25 weird rules about being a British royal

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The queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations mean the royal family will be in the spotlight even more than usual. Most of the family (and most of London) is celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s 70th year on the throne the first weekend in June, with a line-up of public appearances, parades and concerts.

Leading a country for seven tireless decades is obviously impressive enough, but Her Majesty’s extensive tenure becomes even more remarkable once you start digging into the traditions associated with being a British royal. And by traditions, we really mean rules — lots and lots of rules.

Turns out, being any member of the royal family (queen or otherwise) is not as easy and carefree as it looks in the movies. Read on for 25 of the weirdest rules the royals follow — your non-royal life might start to look pretty good by comparison.

Everyone gets weighed before and after Christmas dinner

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The royal family has a lot of holiday traditions, though some are a little less charming than others.

One of the most bizarre traditions requires each member of the royal family to get weighed both before and after Christmas dinner — if they gain weight, it signals that they truly enjoyed themselves at the table.

Not a fan

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According to a 2018 Grazia Daily article, the bizarre ritual dates back to King Edward VII (Queen Elizabeth’s great-grandfather) who “wanted to ensure his guests ate well.”

The tradition was depicted in a scene from the 2021 film “Spencer,” in which Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart) expresses her distaste over the entire debacle.

Game on? No!

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This is probably the silliest (and least strictly enforced) rule on the list, but the queen has reportedly banned the royals from playing the board game Monopoly.

The reason? The game makes the family a little too competitive.

“Too vicious”

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In 2008, Prince Andrew was gifted a Monopoly board after attending a meeting with Leeds Building Society, a financial institution in England.

The Duke of York reportedly turned down the gift, saying “we are not allowed to play Monopoly at home,” before clarifying that when the family tries to play the game, “it gets too vicious.”

Royals are not allowed to vote

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The royals are expected to remain politically neutral at all times. This includes refraining from voting in elections.

While their voting is not strictly illegal, the U.K. Parliament’s website does say that “it is considered unconstitutional for the Monarch to vote in an election.”

Careful neutrality

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The palace often has to deny reports about Queen Elizabeth expressing political views in public.

For example, during the Brexit referendum of 2016, The Sun ran a story claiming that the queen expressed anti-EU views at a dinner. The palace vehemently denied the allegation, and the tabloid was ordered to print a retraction.

The queen’s written approval is needed before getting married

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Seeking a family member’s permission before proposing is a rather common practice, but the royals take it to a whole new level.

According to the Succession to the Crown Act of 2013, the first six people in line for the crown cannot marry without the consent of the reigning monarch. Failure to do so would immediately disqualify them (and their descendants) from ever ascending to the throne.

Seal of approval

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In April 2011, Queen Elizabeth gave her consent for Prince William and Kate Middleton to get married.

The official notice of approval (known as the “Instrument of Consent”) was written in calligraphy, closed with a red wax seal, and covered in custom artwork that represented the groom and bride-to-be. 

Black should be worn only at funerals

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This rule is a little less official, but definitely quirky: According to tradition, royals only wear black during funerals.

“Generally it is thought that black is not usually worn unless in mourning, although Diana Princess of Wales did occasionally wear it for evening functions,” Alexandra Messervy, founder of The English Manner (a famous London-based finishing school), told InStyle.

A big no-no?

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Indeed, Princess Diana caused quite a stir when she wore a black taffeta dress to a fundraising concert in 1981 — her first royal engagement after getting betrothed to Prince Charles.

Diana spoke about the incident while being interviewed for her biography in 1991, claiming Charles saw her in the dress and exclaimed, “Only people in mourning wear black!”

But they must pack a black outfit every time they travel

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Though they are discouraged from wearing black in public, it is protocol that the royals have to each pack a black outfit whenever they go on vacation. 

This ensures they have something appropriate to wear in case they have to attend a last-minute funeral or appear in mourning if someone passes back at home.

Get ready, stay ready

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This rule is thought to have arisen out of Queen Elizabeth’s personal experience of hearing the news that her father, King George IV, died while she was vacationing in Africa. 

She didn’t have any mourning attire with her, but she knew that her plane would be swarmed by photographers when she arrived back in the U.K., so she had to send an aide to fetch an appropriate outfit for her before she disembarked. (This should all sound familiar if you’ve seen season 1 of “The Crown.”)

Nude pantyhose should be worn to formal events

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There have long been rumors floating around that wearing nude hosiery is a royal requirement when making public appearances, but this is only partially true.

There is no official written edict about pantyhose, though a royal fashion journalist told E! Online that “they are generally a rule for more formal or conservative royal events.”

Embracing the code?

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Meghan Markle made headlines in 2018 when she showed up to her first official event with the British monarch wearing — you guessed it — flesh-colored pantyhose underneath a navy dress and cream coat.

Markle had been sporting a lot of pantsuits up until this point, so her hosiery-centered fashion choice had people speculating that she was finally embracing the unofficial dress code of the British royals.

Women must also wear hats to formal events

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It’s a long-standing royal tradition that the women in the royal family always wear hats to formal events.

“Up until the 1950s, ladies were very seldom seen without a hat as it was not considered ‘the thing’ for ladies to show their hair in public,” said Diana Mather, a senior tutor for The English Manner, to the BBC. “But all that has changed and hats are now reserved for more formal occasions.”

Fascinating fascinators

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But formal certainly doesn’t mean boring. The hats donned by the royal ladies over the years have transformed more into wearable art than traditional headwear.

The pink pretzel-esque fascinator Princess Beatrice wore to William and Kate’s wedding in 2011 is proof enough.

Tiaras are to be worn after 6 p.m.

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Another unspoken rule dictates that tiaras must be worn at indoor formal events during the evening.

“The old rule is that hats are never worn indoors after 6 p.m., because that is when the ladies changed into evening dress, and tiaras and the family jewels would come out,” Mather told the BBC.

Unless…

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The one exception: A bride may wear a tiara on her wedding day regardless of the time.

In fact, many royals wear their first tiara when they get married — including Kate Middleton, who rocked a Cartier tiara when she walked down the aisle in 2011.

Royals don’t sign autographs for fans

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If you’re hoping to snag an autograph from one of the royals, we have some bad news. 

Royal protocol prohibits family members from offering their signature to fans, lest someone try to forge it.

Breaking a rule

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In 2010, Prince Charles surprisingly broke protocol to sign an autograph for victims of the Cornwall floods.

According to The Telegraph, after a couple asked Charles for his autograph, he got a piece of paper from his bodyguard and signed it “Charles 2010.”

Dark nail polish is generally frowned upon

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Yet another unofficial dress code rule, it’s rumored that the queen prefers royals only to wear clear, nude or very light pink nail polish. 

Given how stylish the modern royal ladies are, it should come as no surprise that this rule gets broken rather frequently.

A tiny tizzy

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Meghan Markle caused a tiny tizzy when she wore dark opaque nail polish at the British Fashion Awards in 2018. Kate Middleton has also painted her toes for red carpet appearances.

And Princess Diana, royal rule breaker that she was, frequently sported red nail polish in public — including the same day she wore her now-iconic black “revenge dress” in 1994.

Two direct heirs cannot fly in a plane together

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According to royal protocol, two direct heirs to the throne must take separate flights while traveling — a failsafe in case something tragic happens en route.

That means that Prince Charles and Prince William cannot fly together, and Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth cannot fly together.

Flying solo

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When Prince George turns 12, he will also have to start flying separately from his father.

The Cambridges have frequently flown with their children in the past, but typically received special permission from the queen to do so.

Shellfish should never be ordered at restaurants

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There are a few protocols centered around what royals can and cannot eat at restaurants, but the biggest menu no-no is shellfish.

The reason? Shellfish poses a higher risk of food poisoning than most other foods, and the family needs to always remain in good health.

Food restrictions

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For that same reason, the family is also advised against ordering meat cooked rare, drinking tap water in foreign countries, and eating food that is overly spicy.

While the queen strictly adheres to these guidelines, Prince Charles reportedly skirts the rules and enjoys a shellfish dish every once in a while.

A rule against wearing fur

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This rule goes way back — about 685 years back, in fact, when King Edward III passed The Fur Act of 1337.

The act effectively banned everyone except for knights and clergymen from wearing fur as part of their outfits.

Except…

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This is another rule that is broken relatively frequently. Both the queen and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall were seen wearing fur hats on Christmas Day in 2010, much to the chagrin of animal rights groups across the U.K.

According to her royal dresser, the queen stopped wearing new clothes featuring fur in 2019 and now asks designers to only use faux fur.

They must keep a record of every gift they receive

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The royals have a lot of rules to follow when it comes to giving and receiving gifts, ranging from people they must refuse gifts from, to the monetary value of gifts they can keep.

But regardless of the present itself, all items must be entered into a log. According to the Royal Household’s gift policy, “Official gifts should be acknowledged wherever possible, recorded and be traceable at all times.”

Yep, there’s a list

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Keeping track of every present you receive sounds tedious, but the records often make for some interesting conversation.

Buckingham Palace frequently releases a list of official gifts the royal family receives each year, and the entries are surprising, to say the least. Some of the strangest items have included an automatic rifle, 12 boxes of mangoes, a PhD thesis, and live sloths from Brazil.

When the queen stops eating, you stop eating

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Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of rules to follow when dining with Her Majesty.

One of the biggest rules is that dinner companions must echo the queen’s behavior throughout the meal — so if she puts down her knife and fork, that means you’re done eating, too. 

Lipstick etiquette

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Other dining etiquette for royals includes holding silverware in the correct hands (knife in the right hand, fork in the left) and only talking to people sitting directly next to you.

Royals wearing lipstick must also try to always drink from the same spot on their cup, so as not to smear their makeup on the glass any more than absolutely necessary. 

No sleeping while the queen is awake

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Similar to the dinner table rule, the royal family must also mirror the queen’s actions when it comes to bedtime.

In other words, no one can retire for the night until Her Majesty does so first.

Yawn

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According to Sir William Heseltine, the Queen’s former private secretary, Princess Diana found those long stretches of sitting around and waiting for bedtime to be “agony.” 

“There’d be an hour or so in the sitting room of everyone sitting around making conversation,” Heseltine told author Juliet Rieden in her book, “The Royals in Australia.” “And Diana was driven to such extremes that she’d excuse herself and go to bed, which was thought to be rather bad form, going to bed before the queen.”

The queen can drive without a license

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An example of the royals getting a little more freedom as opposed to rigid guidelines, the queen is the only person in the U.K. who doesn’t need a driver’s license to get behind the wheel of a car. 

Additionally, she never had to take a driving test and doesn’t need to put tags on her car.

And still she trained

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That’s not to say the queen doesn’t know how to operate a vehicle.

On the contrary, she trained as a military driver and mechanic during World War II and, up until a couple years ago, loved driving her Range Rover when she wasn’t in public view.

PDA is strongly discouraged

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There are no official rules forbidding public displays of affection, but Queen Elizabeth and the late Prince Philip set a precedent encouraging royals to keep touching to a minimum.

Prince William and Kate have followed in the queen’s footsteps, keeping things strictly professional in public — except for the occasional Olympics embrace, that is.

Unless…

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On the other hand, Prince Harry and Meghan clearly don’t feel as much pressure to adhere to this particular rule.

The couple frequently share some cute PDA moments, and they even — gasp! — kissed on stage when Meghan introduced Harry during the opening ceremony of the Invictus Games in 2022. 

Royals enter the room in a specific order

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When the royal family is part of a procession, they typically enter and are seated in order of who’s next in line for the crown.

That means the order usually starts with Queen Elizabeth, then continues with Prince Charles and Camilla, then Prince William and Kate, and so on.

Unless…

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You can imagine people’s confusion, then, when family members were seen walking into a room in completely random order at Buckingham Palace in 2019.

According to Harper’s Bazaar, this lack of formality is quite usual at low-key events. “A true order of precedence really only takes shape at state and diplomatic events,” said royal historian Marlene Koenig.

Wedding bouquets must contain myrtle

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Myrtle flowers symbolize good luck in love and marriage, so it makes sense that the royals would want them incorporated into their wedding bouquets.

The tradition of including sprigs of myrtle in one’s bouquet started with Queen Victoria, and prominently resurfaced with Kate Middleton’s wedding in 2011.

Lucky myrtle

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Princess Beatrice also followed this charming rule when she got married in 2020.

Along with the sprigs of myrtle, her floral piece featured jasmine, sweet peas, roses and other blooms.

Handshakes should consist of two to three pumps

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When you’re a royal, even something as simple as shaking someone’s hand is highly regulated. 

According to Grant Harrold, director of the Royal School of Etiquette, the royal family members are taught the perfect shake from a young age: “A royal handshake should consist of two to three pumps, with your palms open and thumbs down.”

Don’t reach out

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As for us commoners, we should never initiate a handshake with a royal — we should wait for them to come to us.

There have been several innocent instances of celebrities mistakenly initiating contact with a member of the royal family, from Michelle Obama touching the queen’s upper back in 2009 to Ed Sheeran clasping Prince Charles’s arm in 2017.

Boys wear shorts until age 8

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It’s an unwritten royal rule that boys must wear shorts for most of their childhood years, graduating to longer trousers when they turn 8.

The aristocratic practice of dressing young boys in gowns and then shorts dates back to the 16th century, and we know the British royals like sticking to long-standing traditions.

But what about winter?

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While the public has learned to associate this tradition with Prince George — he just turned 8 in 2021 so we’ve mostly seen him in shorts up to this point — his father and grandfather were also subject to this rule.

Prince William didn’t wear long trousers until he went to prep school, and Queen Elizabeth put Prince Charles in infant dresses and shorts before he transitioned to pants.

Avoid words like “toilet” and “perfume”

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In her book, “Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behavior,” author Kate Fox revealed that there are more than a dozen words that are banned from the royal family’s vocabulary.

For example, one should never use the word “toilet” in the presence of a royal due to its French origin. “Lavatory” and “loo” are far more acceptable options.

No dessert for you

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Another example: The royals do not use the word “dessert” to refer to the food served at the end of a meal. When they’re craving something sweet, they ask for “pudding.”

Some other words kept out of the royal vocabulary include “patio,” “perfume,” “lounge” and “couch.”

They all have to get baptized

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Queen Elizabeth is not just the head of her family — she is also the head of the Church of England.

As such, every member of the British royal family must be baptized to signify the beginning of their membership to the church.

Baptisms for everyone

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Baptisms are a pretty big deal for royal infants, but even the grown-up additions to the family have to undergo this rite of passage.

Before she got married to Prince Harry in 2018, Meghan Markle was baptized by the Archbishop of Canterbury in a secret, closely-guarded ceremony.