2. Curtsies and bows are required.
When greeting the Queen, men are expected to bow their heads, while women curtsy. However, curtsies are a demure and subtle dip down with one leg behind the other, rather than the grand gestures depicted in old films or tales of Disney royalty.
3. Heirs travel apart.
In order to preserve the line to the throne, two heirs are not allowed to travel together. William and Catherine have made the choice to break royal tradition and travel with their children, but come George’s 12th birthday, he and Harry will be required to fly separately.
4. The Queen’s purse isn’t just an accessory.
The Queen isn’t one to be rude, and so her purse is used to send subtle social signals. When she places her clutch on the table at dinner, it means it’s time to wrap things up–so consider the bite you’re reaching for your last. When she swaps her purse from her left hand to her right, it means she’d like to finish up her conversations.
5.No Public Show Of Affection
Public displays of affection are frowned upon for the Royal Family–especially when traveling. Royals are expected to never make those from another, more conservative, culture feel uncomfortable by showing signs of affection publicly. Case in point: William and Catherine’s stoic poses during their visit to the Taj Mahal in 2016
6.Marriage proposals require permission.
According to the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, royal descendants must seek the monarch’s approval before proposing. The Queen approved all the unions of her children and grandchildren–from Prince Andrew and Fergie to Prince Charles’ proposals to Diana and Camilla Parker Bowles. More recently, she gave her seal of approval when William’s proposed to Kate Middleton, and when Harry asked Meghan Markle for her hand.
7. Bridal parties are comprised of children.
Royal weddings require bridesmaids and page boys–which mean little girls and boys responsible for scattering petals–rather than adults in the bridal party. Traditionally, the little girls were responsible for carrying the bride’s train, but when it came to dressing the bride, her ladies in waiting and staff handled the heavy lifting. At most, royal brides and grooms have maids or matrons of honor and best men–but some choose to forgo extending that honor to a close friend or family member, like Meghan Markle’s recent decision to skip having a MOH.
8. Bridal bouquets must include myrtle.
In a royal wedding custom dating back to Princess Victoria, royal brides typically carry at least one sprig of myrtle in their clutches. Myrtle symbolizes hope and love, and every royal bride, The Duchess of Cambridge included, has embraced the tradition of adding it into their bouquets–and Meghan will likely follow suit.
9. Royals were required to marry a Roman Catholic–until 2011.
Until William received the Queen’s permission to wed Kate Middleton in 2011, royals were required to marry a Roman Catholic. Now, royals are allowed to marry someone of any faith, so as long as the Queen approves.
10. No nicknames allowed.
Royalty are expected to be addressed by their full, given names rather than nicknames given to them by their families. When she married William, Kate began being referred to as Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. With that said, some royals have broken these rules since they were young–Harry’s given name is Henry, or (even more formal) HRH Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Windsor.
11. Hats on, hats off.
Royal women are expected to wear hats to formal appearances during the day, as do most socialites and members of the aristocracy. However, come 6 p.m. it’s all about a tiara. Each royal has tiaras in her own personal wardrobe, at times on loan from the crowned jewels, and while no woman is expected to wear a hat in the evening, only married female royals are allowed to wear these regal headpieces
12. Brights are the new black.
You’ll likely never see the Queen in a neutral or a dark hue–her affinity for brights is actually another piece of royal protocol, since bright tones make it easy to spot her in a crowd. And while royals reserve black ensembles for funerals and evening gowns, the Queen instituted a rule that all members of the Royal Family must pack a black outfit whenever they travel, in case there is a sudden death while they’re away, and a mourning look is required.
13. Wedding dresses require the Queen’s approval.
While royal brides have some flexibility in style and silhouette when it comes to their wedding gowns, the Queen reportedly has final say on the gown’s design and aesthetic. The Duchess of Cambridge showed her grandmother-in-law her custom gown by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen in the design process, as well as in the weeks prior to her wedding to Prince William when the gown was complete. Meghan Markle reportedly abided by the same tradit
14. Modesty is key.
Royals are required to dress modestly, and avoid any looks that are too racy or provocative. Cleavage is also deemed unacceptable, and Princess Diana was famous for holding her evening bag to her chest when she stepped out of her car in order to shield her chest from the paparazzi awaiting her arrival.
15. Clutches aren’t just for cleavage…
Royal women tend to carry clutch bags for a far deeper reason than simply covering up. Holding a clutch (typically with both hands) ensures that the royal in question will have a polite excuse to avoid shaking hands with commoners.
16. Prince George wears shorts only.
It’s no coincidence that Prince George is always photographed in shorts. In fact, we can expect his younger brother, Prince Louis, to be seen in them as he transitions into a young toddler. Traditionally, trousers are reserved for young adults and grown men; boys in the Royal Family are typically in shorts exclusively until the age of 8.
17. Royals have styling tips and tricks to avoid malfunctions.
The Queen has a hack for preventing wardrobe snafus–like the time Kate’s skirt went all Marilyn Monroe on an royal Airforce visit in 2011. According to designer Stewart Parvin, whose crafted looks for the Queen, penny weights are expected to be sewn into the hemline of the Queen’s garments to avoid her skirts catching the breeze and showing too much skin.
18. Report for duty.
Royals are expected to serve their country in more ways than one–and while enlisting in the military isn’t a requirement for royalty, it’s certainly expected. Traditionally, those who enlist and serve also wear their uniforms on their wedding day.
19. The royal diet.
Shellfish is not allowed to be served at royal meals, as it’s viewed as something that could more likely lead to food poisoning and allergic reactions. The Queen is also not a fan of garlic, and therefore the ingredient is left out of all preparations for dinners that she attends and hosts.
21. There’s a specific way to drink tea.
Royals are expected to take part in many afternoon teas (which is not referred to as “high tea,” which despite being dubbed ‘high’ is actually a more casual service.) Tea cups are held in a specific manner, pinching the top of the handle with your thumb and index finger, and placing your middle finger to support the bottom of the handle. The handle of the cup should always be kept at 3 o’clock, and royal women are advised to try and sip from the same spot to avoid getting lipstick stains around the rim.
22. Don’t mess with the royal pets
The staff at Buckingham and Kensington Palace are not allowed to reprimand the Queen’s corgis, no matter how they’re behaving, as the Queen prefers that they be allowed to roam freely. The Queen walks the dogs herself daily, and the royal pups are served gourmet meals daily, which are prepared by one of the palace’s chefs and delivered by a footman.
23. Dinner parties are heavily orchestrated–and involve tons of protocol.
Seating at a royal dinner party is planned to a tee, and the Queen subtly schedules her conversations with the guests at her side–she spends her time speaking to the person on her right for the first course, and then engages in conversation with the guest on her left for the second.
Also, if royals need to step away from the table before they’ve finished their meal, it’s expected that they cross their utensils, so that the staff doesn’t remove their plate. If they’re finished, the utensils are placed side by side at an angle with the handles facing the bottom right of the plate.
24. Royal children have no last names–until now.
Until the 20th century, royal babies had no last name, they were called by the house or the dynasty to which they belonged. However, since royal children were homeschooled until Princess Diana sent William and Harry to private school outside of the palace, they had no need for one. Now, when royal children attend school they go by a single surname, rather than their royal title. At school, Prince George is called George Cambridge.
25. Chin placement is key.
Royal women are instructed to always stand and walk down stairs with their chins parallel to the ground. When walking down stairs, their hands must always be at their sides as well
26. There are also rules for shaking hands.
Royals are expected to maintain strong eye contact throughout the duration of a handshake, and stick to two shakes maximum, to avoid touching commoners for too long or appearing to give preferential treatment to one handshake over another.
27. The Queen can drive sans license.
Only the Queen is allowed to drive without a license, or plates on her car. All other royals are required to have a valid license.
28. Some rules are off limits.
There are certain words that royals will never utter, and they all have more proper substitutes. A “toilet” is always referred to as a “lavatory;” interrupting a conversation always requires an apologetic “sorry” rather than an interjecting “pardon.”
Couches are referred to as “sofas” and they are placed in “drawing rooms” or “sitting rooms” rather than “living rooms,” “lounges” or “dens.” Brits also call their parents by “mum’ and ‘dad,” or “mummy and daddy” if they’re feeling more affectionate. Also, someone’s “perfume” is always referred to as their “scent,” to make the smell sound more natural to the person.
29. Royal babies are typically not allowed to meet world leaders.
In 2016, George was given permission by his parents to stay up late to meet Barack and Michelle Obama–but greeting world leaders and foreign dignitaries is usually off-limits for royal babies.
30. Leave the wedges at home.
The Queen reportedly hates the look of wedges, and so royal women are expected to abandon the style when attending events with her. “She really doesn’t like them, and it’s well-known among the women in the family,” a source once told Vanity Fair. Kate has worn the style multiple times, but only at events where the Queen has no plans to attend.