Celebrity nannies: Secret love affairs, friendship and the hand that rocks the cradle
How au pairs have upended the lives of Hollywood stars like Jude Law and David and Victoria Beckham and British royals including Charles and Diana
Two years after announcing their breakup, actors Olivia Wilde and Jason Sudeikis found themselves appearing in headlines around the world after the former nanny of their two children, Otis, 8, and Daisy, 5, made some controversial statements. In an interview with British tabloid The Daily Mail, the nanny claimed that Sudeikis discovered his then-wife’s relationship with singer Harry Styles through an Apple Watch. She also recounted some of the family’s other private moments, claiming that Sudeikis threw himself on top of Wilde’s car to prevent her from leaving with the artist and that the actress gave up her dog to spend more time with her new partner. While the former couple’s relationship following their separation has not been entirely amicable (including publicly delivering documents about the custody of their children), the nanny’s statements caused the two to join forces to defend their family.
Many celebrities have opened their homes and lives to nannies, trusting them to care for their loved ones. They’re often considered an indispensable part of the family. But others lose a famous family’s trust when they make the headlines themselves by airing dirty laundry, leaking confidential information or even publishing tell-all books about their experiences in celebrity homes.
In 1925, at just 18 months old, Gloria Vanderbilt became the heiress to $5 million, a fortune that would be controlled by her mother, Gloria Morgan, until she turned 18. Morgan decided to settle in Paris, where she participated in countless social engagements and traveled the world. During those long trips, the little Vanderbilt was left in the care of Dodo, the family nanny, who played a very important role in the life of the writer, actress and designer. Laura Morgan, Gloria’s maternal grandmother, did not approve of her daughter’s detached behavior and began the process of separating her from Gloria. She sought support from her paternal aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt, and a controversial trial ensued. Ultimately, Gloria Vanderbilt went to live with her aunt, but she was forbidden from seeing Dodo.
In her memoir, Vanderbilt explained how she felt after being separated from her nanny: “Dodo had been with me from the moment I was born. Cut by Caesarean section from my mother’s womb, I was handed straight into Dodo’s arms. My newborn body took root in her embrace and found a home. Dodo’s voice was the first I heard.” The ban came after the court found that Dodo had negatively influenced Vanderbilt against her own mother: “She was fired, and I was not allowed to see her or even speak to her on the phone. I didn’t know where she had gone. I was 10 years old, and I thought I would die. It was the worst thing that could ever happen to me... part of me did die.” " Years later, Dodo would take care of the designer’s own children.
The British royal family’s nanny Marion Crawford (or as the princesses called her, “Crawfie”) cared for Elizabeth II and her sister, Princess Margaret, for 17 years; she was involved in the most important moments of their lives. Although Crawford was married, she did not leave her job until 1947, when Elizabeth married Prince Philip. As a token of gratitude for her service, the royal family gave her Nottingham Cottage, a small property located in the Kensington Palace gardens.
In 1949, Crawford began writing her recollections of the princesses for the American magazine Ladies Home Journal. Crawford’s articles revealed details about the future monarch’s character and the princess’s quirks; she even described how the rooms were decorated. A year later, she turned these articles into a book and her relationship with the royal family was terminated; they even took away the property they had gifted her, where she had lived for the previous two years. Crawford died in 1988, at the age of 78; on the occasion of her death, Buckingham Palace did not take any steps to publicly mourn the person who had taken care of the family’s children for so many years.
45 years later, the British royal family was once again embroiled in a nanny controversy. After Princess Diana’s separation from the then-Prince of Wales, BBC host Martin Bashir convinced her that Charles was in love with Tiggy Legge-Bourke, the nanny of Diana and Charles’s sons; that they had enjoyed a vacation together; and that the nanny had gotten pregnant but subsequently miscarried. All of that was a lie. Last summer, after it had been determined that Bashir had tricked Diana into giving one of the most-watched interviews in history by luring her with false claims, the BBC paid damages to Princes William and Harry and their former nanny.
A few years later, Jude Law and Sienna Miller put nannies back in the media spotlight. The two actors met in 2003 on the set of the movie Alfie and got engaged just a year later, but the relationship ended abruptly when Miller learned that Law had cheated on her with the nanny, Daisy Wright. One of Law’s three children from his previous marriage innocently told the actress that he’d opened the bedroom door to find “Daddy and Miss Wright” sharing a bed. Years later, Law and Miller rekindled their relationship, but it didn’t work out then, either. After over 15 years of silence, Miller spoke about what happened in a December 2020 interview with The Daily Beast: “There’s a whole six weeks of that experience that I don’t remember. I have no recollection of it…People who came to see me said we had dinner, and I don’t remember. I was in so much shock over it all. And I’d really just begun. I was only 23. But if you get through that, you feel like you can get through anything.”
During David Beckham’s time as a soccer player for Real Madrid, his marriage to Victoria Beckham went through a rocky patch. Rebecca Loos, Beckham’s assistant and the nanny of his children, sold the story of her affair with the footballer to the press. Despite the infidelity, and with a lot of therapy, the Beckhams saved their nearly 20-year-long relationship after the controversy – complete with magazine and television interviews from Loos – made headlines around the world.
After almost 20 years of working for Spanish singer Isabel Pantoja, Dulce Delapiedra is probably Spain’s best-known nanny. Delapiedra was very close to the singer’s youngest daughter and became her protector. Then, at the age of 17, Isa Pantoja [Isabel’s daughter] got pregnant, and the singer said that Delapiedra had been negligent in caring for her daughter. Shortly after the nanny made headlines, Pantoja fired Delapiedra. Recently, in addition to working as a nanny for Isa Pantoja, Delapiedra has appeared on television, revealing the clan’s secrets.
But not all celebrity nannies have become well-known for causing problems. Elvira Olivares, known as “La Seño.” joined the Iglesias-Preysler family when Enrique Iglesias was only two years old. Paterfamilias Julio Iglesias’ long tours and trips prevented him from being with his children all the time, so he decided to hire Olivares to take care of them. Singer Enrique has always said that La Seño has been like a second mother to him. Indeed, the bond between the two is so strong that she helped Enrique to finance his first album with her own savings, as the singer has said in numerous interviews.