You can’t have the British royal family without the British royal family rules. Sure, the family is a glamorous one, so it might be easy for us non-royals to daydream about being one of those regal relatives. But don’t get so caught up thinking about jewels, fine dining, and people catering to your every whim that you forget about all the royal rules of etiquette that come with the perks.
No one knows those rules and restrictions better than Meghan Markle, who by many people’s standards is “living the dream” as a duchess after marrying the love of her life, Prince Harry. While the culture shock of marrying a British person might have been disorienting enough, marrying a British royal is on a totally different level.
Of course, there’s no question that marrying into the British royal family has massive advantages, too. Charities want to be involved with you, fashion designers want to dress you, and everyone seems to want to give you flowers. To become a duchess or a princess — or any royal title, really — means becoming part of a long-lasting legacy of something larger than yourself. For example, Meghan now has a prestigious platform to speak out about issues, like her sister-in-law Kate does with mental health. We imagine that part of the job has to be so rewarding.
But there are also several parts of the gig that might not bode well for those of us who haven’t had to answer to strict royal rules of etiquette our whole lives. Just imagine that you suddenly needed to follow the British royal family rules starting tomorrow: Not only would you have a hectic schedule of obligatory events, you’d also have a whole new set of requirements for the way you behave and dress at the events — and pretty much anytime you step outside. On top of all that, you’d have to memorize a brand new list of things you’re now forbidden from doing any longer. We don’t know about you, but we’re OK with remaining “commoners” for the time being!
Still think you have what it takes to be part of the British royal family? Take a look at some of the weirdest royal family rules below and see if you could follow all of them.
Prince Harry Meghan Markle Wedding Gifts
Royals cannot accept unsolicited gifts.
Before their wedding, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced they wanted their wedding guests to donate money to charities in lieu of actual gifts — and for good reason. According to royal rules, "Gifts offered by private individuals living in the UK not personally known to the Member of
The Royal Family should be refused where there are concerns about the propriety or motives of the donor or the gift itself."
According to the Express, Meghan and Harry have to return roughly £7 million (about $9.3 million) worth of gifts because of this rule. The couple do, however, get to keep the royal titles Queen Elizabeth bestowed on them, as well as a James Bond-themed cigar cutter from France's President Emmanuel Macron.
Royal Family Secrets Knowing Babys Gender
You can't know the gender of your baby before giving birth.
It's tradition that royals not find out the gender of their babies ahead of time, so Kate reportedly did not know whether she was having a son or a daughter with either of her pregnancies (until Prince George and Princess Charlotte were born, that is!). One of the few royals who did learn the sex of her babies before giving birth was none other than Kate's late mother-in-law, Princess Diana. Always the rule-breaker, "The People's Princess" knew in advance that she was having boys, though she did not share this news with the public until after Buckingham Palace announced their births.
Kate Middleton Prince William Eating
You can't accept food or drinks, unless it's at an official function.
When the royals take part in a walkabout — or stroll — with a crowd of people, they're not allowed to take food or drinks from any folks they meet from that crowd. Why? For security reasons. Back in the day, their ancestors used to use royal taste testers. It does sort of make sense why they won't accept food; there's no way to verify that it's safe. However, when royal family members attend official functions, they are allowed to eat the food.
British Royal Family Queen Lead
You have to follow the Queen’s lead for every family event.
In case you're wondering, following her lead means more than simply walking behind her in line; this practice even extends to the dinner table. When she stands at meals, you have to stand. When she sits, you have to sit. When she decides she’s done with her food, that means the meal is finished for everyone at the table. So if she's hungry, you better eat quickly!
Kate Middleton Prince William Flying
Two heirs cannot travel together.
It was once a rule that two heirs were not allowed to travel together for fear that their aircraft would go down and Britain would lose two potential rulers in one blow. Given how many photos there are of Prince Harry and Prince William boarding a plan together, this specific rule has obviously been relaxed.
British Royal Family No Vote
You can’t be active in politics.
The royal family is technically allowed to vote, but they choose not to because it's considered unconstitutional. Additionally, giving their political opinions would take away from their ability to identify with and relate to all sections of society. Can you imagine how much speculation there would be about who they voted for if they did cast ballots?
British Royal Family Royal Name
When you adopt a royal title, you can’t be referred to as anything else.
While people still call her Kate Middleton in casual conversation, no one would ever think of addressing her in that way in a formal setting. She can only be referred to by her full official title: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. Although Kate's is relatively easy for us to remember, we can't imagine the time it must take to memorize all the royal family members' royal titles!
Tower of London Ravens
Six ravens must live at the Tower of London at all times.
There must be six ravens in the Tower of London at all times. Weird, right? This rule dates back to the time of Charles II, when the monarch required that seven ravens (six ravens and one spare) live at the Tower. His request came because of a legend that said, "If the ravens leave the Tower, the kingdom will fall..." Spooky!
British Royal Family Rules Shellfish
You shouldn’t expect to see a lot of shellfish.
In the past, the royal family was discouraged from eating shellfish out of concern for risking foodborne illness and allergic reactions; to this day, the Queen will reportedly not touch any type of shellfish. However, Prince Charles has been known to bend this more flexible rule and indulge in oysters from time to time.
British Royal Family No Monopoly
You’re not allowed to play Monopoly.
Although this rule might sound a bit extreme at first, the reasoning behind it may actually make sense if you grew up in a competitive family — especially when it comes to beloved board games. Prince Charles's younger brother, Prince Andrew Duke of York, reportedly banned Monopoly in the royal family because it became "too vicious" when the family had attempted playing it in the past. OK, that's fair!
British Royal Family Gifts
You have to accept every gift graciously.
No matter what the gift is, royals are expected to never say no to it. More often than not, gifts are usually flowers or tokens of symbolic gestures. But even the oddball presents — like the live crocodiles once gifted to Prince Andrew — must be accepted as well. (Thankfully, the crocs were moved to the London Zoo!)
British Royal Family Gift Keep
It’s up to the Queen who gets to keep what gift, though.
Anything given to any member of the British royal family actually belongs to the reigning monarch — Queen Elizabeth II. So reselling or regifting any present is strictly forbidden for them. But the Queen can loan out gifts to whoever she wishes; that’s why you see a lot of Princess Diana’s jewelry on other members of the royal family.
British Royal Family Clothes
Your clothes can’t send ambiguous statements.
Fashion is a huge part of being a royal — and being part of the royal family means you have access to some of the most renowned fashion designers in the world. That said, you're expected to showcase an elegant and modest look without sending any unclear messages to the public.
British Royal Family Formation
There's a strict order in which to sit, stand, and walk.
Royals have to move in order of ranking. So because Queen Elizabeth II is the reigning monarch, she always goes first, followed by Prince Phillip. Next come Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla. And then it's Prince William and Duchess Kate. Prince Harry follows behind them — with Meghan now by his side.
British Royal Family No Autograph
You’re not allowed to sign autographs.
Signing anything other than official papers authorized by the Queen is a big no-no for Kate Middleton or any other members of the royal family. Although some fans might be disappointed not to get autographs, it's for the famous family's own protection: It prevents any of their signatures from being forged.
British Royal Family No Work
You may not work for money.
You are, however, allowed to create official activities and work on charitable causes — like Kate's admirable focus on raising awareness of the importance of mental health in recent years. You can also support other royals on official missions.
British Royal Family No Controversy
You’re not allowed to express your thoughts on controversial issues.
This includes political, social, and sexual preferences. Considering none of them even vote, we're not too shocked that the royals aren't making any divisive statements in their spare time.
British Royal Family Observation
You’re not allowed to avoid public observation.
You will always be in clear sight of the people of your country, the press, and anyone in the world who chooses to watch you. You cannot escape approval — or rejection — from the public eye. In other words, pressure's on!
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