It’s well-known that members of the royal family have to follow some stringent protocol, which dictates everything from what they wear to what they eat. And while some of the strict rules were adopted based on experience—like the one that insists all royals pack at least one black outfit for every trip, adopted after Queen Elizabeth II returned to England after the abrupt death of her father and had to wait on the tarmac until someone could run mourning clothes to her—some of them have more traditional origins.
For example, the rule that says when Prince Harry or Prince William are present, Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle should receive elevated treatment compared to when the men are absent. If that sounds kind of ridiculous, keep in mind that these rules of precedent, which were put in place by Queen Elizabeth I in 1595, are followed with significantly less attention than they used to be. Which makes sense since they clearly reflect, uh, some different values.
Per People, this line of protocol also means that Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie outrank both Duchess Kate and Duchess Meghan, because “the hierarchy exists to ensure that the princesses who are born with royal blood, like Eugenie and Beatrice, aren’t kind of pushed to one side,” according to a spokesperson for Debrett’s, a publishing company with expertise in etiquette and royal titles. Since Kate and Meghan both married into royalty, their “place” in the hierarchy should theoretically (if not practically) reflect that.
But not always! “When the wives are with their husbands, their status is elevated to reflect the fact that the men are present," Wendy Bosberry-Scott, a Debrett’s editor, told the publication. "As the men have a higher rank than the princesses (Anne, Eugenie, and Beatrice) they have precedence, and this higher rank is reflected on their wives, so they are then moved ahead."
If you’re thinking, “Yikes,” you’re not alone—that is old school, to put it politely. But these hierarchies, when they’re used, probably aren’t that noticeable. “As far as the public is concerned, the most visible representation of this tends to be the order in which they might stand at a public event, or the order in which they might enter or leave a room, or who curtsies to whom,” the spokesperson added.
Anyway, add “old-timey rules about men outranking women” to the list of reasons why becoming a royal might be overrated.
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