48 Strict Rules The British Royal Family Must Follow
On the surface, being a member of the royal family seems like a blast. Who hasn’t dreamed of trading lives with Kate Middleton or Prince William? But it’s not all tours across Europe and gorgeous dresses. There are actually a lot of rules that members of the royal family are expected to follow, and some of them seem impossible for us commoners to even understand.
When The Queen Is Done Eating, Everyone’s Done Eating
According to royal etiquette, the Queen dictates the way mealtime goes… no matter how anyone else feels about it. When she’s finished with her meal, no one else is allowed to continue eating — even if they still have food on their plate. Royal sources have said that the queen eats pretty fast, so that means if you’re hungry, you’d better get used to eating fast, too.
It sounds like something that a newcomer to the family would definitely have to adjust to over time. Even though it doesn’t exactly sound fair to everyone else at the table, let’s face it: This is the Queen. Shouldn’t she get to be in charge of meals if she wants to be?
There Must Be Myrtle In Every Bride’s Bouquet
If you’re just as obsessed as we are with royal weddings, you might have noticed that they all include plenty of myrtle. This tradition started back with Queen Victoria, who was the first to carry it in her bouquet and then grow it in her garden. Now, every royal bride must carry that tradition on, and yes, the myrtle still comes from Victoria’s garden.
As a bonus, myrtle represents love and marriage, so could there really be a better addition to a bride’s bouquet on their wedding day? And of course, Meghan’s bouquet included myrtle, along with Princess Diana’s favorite flower, Forget-Me-Nots.
No PDA EVER When Traveling Or In Public
If you’ve paid any attention to Kate and William when they make public appearances, you’ve probably noticed that they don’t engage in PDA on camera — not since after they’ve tied the knot, anyway. There’s a rule in place that forbids it so that every couple in the royal family always appears professional.
This is an example that the Queen herself has set, and since then, it’s just stuck and become kind of official. Meghan and Harry have deviated from the norm (in many ways), however, as the two often do hold hands and appear affectionate.
They Have To Pack An All-Black Outfit While Traveling
This particular rule is a little morbid to think about, but when it comes down to it, it’s absolutely necessary. Just in case a member of the family or a government official dies while other members of the family are traveling, they are all required to bring an all-black outfit so that they are able to show their respect to the deceased as they mourn.
It’s definitely a sad rule, but it’s hard to argue with how practical it is. Think about it: It would be really awkward for Kate and Will to return from a diplomatic trip wearing bright colors if someone important to the family or the country had just died, wouldn’t it? Black it is.
Members Of The Royal Family Cannot Eat Shellfish
This is yet another food rule… but this one isn’t exactly dictated by the Queen’s demands. It’s another practical one, and it applies double when traveling. Royals are absolutely not supposed to eat shellfish when they’re away from home, because of the risk of food poisoning that it carries. What could be worse than a royal being unwilling to fulfill his or her duties on a trip because he or she is stuck back at the hotel with their head in the toilet?
While traveling, members of the royal family are also supposed to avoid rare meat and tap water — two things that can often cause foodborne illnesses. Better safe than sorry… and not a bad rule for us regular folks to follow when we’re in a foreign country, too.
This one would be hard for us to swallow. Duchess Camilla, Prince Charles’ wife, confirmed that garlic is a “no-no” while appearing on MasterChef Australia.
Apparently, this is to avoid an embarrassing bad breath situation while engaging in small talk. This has to be a particularly challenging rule for Meghan, as she is a self-described foodie. Having a royal title and access to stunning jewelry probably helps make up for this though.
Traditionally, No One Is Allowed To Fly With Another Heir To The Throne
The thing about being an heir to a throne as important as the one to the British royal family is that it comes with a lot of pressure… and a lot of making backup plans to be in place just in case the worst happens. There’s a rule that members of the royal family cannot fly in the same plane as another heir, just in case something bad happens and the plane goes down.
However, Prince William breaks this rule all the time, flying with his children often. In the past, he’s made formal announcements that he’s not going to fly without them, so expect that fact to never change. They like to travel as a family!
No Long Pants
You may have noticed that Prince George and Prince Louis are never photographed wearing a pair of full-length pants — he’s always wearing shorts. As it turns out, that’s not just a fashion preference for when his mom, Kate, gets him dressed for the day — it’s actually a sign of status. Young boys are to wear shorts, and they’re not supposed to graduate to real pants until they’re older since that’s seen as a strictly adult wardrobe choice.
We’re a little worried about him and Louis having to wear shorts in cold weather, but fortunately, this rule doesn’t apply for long. Apparently, once children turn eight years old, they’re allowed to wear full-length pants.
There Was A Plan To Evacuate The Queen In Case Of A No-Deal Brexit
In February 2019, the British government revealed a plan to evacuate the Queen and other top members of the royal family in case of riots during potential Brexit messiness. Plans which originally were laid out to rescue the royal family during the Cold War were revised to fit the current situation.
The risk of the UK leaving the European Union without a deal in place became greater as the official date of “divorce” passed by. The Queen, along with other members of the royal family, would have been whisked out of the country to an “undisclosed location” should things have turned violent.
Tiaras May Only Be Worn After 6 P.M.
If you’ve ever wondered why Kate and the Queen don’t don their tiaras when they make official public appearances during daylight hours, here’s the reason why. Apparently, tiaras are so formal that they may only be worn at night, after 6:00 p.m., because it seems they’re far too fancy to wear during the day. Before then, women are permitted to wear regular hats (something you see Kate and the Queen do quite often).
Meghan received her crown on her wedding day because only married women are allowed to wear tiaras. It’s a sign that a woman has been taken. If only that rule applied everywhere! Women all over the world would get to feel a lot more fancy on a daily basis.
No Gifts Opened On Christmas Day
Although the young Princes and Princess live lives most kids can only dream of, there’s one tradition that they don’t get to be a part of: tearing into those gifts left by Santa Claus on Christmas morning. Instead, their family takes part in a different tradition and exchanges gifts on Christmas Eve. Everyone retires to the Red Drawing Room at tea time, where gifts have all been laid out for each recipient.
Usually, the family elects to exchange funny gifts instead of more serious ones… like the time that Kate Middleton once gave Prince Harry a “grow your own girlfriend” kit. Now that he’s found Meghan, it doesn’t seem like he’ll be needing that one after all!
You Cannot Turn Your Back On The Queen
So many of these rules revolve around the Queen, because duh — she is the Queen after all. This rule makes it impossible for anyone to ever have their back turned toward her, and it also guarantees that she has the upper hand in all of her social interactions. For example, the Queen is always the first to leave (which would come in really handy at parties you don’t want to attend) and there’s specific etiquette that applies to people interacting with her.
Don’t speak to the Queen until she speaks to you first, and under no circumstances should you touch her. Michelle Obama broke that rule when she put her arm around the Queen for a photo, but fortunately, it didn’t seem to cause any international incidents.
The Queen Can Drive Without A License
Yet another perk to being the Queen coming down the pipeline! She’s actually the only person in the UK who is allowed to drive without a license, meaning that she doesn’t even have to take the test. In fact, she also gets to drive without having plates on her car — yet another privilege for that Queen Life that they call the “royal prerogative.”
With all the stress that must be on her shoulders with that very important job she’s been doing, it seems she should get a few perks here and there, right? So when she leaves the party first, she can also drive away free of license, plates, or photo ID. It’s gotta be pretty sweet to be the Queen sometimes, right?
Why Did Meghan Markle Stand Behind Kate Middleton?
Photo Credit: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images
Fans of Meghan Markle who don’t understand the rules of the royal family were probably surprised to see her standing behind Kate Middleton while making her official Trooping the Colour debut.
The brand new Duchess of Sussex stood behind her sister-in-law, Kate Middleton because there is a pecking order for these type of events. William being the older, more senior brother went first, followed by his wife, and so on.
Women Must Always Sit With Their Legs Together
In case you haven’t already heard of the “duchess slant,” here’s a fun fact for you. All women in the royal family are only allowed to sit in one position: with their knees together. Women can choose whether to cross their legs at the ankles or simply keep their knees close together and at a slant. This is a sign of modesty, which makes sense when you remember that these ladies are mostly wearing dresses and skirts, so it’s kind of important for them to keep their legs closed to avoid a slip.
Remember in The Princess Diaries when the Queen had to teach this very important skill to Princess Mia before they’d even allow her in Genovia for the first time? It’s that important, y’all.
And Their Chin Placement Is Just As Important
Once the women of the royal family have mastered the all-important duchess slant, it’s time for them to learn the proper positioning of their chin — and yes, this is a real thing that they all have to follow. Their chin has to stay parallel to the ground at all times, and this rule has to do with keeping the public’s perception of them as positive as possible. If their chin is too low, it gives off the idea that they have low confidence, which isn’t too reassuring in someone the country looks up to.
And if their chin is too high, that gives off the impression that they’re haughty, or think that they’re better than everyone else. A nice, straight-on look is the best way to convey that they’re open and friendly. It’s all about body language, and this one might be a good lesson for us all in new social situations.
No Nicknames Are Used
Even though we all call Kate Middleton by a nickname (since her true first name is Catherine), this isn’t something that’s supposed to happen in the royal family, especially once you are married in. If you haven’t guessed by now, this fam likes to keep things formal, including names… and everyone is given a brand new one when they marry royalty.
For example, Kate’s full title is now Catherine Elizabeth Mountbatten-Windsor, and she’s also formally Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge. Although Meghan’s first name is Rachel, she will be known as Meghan the Duchess of Sussex.
There’s A Secret Purse Code
There’s yet another cheat code that the Queen gets to use to avoid those awkward social situations, and this one will probably make you even more jealous than the others. It seems that her entourage has to keep a constant eye on the position of her purse because it reveals everything. When the Queen puts her purse on her right arm, that means she’s ready for the current conversation she’s having to be over and gives the signal for someone to come over and politely whisk her away.
When she puts her purse on the table during a meal, that means that the meal is officially over (according to her, anyway), and everyone must be finished eating in five minutes or less. Imagine if we all had this superpower?
The Royal Family Cannot Sign Autographs
If you ever get to meet a member of the royal family, don’t expect them to sign anything for you. Autographs are forbidden since it allows someone the chance to learn their signature well enough to commit forgery. It’s inconvenient for fans for sure, but at least it has a practical reason behind it. On that note, they also don’t take selfies, and this is a recent rule they’ve adopted.
Like the Queen, they don’t want anyone to have their back to them, which is kind of impossible to avoid when you’re taking a selfie. Instead, they like to maintain eye contact with people when they’re talking and prefer to use the time they’re speaking with people to make a genuine connection with them.
They Don’t Vote
In America, it’s pretty common to hear of politicians voting for themselves in elections, but in the UK, that’s a no-no — and so is the idea of heading to the polls at all. Apparently, not only is the royal family voting “unconstitutional,” but it also gets in the way of their main goal, which is being able to relate to the public.
If they show people their stance on certain issues, they could risk alienating certain populations, and that’s definitely something they don’t want to do. Instead, they stay quiet and neutral on all issues and always refrain from casting their votes so that they can remain relatable to everyone, not just the people who happen to agree with their beliefs.
They Accept Every Gift That Is Given To Them
Gifts are frequently given to the royal family — not just by the adoring public, but also by diplomats and other political figures while they’re away on their travels. The royals are absolutely required to accept all gifts that are given to them — unless it’s food, of course (because of that foodborne illness risk mentioned earlier). But here’s the kicker: Any gifts they’re given officially belong to the Queen, and she’s the one who gets to distribute those gifts as she’s seen fit.
Between this rule, the thing about driving, and the fact that she constantly gets to be in charge of every meal and every social interaction, we’ve never been more convinced of how good it is to be the Queen. What are the chances she wants to trade places?
Why Kate Could Wear A Tiara But Eugenie and Meghan Couldn’t
One of the things someone who’s about to join the royal family might look forward to is having access to all those amazing jewels! Queen Elizabeth owns one of the most stunning and historic collections of jewelry in the world, and occasionally lends pieces out — Kate Middleton has been spotted in several borrowed gems.
Princess Eugenie had to wait until she was married to wear a specific type of jewelry: tiaras. According to British custom, unmarried royals are not allowed to wear them, even if they were born into royalty. In fact, a tiara is a “sign of status and would show you were taken and not looking for a husband,” according to etiquette expert Grant Harold.
The Queen’s Husband Had To Walk Behind Her
Prince Philip was married to Queen Elizabeth II but that didn’t put him on the same footing as his wife. The Orders of Precedence in the United Kingdom states that the Prince must always walk a few steps behind his wife. The rule is especially important during formal occasions and state dinners. The Queen, as a sovereign, always walks at the front of any procession.
The Duke of Edinburgh was just a consort, so he walked behind her. Initially, the Prince of Wales, as heir to the throne, ranked higher than the Duke of Edinburgh. The Queen issued a letters patent to accord the Duke position as higher than all other male members, except for special provisions to the Prince of Wales from the Parliament.
If The Queen Stands, Everyone Stands
If you’re a member of the royal family and the queen suddenly stands up, you are obligated to follow suit. This practice has been a long-standing practice of royal protocol that is still followed in the 21st century. In fact, this is standard operating protocol even if you’re not part of the royal family.
It probably doesn’t surprise anyone to learn that the queen dictates everything that happens around her from walking to standing and much more. If you’re in the presence of the queen your best bet is to follow along with what everyone else in the room does.
A Baby’s Gender Is To Be Kept Secret Until Birth
Even if a member of the royal family finds out the gender of their child before birth they must keep the secret from prying eyes. The secret gender of each royal baby has become a betting sport with oddsmakers allowing citizens to place bets. A favorite pastime for many people involves watching the clothing color choices of a princess or queen in the hopes of figuring out if they are going to give birth to a boy or girl.
We’re not sure if this is a strict rule or just a tradition that the royal family has always followed. Either way, that’s a lot of pressure.
The Queen’s Dinner Conversations Are Carefully Orchestrated
When Queen Elizabeth II is seated for dinner her conversations are carefully orchestrated based on who is sitting next to her. The Queen always speaks to the person seated to her right at the start of the meal. During the second course, the Queen turns to the guest on her left and started a conversation with that individual.
The royal family has a lot of dinner rules that revolve around the queen and this is one of the few that her Majesty must also follow during every public meal.
The Royal Family Must Wear Hats To All Formal Events
We already mentioned that members of the royal family are permitted to wear hats in public. What you might not know is that hats are a requirement for all formal events. If you’ve ever watched a formal event among the royal family you’ve probably noticed some very elegant options.
Women in Britain very seldom showed off their hair in public until the 1950s and the royal family is known for holding onto old traditions. Hats are also considered part of the social fabric of British living.
Royal Family Members Must Learn Multiple Languages
When it was revealed that Prince George had learned to count in Spanish at a very young age everyone was impressed. That wasn’t just the sign of a very smart child with private education. Under royal family rules, you must learn at least one additional language. Queen Elizabeth speaks French while Prince William speaks passable French and Welsh and Prince Charles is fluent in German.
With the world’s attention often focused on the royal family and many guests attending their events, it makes sense that they would learn to speak other languages.
The Queen’s Outfits Must Be Bright
When Queen Elizabeth II is in public her outfits must be bright. This isn’t just a fashion choice but a smart decision that allows the Queen to be easily spotted. The Queen’s daughter-in-law Sophie, Countess of Wessex revealed the reason for this choice in the documentary The Queen at 90.
“Don’t forget that when she turns up somewhere, the crowds are two, three, four, 10, 15 deep, and someone wants to be able to say they saw a bit of the queen’s hat as she went past.”
Formal Wear Must Always Be Worn To Dinner
Dinner is a formal affair for the royal family. When dinner is served you show up dressed for the occasion. This isn’t just a rule that applies to the royals. Show up in a t-shirt and jeans and you won’t be invited back for another meal.
The royal family ties this rule into their rule that requires all married women to wear their crown or tiara after 6 p.m. It might seem silly but the royal family is always under a microscope and expected to portray a regal image.
Greeting The Queen Has Its Own Strict Requirements
We know that the general public will bow or curtsy when meeting the Queen of England but did you know the same is required of her own family members? Men of the royal family perform a neck bow, while women curtsy. Imagine being asked to bow our curtsy for your own family member.
We don’t know if this same requirement is used in private but it’s customary during public appearances.
Approval Must Be Given To Get Married
This rule isn’t just a common courtesy. The Royal Marriages Act of 1772 clearly states that any royal descendants must seek approval from the monarch before they can propose.
Kate Middleton, of non-royal blood, and Meghan Markle, an American citizen, must have really made an impression on Queen Elizabeth II in order to gain her wedding blessings. Of course, not all the royal weddings have ended in happily ever after.
Tiaras Must Be Worn At The Correct Angle
You’ve probably noticed by now that tiara’s come with a lot of rules. When a married princess puts on her tiara she must be sure it is worn the correct way. Traditionally, the tiara was worn towards the front of the head.
In recent years, the tiara was moved towards the back of the head and placed at a precise 45-degree angle. That seems like a lot of work just to show off a piece of royal jewelry.
Proper Grooming For A Public Image Is Incredibly Important
The Royal Family is expected to look like royals at all times. Kate Middleton heads to the same salon she visited before marrying into the family. Middleton gets three blowouts a week.
If you were to have the same treatment done it would cost around $10,000 per year. From dress codes to makeup and haircuts, the Royal Family must look well groomed at all times. The same type of grooming applies to their children.
Utensil Placement Is Crucial. No, Seriously.
If you’re a member of the Royal Family and you need to be excused from dinner there is etiquette that must be followed. By crossing their utensils, members of the royal staff know not to remove their plate.
When a royal family member is finished with a meal they can place their utensils at an angle, leaving the handles of their silverware at the bottom right of the plate.
There’s A Rule About Holding Tea Cups
Royal Family members, as you’ve probably already surmised, must follow a lot of rules regarding etiquette. The rules are all very specific and tea time is no different. Members of the Royal family must pinch the teacup handle with their index finger and thumb, while their middle finger secures the bottom.
We’ve seen this practice emulated many times in Britain, the result of sticking par to the course to feel like a member of royalty. We’re not so proper in America.
Non-Royals Can’t Touch Royals…Sort Of
In December 2014, William and Kate attended a basketball game and had an impromptu photo shoot with athlete Lebron James after. When the photos showed James with his arm around Kate, the internet was quick to call him out for breaching etiquette. But what exactly is the protocol for interacting with a royal?
According to the monarchy’s website, “There are no obligatory codes of behaviour when meeting The Queen or a member of the Royal Family, but many people wish to observe the traditional forms.” Basically, this means either shaking hands or the traditional bow for men and curtsey for women. Does Kate look awkward here? We’ll let you be the judge.
All Royal Weddings Must Have This
No, it’s not myrtle or a family heirloom. All royal weddings must have a crop of children! Take a look at the guest list for a royal wedding and you’ll likely find that the kids outnumber the adults. When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wed, they continued a long tradition of having Windsors as pageboys and bridesmaids.
The adorable young crew almost stole the limelight at the royal couple’s 2011 nuptials — who could forget the hilarious photo of Grace van Cutsem covering her ears and grimacing?
They Can’t Run For Office
In the United States, it’s not all that unusual to see celebrities with minimal political background run for office. But when it comes to the royal family, you don’t have to worry about seeing them on the ballot anytime soon. Since voting is considered unconstitutional for a royal, it comes as no surprise they can’t run for office either.
This is another effort to help the royal family remain neutral on controversial topics and to relate to the public.
They Can’t Wear Fur
King Edward III banned all Royals from wearing fur in the 12th century — but this rule is broken all the time. You don’t have to search the internet long to find photos of the Royal Family donning fur.
In 2011, Queen Elizabeth and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, were both criticized for wearing fur hats on Christmas Day. The animal-loving British public didn’t respond well to their fashion choices, and tabloids had a field day admonishing them for supporting a cruel industry. Camilla was quick to offer an excuse, saying her hat was vintage and upcycled.
Until 2011, Royals Couldn’t Marry a Roman Catholic
Today, members of the Royal Family can marry someone of any faith, but this wasn’t always the case. Until 2011, anyone in the Royal Family was prohibited from marrying a Roman Catholic.
Before Harry proposed to Meghan Markle, he had to negotiate the hurdles of the Queen’s approval, as is the tradition when any Royal seeks to wed. The Queen approved, but with Markle’s Catholic ties, the outcome may have been different just seven years ago.
Event Seating Is Meticulously Planned
Not only are the Queen’s dinner conversations carefully planned, but the seating charts are too. At every royal event, seating is arranged by order of precedence. Factors like age, language, and interest are also heavily considered. Considering some royal events have more than 150 guests, this gets difficult!
In the photo above, the palace staff are preparing the many tables for the Queen’s Dinner at Buckingham Palance during the week of the ‘Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting’
The Queen’s Breakfast Is Not To Be Questioned
When you’re the longest-reigning British monarch in history, what you say goes — even if it’s just regarding breakfast! Each morning, Queen Elizabeth enjoys the same breakfast. An early riser, the Queen starts her day with Twinnings’ English breakfast tea with milk and Marie cookies.
After her tea, the Queen reportedly requests a bowl of Corn Flakes, which is served alongside accompaniments such as prunes, apricots, and macadamia nuts.
No Cleavage Is To Be Shown
With the royal family’s strict dress code and emphasis on grooming, it should come as no surprise that the women of the Royal Family aren’t allowed to show any cleavage. This isn’t always easy when getting out of cars for events.
Funny enough, this is the very reason Princess Diana’s clutches became known as “cleavage bags.” Whenever she would get out of a car to walk the red carpet, she was always photographed gripping her clutch tightly to her chest to prevent any unwanted paparazzi photos. Anya Hindmarch, who designed numerous bags for the late princess told the Telegraph (as reported in W): “We used to laugh when we designed what she called her ‘cleavage bags,’ little satin clutches which she would cover her cleavage with when she stepped out of cars.”
The Queen’s Dogs Are Treated Like Royalty
You won’t find dry dog food in Buckingham Palace! Queen Elizabeth loves her dogs and takes their well-being seriously, especially when it comes to eating. Each dog eats gourmet meals created by a chef every day.
According to Brian Hoey in Pets by Royal Appointment, the Queen’s dogs are fed promptly at 5 p.m. and enjoy a filet of steak and chicken breast. The menu is created daily from scratch with fresh ingredients and the prepped meals are hand delivered to the pups by a footman.
No Pranks Can Involve The Queen’s Dogs
When it comes to practical jokes, the Queen has a good sense of humor. But while she can appreciate a good prank, she doesn’t tolerate pranks that involve her dogs.
In 1999, a footman decided to play a practical joke on the royal corgis. He made the mistake of putting whiskey and gin in their food, thinking it would stir a laugh from the Queen. Wrong. The Queen was not pleased in the slightest and demoted the footman.
Certain Dog Breeds Are Banned
The Queen’s life-long obsession with corgis is apparent — she’s had more than 30 corgis since she started her reign! But her love of her four-legged friends means that not all breeds are accepted.
During Christmas 2013, the Queen reportedly banned William and Kate’s cocker spaniel Lupo from the yuletide festivities. In an interview with the Telegram, a royal attendant said the reason for the ban was purely precautionary since one of her corgis has attacked other dogs before.
The Corgis Have No Rules
The Royal Family has a laundry list of rules they must follow, but this isn’t true for the Queen’s corgis, who apparently live a life of luxury free of any rules.
In Brian Hoey’s book Not In Front of the Corgis, he writes: “Nobody is allowed to raise a finger or a voice to any of the dogs. They cock their legs and do what Corgis do wherever they want — on antique furniture, priceless carpets.”