The Rules That Every Member of the British Royal Family Must Follow

By David GallagherLast Updated Nov 18, 2020 3:20:43 PM ET
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Photo Courtesy: Paul Grover/WPA Pool/Getty Images

While there's no doubt that every family has its own particular set of rules for getting along, the British royal family is certainly a different kind of group. That's because there’s ample royal protocol that family members must follow at all times, especially in public. And when it comes to the Queen, there are no exceptions. Learn the royal rules that Prince Charles, Prince William, Kate Middleton and the rest of the royal family must follow at all times.

Eat the Royal Diet

This might be hard for some royal fans to believe, but when you’re a member of the British monarchy, almost every aspect of your life is either monitored or controlled — right down to what you eat.

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Photo Courtesy: Louis Hansel/Unsplash

Reports say that shellfish isn’t allowed to be served at royal meals. That's because there's a chance that someone in the royal family or someone visiting the royal family might either get food poisoning or experience an allergic reaction. The last thing that the Queen needs is to be embarrassed with a dinner disaster or an emergency.

Always Walk Behind the Queen

It doesn't matter if you’re the heir to the throne or another senior member of the royal family. You must always show Her Majesty respect, especially during public outings. That's one of the reasons why many royal observers have noticed that Prince Charles always walks a few steps behind the Queen when they’re in public together.

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Photo Courtesy: Yui Mok/PA Images/Getty Images

That's not because he can't keep up with her. Instead, it's because that's a way of showing respect for her. Whether or not one of her grandchildren just happens to zoom past her is a different story, but they’ll have plenty of time to learn this and other royal rules.


Don’t Reprimand the Queen's Dogs

If there's anything in the Queen’s life that she’s famous for loving, it's her treasured corgis. In fact, there are reports that indicate no member of the royal family — or member of the public for that matter — is allowed to reprimand her beloved dogs.

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Photo Courtesy: Aaron Chown/PA Images/Getty Images

It's been said that her corgis are free to roam around the palace, and if someone opposes it, they just have to suck it up and deal with it. Privately. Queen Elizabeth loves her dogs as much as she loves serving the United Kingdom. She walks her dogs daily.


Follow the Code, Even If You’re a Baby

By now many royal fans and observers have noticed that even the youngest members of the royal family have a distinct way of dressing up, and there's a good reason for it, too. That's because even the youngest royals have a dress code that they have to adhere to.

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Photo Courtesy: Pete Souza/Wikipedia

Boys are supposed to wear knee-length shorts in public, while girls are expected to wear classic or timeless dresses. And yes, everyone in the family is color-coordinated in public. Even if Prince George is a fan of Peppa Pig, he can't wear a shirt that lets us know.


Travel With a Black Outfit

If you’re a member of the royal family and want to pack light, you might as well forget about it. That's because you not only need an outfit for every occasion on your trip, but you’re also expected to pack along with you a black outfit, too.

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Photo Courtesy: Anwar Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images

So, why is this rule so important? It’s in place in case the Queen happens to die while you’re abroad. And while it doesn't look like that's going to happen anytime soon, it's better to be safe than sorry. That mourning outfit should also be wrinkle-free.


Wear Tiaras Like Wedding Rings

You might have noticed that only certain members of the royal family get to wear tiaras, and there's a good reason for it. That's because tiaras are like wedding rings: You can only wear one after you’ve married into the royal family.

Photo Courtesy: Anwar Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images

In other words, it's a huge status symbol, but one that’s worn pretty well by the likes of Queen Elizabeth, Kate Middleton and even Meghan Markle — before she decided to leave the royal family. After a royal wedding, a tiara is considered jewelry that the new wife wears on some occasions.


Don’t Overshadow the Queen

There's a good reason why Queen Elizabeth is always dressed in bright and bold colors. That's because, as the head of the monarchy, she’s the one who needs to stand out in the spotlight the most.

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Photo Courtesy: Terry Kearney/Flickr

If the Queen is wearing a bold color or pattern, that means no one else is allowed to wear the same color or pattern — it’s like wearing white at a wedding. This rule is especially pertinent during a royal appearance. Only one family member is allowed to shine as brightly as a diamond, and that's the Queen.


Keep Coats On at All Times

It doesn't matter how hot, humid or uncomfortable you might be feeling. If you’re a female member of the royal family, you must keep your coat on at all times. Yes, that rule does also apply when you’re indoors, too.

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Photo Courtesy: Mark Jones/Flickr

For a lot of fans of the royals that seems like a huge shame, considering how some of the members of the royal family are the most fashionable people around. That's why they want to see what's underneath all of those coats! Luckily, we do see sneak peeks sometimes.


Use Fashion to Signal Diplomacy

When someone’s a member of the royal family, there's a very good chance that the public will be paying attention to almost every little detail about them, especially when they’re traveling abroad. This goes for everything, from the way they descend the stairs of a plane to that first handshake they make — and of course the outfit that they’re wearing.

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Photo Courtesy: British High Commission/Flickr

That's why many royals use fashion as a nod to their hosts’ backgrounds while traveling abroad. For instance, Kate Middleton may wear a designer from the country that she’s visiting in order to highlight their work and style. Talk about being fashion-forward, right?


Avoid Denim Whenever Possible

While this isn't a hard rule that the royals must follow, when it comes to denim, it appears as though it’s not forbidden but it’s also not preferred, either. You’ll see Kate Middleton wear black leggings instead of jeans most of the time when she’s out and about doing something casual or attending a "sportier" royal engagement.

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Photo Courtesy: DoD News/Flickr

The last time a royal was seen wearing denim in public was back in 2017. This was when both Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepped out together for the very first time at the Invictus Awards in Toronto.


Never Turn Your Back on the Queen

Here's a rule that royals never want to be caught breaking, especially when in public: They’re not allowed to turn their backs on the Queen. While it might not seem completely disrespectful, especially if they happen to be talking with a circle of people, it's something that’s frowned upon in the royal family.

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Photo Courtesy: Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty Images

Whenever the Queen is around, the royals make sure that they’re always facing her and that their backs are never turned in her direction. With that said, we’re sure she's probably allowed a few instances to slide.


Stay Off Social Media

Perhaps one of the reasons why Meghan Markle was so unhappy within the royal family is that she felt like she didn't have a voice to communicate with people anymore. She did previously run a successful blog, after all. Before the former Hollywood actress married Prince Harry, she was very opinionated on that blog and on her social media accounts.

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Photo Courtesy: KoenbrNZ/Flickr

Of course, that all changed the moment she became a member of the family. That's because no member is allowed to have their own personal social media accounts. What's more, everything has to be thoroughly vetted and edited before a photo or caption is posted on one of the palace's official Twitter or Instagram accounts.


Stay Color Coordinated

Have you ever noticed how the British royal family always looks so color-coordinated during group royal engagements or public appearances? There's a good reason for it. Knowing that many of their official photos and portraits will be released for the world to see, Queen Elizabeth wants to make sure that everyone looks cohesive.

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Photo Courtesy: Aaron Chown/AFP/Getty Images

And by that, we mean no one is allowed to wear a shade of blue when the rest of the family is wearing shades of green. This way, everyone looks as coordinated as possible. And everyone's smiles are from ear to ear, of course.


Don’t Wear Dark Nail Polish

Not only are royals not allowed to wear whatever they want (including jeans) whenever they want, but they also have to be very careful about their makeup and accessories. Back in 2019, Meghan Markle made headlines when she dared to wear dark nail polish during a public appearance.

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Photo Courtesy: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Now, this wasn't just any kind of dark nail polish, but black nail polish, too. In Queen Elizabeth's book, this is a huge no-no. While it doesn't look like she was reprimanded for this color choice, it has been noted by royal observers that Meghan Markle didn't dare to wear such a dark color again.


Don’t Voice Political Opinions

When it comes to being a member of the British monarchy, there are a lot of things that you can and certainly can't do in public. While there's no doubt that everyone probably voices their opinions behind closed palace doors, the same can't be said when they’re representing the Queen of England.

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Photo Courtesy: Pete Souza/Flickr

That's also why it goes against royal protocol to speak about politics in public. This became a problem for Meghan Markle, who made it pretty clear in the past that she is no fan of President Donald Trump.


Always Curtsy to the Queen

When Queen Elizabeth makes her grand entrance, you better believe that everyone in the room will stand up and listen. If you’re part of the royal family, you’re obligated to either curtsy if you’re a woman or bow your head if you’re a man.

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Photo Courtesy: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

There are no exceptions, even for senior members of the family. But don't expect someone to curtsy or bow their head down to the ground. A simple and demure dip is all that’s necessary to pay respect to the Queen’s greeting.


Travel Apart From Parents

A lot of royal fans have noticed that whenever Prince Charles traveled on one of his state or official visits back when Prince William and Prince Harry were younger, they almost never traveled with him. However, they traveled on a separate plane, automobile or even train.

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Photo Courtesy: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Why is this? In order to preserve the line to the throne, two heirs are not allowed to travel with one another, should anything tragic happen. Prince William and Kate Middleton broke the rule, however, when they allowed their children to travel with them to Canada.


Pay Attention to the Queen's Purse

There's a good reason why Queen Elizabeth always carries a purse with her everywhere she goes. And that's not just because she's one of the most fashionable women in the world. It's also because her purse is more than just an accessory — it's her way of communicating with the rest of the royals.

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Photo Courtesy: West Midlands Police/Wikipedia

In fact, royal experts say that Her Majesty uses her purse to send out cues to the rest of the family. When she places one on her table at dinner, it means it's time to finish up.


Don’t Eat Before the Queen

Another royal rule that probably has a lot of family members moaning and groaning is that they can't eat before the Queen eats. If everyone is gathered for a special state dinner or even for a family holiday dinner, no one is allowed to begin tucking in before the Queen.

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Photo Courtesy: Dominic Lipinski/WPA Pool/Getty Images

With that said, there's probably a very good chance that everyone is waiting for Queen Elizabeth to have her first bite of dinner before they can dig into their own. Fortunately, we don’t see too many photos in which they’re looking like they’re starving.


Don’t Even Dare to Engage in PDA

It doesn't matter if a royal is having a good day or a bad day with their spouse; royal protocol says that they’re not allowed to show public displays of affection. For Prince William and Kate Middleton, this has never been a problem. They've managed to keep their distance in public.

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Photo Courtesy: Dominic Lipinski/PA Images/Getty Images

But for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, it's a whole different story. The couple often held hands or touched one another gently on the back or shoulder during their royal engagements, much to the ire of the Queen — and in breach of the rules.


Ask the Queen Before Proposing

If a royal is sure their potential future spouse is the love of their life, they have to hope that Queen Elizabeth feels the same way. That's because no member of the royal family is allowed to propose to their girlfriend or boyfriend before they get permission from the Queen herself.

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Photo Courtesy: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

And yes, that person will be heavily vetted before they become a member of the family. After all, being a part of the British monarchy is not only a privilege; it's also part of the future spouse’s new job. Plus, there aren't many people out there who can handle the extreme pressures.


Don’t Look Directly at Cameras

Have you ever noticed that members of the royal family rarely look at the cameras, especially when photographers or the paparazzi are nearby? It's against royal protocol. The only time that members of the royal family are allowed to look directly at a camera is when they’re posing for a portrait.

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Photo Courtesy: Dan Marsh/Flickr

Otherwise, they have to keep their eyes focused on what they’re doing at all times. Seeing as how they’re always greeted with flashbulbs, this probably isn't a hard rule to follow at all. No lights, please!


Avoid Using Nicknames

Royal family members are expected to address one another using their full names, especially in public. For instance, you’ll never hear Prince William call his wife Kate Middleton "wifey" or "Katie" in public. Instead, he’ll refer to her as "Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge."

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Photo Courtesy: Library and Archives Canada/Wikipedia

Of course, it's likely different behind closed doors. In fact, Prince William once revealed that he has a very interesting nickname for his grandmother: Gan Gan. We have a feeling that there are very few other people who can call the Queen "Gan Gan" and get away with it.


Don’t Eat in Public

During their state trips, members of the royal family are often asked to try or sample delicacies from around the world. And while you might see Prince Charles or Prince William try a bite here and there, it's not very common for Queen Elizabeth and other female members of the royal family to follow suit.

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Photo Courtesy: Stefan Rousseau/WPA Pool/Getty Images

So, why is this rule so important? They don't want members of the royal family photographed eating (or looking like they’re about to eat) circulating on the internet. In this age of rampant photo editing, one can only imagine how such photos would be distorted.


Hold a Clutch in Public

While Queen Elizabeth often wears her clutch in public as a way to signal the rest of the royal family, there's a different reason why other members carry theirs. If someone like Kate Middleton or Meghan Markle has a clutch in her hands, that means she can politely decline to shake someone else's hand.

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Photo Courtesy: Rukia13/Flickr

It's been noted in the past, however, that the Duchess of Sussex doesn't always carry her purse with her during royal engagements and public appearances. She does, in fact, shake hands with those she meets.


Stay Modest at All Times

If you’re a working member of the royal family, you can forget about wearing a bikini in public. That's because royals are expected to look modest and wear modest clothing at all times. After all, they’re representing the Queen, and the last thing they should do is generate any negative headlines.

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Photo Courtesy: Mark Jones/Wikipedia

In other words, they’re expected to look royal, classic and elegant at all times. T-shirts with slogans or sayings are against royal protocol, too. It's best to wear clothes that are as plain as possible but with a little panache.


Get Travel Approved With the Queen

If you’re a member of the royal family and are looking to take a quick getaway with your pals to Dublin for the weekend, forget about it. That's because the royal family must always let the Queen know where they’re going — and even who they’re with — at all times.

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Photo Courtesy: The White House/Flickr

There are security measures that have to be put into place at any location where a royal goes. What's more, the Queen and her handlers want to make sure that the media and the paparazzi aren’t tipped off to any royal travel plans, especially if they’re private ones.


Wear Pantyhose

Let’s circle back to fashion and modesty for a minute. It doesn't matter how hot and humid it might be outside or how much a royal loathes the feeling of wearing pantyhose. She has to do it. It's part of the Queen's fashion rulebook, especially when wearing a skirt in public.

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Photo Courtesy: U.S. Embassy London/Flickr

Speaking of skirts, the length of royals’ attire also has to be checked off before they appear in public. The Queen frowns upon anything that’s way above the knee.

Avoid Speaking to the Media

If there’s one thing that Queen Elizabeth can’t stand, it's those occurrences when a member of the royal family does or says something to generate negative headlines. That's why all media appearances and even media interviews have to be pre-approved by Buckingham Palace before anything is said in public.

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Photo Courtesy: Paul Townley/Flickr

After all, they want to make sure that no one has the wrong impression of them. In this family, appearance means everything. It's what's on the outside that counts in public, regardless of what anyone has to say about it.

Don’t Play Monopoly

While there’s no doubt that the royal family is certainly an athletic bunch (with the majority of them playing polo), if there's one game that they’re not allowed to participate in, it's Monopoly. And no, this isn’t a joke.

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Photo Courtesy: fir0002/Wikipedia

Even though it might seem like a harmless game, apparently Prince Andrew said that he and his family were not allowed to play it. That's because the royals are such competitive people that the game turns very vicious very fast. Who knew they took board games so seriously?