Sure, being a member of the royal family seems cool and all, but have you ever looked at the massive list of rules they're supposed to follow? From avoiding hugs to saying no to autographs, the royal family has to follow a slew of weirdly specific (a.k.a. strict) guidelines. But since nobody (not even the Queen!) is perfect, here are 30 times the royal family epically broke tradition.
In an effort to prevent fraud, the royal family is encouraged to decline all requests for signatures. Meghan broke this long-standing rule when she signed an autograph for a young fan in Wales.
But Meghan isn’t the only royal family member who’s let the autograph rule slide—in 2010, Prince Charles signed his name for a young boy who lost his home to a flood in Cornwall. “'Can I be really cheeky please sir and can I have your autograph for my young son Tom?” his mother asked the prince. Not only did he oblige, but Charles also apologized for the “shaky writing,” saying he “never writes standing up.”
Royal tradition prohibits direct heirs in line to the throne from flying together—but rather than fly separately from his newborn son in 2013, William chose to travel side-by-side with George and Kate on the family of three’s first official journey out of the country. According to a spokesperson for the royal family, William got permission from the Queen to do so. The Cambridges have continued to break this tradition over the past five years.
Touching members of the royal family is a big no-no, especially when it comes to Her Majesty. But when the matriarch met former First Lady Michelle Obama, Elizabeth appeared to fan girl just as hard as anyone would. The Queen uncharacteristically slung her arm around Obama during their photo op (which you can see for yourself, here).
Unlike royal mothers before her, Diana chose to raise William and Harry as normal as possible. "She made sure that they experienced things like going to the cinema, queuing up to buy a McDonalds, going to amusement parks, those sorts of things that were experiences that they could share with their friends," Princess Diana's chief of staff Patrick Jephson recalled for ABC News.
Prince Charles broke royal tradition when he was sent to a prep school at eight years old (since, generally, royal children opted for private tutors), but Princess Diana took it one step further by sending both William and Harry to nursery school.
Although formal outfits were certainly a part of William and Harry’s childhood wardrobe, Diana dressed her children in T-shirts, jeans, and other classically "normal" garments.
It’s no coincidence that Kate Middleton wears clutches during all of her public outings—according to royal expert William Hanson, royals opt for clutches over cross-body bags as a sneaky method to avoid shaking hands with fans. On her visit to Edinburgh in February, Meghan made the mistake of choosing a far too practical bag.
Another clutch bites the dust.
There’s a reason Kate and William look so professional during public appearances—in the royal family, public displays of affection are considered inappropriate. During Meghan and Harry’s first outing as a couple at the Invictus Games in 2017, the duo broke protocol by getting close (yes, even hand-holding is prohibited, folks).
"The royal family used to say that everyone had to be deferential to them,” says Ingrid Seward, editor of Majesty magazine. “But Diana said, 'If someone might be nervous of you or you're speaking to a very young child or a sick person, get yourself on their level.’”
"When you see Kate kneeling to talk to someone, it is very reminiscent of Diana—throughout her life," Seward added.
Although the royal family at large has stopped following this tradition, it was previously unheard of to marry a divorced commoner. The Queen made an exception for Meghan, but she wasn’t so forgiving to her sister Princess Margaret, who was forced to break off her relationship with a divorced Peter Townsend.
On the evening that Prince Charles’ controversial documentary aired in 1994 (the one in which he admitted to having an affair), Diana showed up to the Seperntine Gallery in a look unlike anything a royal had ever worn. The look has since been appropriately dubbed the revenge dress.
During a 1985 visit to Melbourne with Prince Charles, Diana accessorized her gown with a makeshift tiara: the Princess strung an emerald-and-diamond choker across her forehead.
In addition to being prohibited from running for office, royal family members don't make their political opinions known. But during Meghan’s official visit to Ireland earlier this month, an Irish politician wrote in a since-deleted Tweet that the Duchess of Sussex was “pleased” with the country’s effort to legalize abortion.
In 2011, Prince William and Kate uncharacteristically embraced in a very public kiss at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club.
The Queen’s Christmas celebration is traditionally reserved for true royals only, which meant Kate spent the holiday with her family before officially tying the knot with William. But Her Majesty seems to have made an exception for Meghan, who joined the family during Christmas 2017.
Meghan reportedly broke royal protocol by giving a speech at her and Harry’s reception. The speech was directed at her royal in-laws for welcoming her into the family.
According to the Independent, Queen Elizabeth was the first royal mother to allow her husband in the delivery room when she gave birth to their youngest son, Prince Edward. “She'd been keenly reading women's magazines that stressed the importance of involving fathers in childbirth and had become fascinated by the idea,” Ingird Seward recalled. “Thus Philip became the first royal father in modern history to witness the arrival of one of his children.”
Quite possibly the weirdest royal family rule is that boys are expected to wear shorts at all times (yup, even through England’s harsh winter climate). George made his first-ever debut in pants at Harry and Meghan’s wedding.
The Queen has reportedly prohibited royal women from baring their knees in public, which leaves Kate Middleton’s 2011 breezy, yellow dress on her list of no-nos.
Princess Eugenie was guilty as charged when she arrived to Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding wearing an above-the-knee hemline.
Considering even shaking hands with a royal is prohibited, hugging is definitely off the table. In 2009, Prince William made the cutest exception for a little fan in Ullswater.
These brothers are too damn lovable! In 2012, Prince Harry hugged a little girl at the WellChild Awards in London.
Rather than creating a custom design or picking an heirloom piece, Lady Diana ordered her engagement ring straight from a Garrad’s jewelry collection in 1981 (a.k.a. it was totally available to the public). The sapphire ring now sits on Kate Middleton’s finger.
Following the tragic death of Princess Diana in 1997, Queen Elizabeth unexpectedly shielded Harry and William from what was being said in the press. “Our grandmother deliberately removed the newspapers, and things like that, so there was nothing in the house at all. So we didn’t know what was going on,” Prince William has since said.
Traditionally, royal family members serve fruit cake at their wedding, but Prince Harry and Meghan opted for a lemon elderflower flavor instead.