditions."
And the nannies leave Norland's classrooms having become consummate professionals, thanks in part to the thousands of trainees who've come before them.
"Think of a parent with a first child, muddling through, getting on with it and just occasionally making mistakes. With a Norlander, that doesn't happen. There've been some 7,000 nannies trained since the very first day, and they all provide feedback. If they had an issue, they'd write the college asking for advice. Sometimes they'd write and say, 'This is how I've dealt with this predicament. And I think other nannies ought to know about it.' So, in each Norlander, you're looking at nigh on 7,000 nannies' worth of experience."
A Norland nanny can expect to make anywhere in the range of £31,500 to £124,000+ (around $39,600 to $155,900), depending on the type and location of service.
Every year about 100 nannies graduate from Norland, but there are some 11 open positions for every trained Norland nanny, according to Yahoo News, so graduates are very much in demand.
In 2019, the school graduated its first two male nannies, and also introduced a gender-neutral uniform option.
Total fees for the 2022/23 term for U.K. students are £15,290 ($19,224), according to the school's website.
As to the question of whether Norland is likely to continue on for another 130 years or more, Heren says, "I hope so, I really do. I say that unreservedly. Occasionally, we have needed a nanny. And to be honest, I wouldn't go anywhere else. It's Norland or bust."
Now That's Continuity
According to Town & Country magazine, Prince Charles and Princess Anne had a Norland nanny, as did Prince Andrew's daughters, Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice. Pippa Middleton, sister of Kate Middleton, and her husband James Matthews also employ a nanny from Norland.
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