Odd Rules the Royals Must Follow

The perks of being a British royal are many, but as it turns out, it’s not always fun and games. To prevent things from descending into chaos, the world’s most famous family must abide by a litany of rules, from long-standing traditions to insane quirks.
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Read on and discover all the strange and strict rules covering aspects like wardrobe, the royal corgis, banned board games, and everything in between.

Royals Can’t Sign Autographs

Always wanted to frame a royal’s signature as a keepsake? We have bad news. Nobody in the British monarchy is allowed to sign autographs. Can one take a picture? Yes, though selfies are a no-no. The reasoning behind these measures is pretty sound — a safety measure against forgery.

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All royals must follow the anti-fraud policy. When asked for his signature King Charles politely declined in the past, saying, “Sorry, they don’t allow me to do that.”

Tea-Sipping Protocol

A list of royal family protocols would be incomplete without mentioning tea! Of course, there is only one right way to sip from a teacup. One must hold the teacup handle with the thumb and index finger while holding the bottom with the middle finger.

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While sipping tea, the royal women must remember to take sips from the same spot to avoid getting lipstick all over their teacup, which is considered unsightly and rude.

The Monarch Cannot Sit on a Foreign Throne

Queen Elizabeth made a much-publicized visit to the “Game of Thrones” set in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The series created thousands of jobs for the people of Northern Ireland, and as a way to repay them, the Queen met with the creators and cast of the show.

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When offered the chance to sit on the Iron Throne, the Queen politely declined. It turns out that the monarch cannot sit on a foreign throne, even if it is the highly-coveted Iron Throne.

Royals Don’t Get Paid to Work

The British taxpayers and inherited wealth support the royal family. Senior members of the royal family, such as Prince Charles, Prince William, and Kate Middleton, cannot get paid to work. Commercial deals such as advertisements or speaking engagements are considered a conflict of interest. Instead, they earn income from the Sovereign Grant or through their respective duchy.

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But what of the other royals? It turns out some of them have regular day jobs. Princess Eugenie is the director of a London art gallery, while Princess Beatrice is the VP of a software company.

Coats Must Always Stay On

Kate Middleton’s status as a fashion icon is indisputable. Every outfit is on point, from the dress and accessories to the fashionable coats we love dearly. Besides fashion envy, Kate’s coats sparked conversation when she was photographed wearing one indoors. What gives?

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It turns out that British royal protocol considers it unladylike for senior female royals to remove a coat in public. You best be sure the weather calls for a coat. The coat must stay on for public engagements, no matter the circumstance.

You Can’t Buy Them Food or Drink

The royals live an incredible life, with impeccable food and drink being an integral part. But it’s not all peachy there. The royal family has an extensive list of dos and don’ts when it comes to food. One of the more pragmatic ones is never accepting drinks or food from strangers at unofficial events.

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The rule protects the family from being poisoned, especially since they no longer travel with royal tasters.

Dressing for Diplomatic Success

The royal family’s diplomatic dresses aim to strengthen international ties. On state visits, the family must incorporate elements from the local culture into their dress. The Queen famously wore a dazzling green outfit on her 2011 tour to Ireland – a country with whom England has historically had bad blood. She received a warm welcome, more so than most politicians.

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Other members of the family have followed in her footsteps. Prince William donned a Sherwani (buttoned coat) in Pakistan, while Kate Middleton wore a traditional Bhutanese Kira (skirt) to her first meeting with the King and Queen of Bhutan.

Royals Cannot Wear Fur

Edward III was one of the earliest spokespersons for animal rights, long before the issue became a part of public discourse. He passed The Fur Act in 1337, effectively prohibiting the wearing of fur in the United Kingdom. Except for clergymen and knights, displaying fur as a part of one’s attire was banned.

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The family has slipped up over the years, however. The Queen herself wore fur hats on several occasions, much to the dismay of animal rights activists.

Pantyhose Over Bare Legs, But It’s Not Compulsory

While there are treatises galore on royal fashion rules, some may be more exaggeration than fact. Among them is the rule about pantyhose being mandatory for public engagements. In reality, official rules about wearing pantyhose to public events do not exist.

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It is not an official mandate but more of a suggestion when family members appear alongside the Queen. Wearing pantyhose indicated respect for the Queen and the tone she used to set with her dressing.

Playing Monopoly Is Not Allowed

The royal family will not play a particular board game under any circumstances. That game is Monopoly. The Queen apparently “banned” Monopoly from the royal household, but her reasons are more endearing than you think. The story goes back to December 2008, when Prince Andrew visited Leeds Building Society’s newly-renovated Albion Street headquarters.

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Before leaving, the Duke of York received the board game Monopoly to commemorate his visit. Prince Andrew politely declined the game, explaining that the Queen does not allow Monopoly at home since things get “too vicious.”

Royal Cleavage Protocol

This one’s a no-brainer. Senior royals must dress modestly during public appearances to preserve the family’s dignity and sanctity. Royals must always dress appropriately and avoid overtly revealing or skimpy attire. The women cannot show too much leg.

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Of course, flaunting cleavage is an absolute no-no. Princess Diana, for example, would exit vehicles with her clutch purse against her chest to avoid anyone getting too close a look.

Chin Up, Ladies

Nobody does royal protocol like the British royal family. They even have specific rules about walking downstairs or how to stand still. Royal ladies learn the art of walking down the stairs with their chins parallel to the ground. Hands must be at their sides at all times.

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The women must also pose for photographs with their chins parallel to the ground. No scope for the best angles and head tilts in royal photos!

Guests Can Leave the Table Before the Monarch

If you must leave the table before the meal ends, discreet ghosting is perfectly acceptable. It can seem awkward to leave before the King or Queen finishes eating, but there are dignified ways to do it.

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If a royal needs to leave the meal midway, they must not reveal their reasons. They absolutely should not announce it to the rest of the table. A simple “excuse me” suffices, and they can leave the table quietly.

PDA Is Not Encouraged

The British Royals are known for the proverbial stiff upper lip. Still, no official laws prohibit heirs and their spouses from displaying affection in public. The Queen established a precedent encouraging younger, crazy-in-love royals to keep their hands to themselves that seems to have stuck.

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Some future monarchs take the protocol seriously. Prince William and Kate Middleton have never held hands or kissed in public. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle clearly treated it as a suggestion.

They Can Break SOME Rules

Being a royal comes with tons of unbelievable perks, and many rules that apply to us don’t apply to them. For example, the monarch does not need a driver’s license or a passport for travel. When driven by police on royal duties, the family can break legal speed limits.

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Like Queen Elizabeth II before him, King Charles has sovereign immunity, which means he is exempt from criminal or civil investigation. Some parts of the royal income are exempt from taxes. The royals don’t have to use their last name even though they have one!

Only Hats at Formal Events

Hats are mandatory for royal women, and one can see why. Elaborate hats at royal events tend to up the fashion game instantly. All formal royal events require hats and fascinators. It is a tradition passed down through generations. Rules were much stricter in the 1950s. Royal women could not go anywhere in public without a hat or fascinator.

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Nowadays, they are only a part of fancier royal events. We’re not complaining because those fashionable hats are stunning!

The Royal Family Must Remain Politically Neutral

Members of the royal family cannot share political views, vote, or run for office. The monarchy must remain neutral. British politicians and royalty have co-existed for centuries thanks to clearly defined roles and responsibilities.

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As the Head of the Church of England and The Head of State, King Charles has his work cut out for him. His reign has already seen its fair share of political drama, with Liz Truss resigning as Prime Minister after merely 44 days in office!

The Rules on Wearing a Tiara

For most of us, tiaras are whimsical accessories and any mention of “rules” seems odd. It turns out that wearing a tiara is more complex. Most royals nowadays wear their first tiara on their wedding day, which wasn’t the case a few decades ago.

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Princess Margaret rocked tiaras everywhere, from dinner parties to theater shows. Whether one is a born royal or marrying into the family, the women wait until their wedding to wear one.

The Royal Corgis Get Away With Everything

The royal corgis live enviable lives. It was no secret that the Queen adored her corgis, bringing new meaning to the phrase “it’s a dog’s life.” The dogs eat fresh gourmet meals prepared daily by a resident chef.

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A designated footman hand delivers the food after. One cannot reprimand the Queen’s corgis, even if they get up to unbelievable mischief. The Queen allowed her dogs to do as they pleased.

Royal Women Must Sport Natural-Looking Hair and Makeup

The royal family frowns upon over-the-top makeup. You won’t find a royal experimenting with winged liners or flaming auburn hair. The palace prefers natural-looking. Elegant and understated is the way to go.

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Light face contouring and nude shades for lipstick and nail polish are acceptable. Since touching up makeup in public is not allowed, their hair and makeup need to remain flawless, sometimes for hours on end.

Royals Must Weigh Themselves Before and After Christmas Dinner

The royal family follows several holiday traditions, some less endearing and more embarrassing than others. Members of the royal family must weigh themselves on antique scales before and after Christmas dinner, a tradition that dates back to Edward VII’s reign from 1901 to 1910.

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The reason? To ensure that guests have been properly-fed. Every guest should ideally gain at least three pounds during the holiday as a sign that they had a truly Merry Christmas. We’ve got mixed feelings about this one!

Prince Philip Had to Walk Two Steps Behind the Queen

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, always walked two paces behind Queen Elizabeth. The deference was a sign of respect for the orders of precedence. Even though he was the Queen’s husband, he was never king. He automatically became Prince Philip only when Elizabeth became Queen.

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It can’t have been easy for him to live in Queen Elizabeth’s shadow. Yet, Prince Philip remained her rock, supporter, and confidante throughout their nearly 74 years of marriage before his death in 2021.

Royal Wedding Bouquets Always Contain Myrtle

Every Royal bride since Queen Victoria has carried a sprig of myrtle in their bouquet. Myrtle represents love and hope, which are ideal emotions for any wedding. The tradition dates back to Queen Victoria’s reign when Princess Victoria carried it among her bridal flowers in 1858.

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Myrtle has consistently featured in bouquets carried by Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle, and Diana. The myrtle in question grows in a special bush presented to Queen Victoria.

Foods the Royal Family Will Never Eat

It may be hard to believe, but the Queen disliked starchy carbs like pasta, rice, and potatoes, preferring to eat meals with fish or meat and vegetables instead. All meals at Buckingham Palace were usually carb-free. Try and remember that the next time you dream of marrying into the family!

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The Queen also avoided sandwich crusts, tap water while overseas, and spicy foods. It remains to be seen whether King Charles will keep these culinary traditions or introduce his own quirks.

Formal Wear for Dinner

It makes no difference how trendy you may be in the outside world. If you show up to a royal family dinner wearing jeans and a t-shirt, chances are you will never receive another invitation again. Formal wear to dinner is on-brand for the British royal family.

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It would be quite the sight to imagine them sitting around the table in slacks, trainers, or pajamas. With this crew? One needs to dress up and show up for dinner.

How to Sit Like a Royal

The one faux pas a woman in the royal family should avoid is sitting with her legs crossed at the knee. Legs and knees must be together, but crossing the ankle is acceptable. The “duchess slant” has become a popular pose — a term coined by Beaumont Etiquette for Kate Middleton’s preferred sitting position.

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The pose involves squeezing her knees and ankles together and slanting her legs to the side. The pose maintains Kate’s posture and makes her legs look longer while still appearing modest; the late Princess Diana also preferred sitting in the same manner.

They Must Accept and Keep Track of Every Single Gift

A member of the British royal family must accept gifts with the utmost grace – no matter how bizarre, outlandish, or lame. What does one gift royalty apart from your boring old bouquets? And a family with such exacting standards at that?

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Some people have been bold in their gifting choices — from 500 cans of pineapple and dog soap to horse semen! Eventually, the Queen or King would decide who gets to keep which gift.

Curtsies and Neck Bows Are Encouraged

While the British monarchy’s official website states there are no mandatory rules when meeting a member of the Royal Family, it does mention a preference for tradition. Bowing or curtsying has always been the customary way to greet a royal.

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Curtsying entails bending forward slightly and placing one leg behind the other. A handshake usually follows the curtsy, but only if the royal extends their hand first. For men, a neck bow is the proper greeting, a full bow is not required.

Christmas Is Always at Sandringham

The royal family must spend Christmas at the Queen’s Sandringham Estate in Norfolk. Every year, the Queen insisted on arriving a week early to prepare for celebrations and welcome everyone. The royal family has several other Christmas traditions which they follow to the letter.

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They exchange and open gifts during tea time on Christmas Eve. The family prefers spending Christmas Day at St. Mary Magdalene Church, located within the estate.

When to Wear Military Colors

The royals frequently wear their regimental uniforms when representing their regiments at military events. Prince William and Prince Harry have served in the armed forces and often wear their regimental colors.

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Prince William served in the Royal Air Force (RAF) and also holds the title of Colonel of the Irish Guards. Prince Harry joined the British Army’s Blues and Royals cavalry regiment and served as an Army Air Corps Pilot in Afghanistan.

Tiaras Only After 5 P.M.

Tiaras are typically reserved for events that begin after 5 p.m. and only for married royals. Although formal events can happen during the day, royals avoid wearing diamonds while the sun is shining. Daylight and sparkling tiaras can be a bit of an overkill.

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Tiaras for evening events are far more appropriate. Royal ladies and their tiaras are far more likely to stand out at night. Inaugurations, balls, coronations, State visits, and royal dinners are the few occasions when a tiara is appropriate.

Eating Garlic Is a “No-No”

Queen Elizabeth II disliked having too many onions in her meals, and garlic was an absolute no-no — banned from Buckingham Palace entirely! Royal Chef, John Higgins, stated in The National Post, “The Queen is a lovely lady, and the royal family are lovely people, but they’re missing out on garlic because they don’t cook with it at Buckingham Palace. In case you get the royal burp, I suppose.”

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It seemed a sensible rule, given the many appearances and official meetings the royal family attended. One would never catch any of them with awkward bad breath in-between visits.

Royals Must Pack a Black Dress While Traveling

The British royals are nothing but prepared for any eventuality. The royal family must pack an all-black ensemble while traveling for royal duties. The reason? They will have appropriate clothing in the event of sudden death when they must pay their respects or attend a funeral.

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While it sounds morbid, the rule is practical and makes sense for a family always in the public eye. Some people say the rule came about after Queen Elizabeth heard of her father’s passing while she was in Kenya on a tour of the Commonwealth.

The Queen’s Secret Signals

While King Charles will no doubt devise his own methods, his mother used her purse to send subtle messages to her staff during her reign. During public engagements, the Queen moved her bag from her left arm to her right to signal she was done talking.

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It was a gesture indicating that she was ready to end the conversation and move on. Why did we never think of this before?

You Can’t Touch Them

LeBron James caused a tizzy when he put his arm around Kate Middleton while posing for photographs. It is best not to make direct physical contact with a royal while posing for photographs. The golden rule? Wait, and assess for yourself on expected etiquette.

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Easy-going royals may offer to put their arm around people or hug them. It is always good to mirror their actions so that people know what is appropriate for a particular occasion.

The Monarch Approves Marriage Proposals

British royals planning to pop the question can’t go ahead without the monarch approving the proposal. This one’s a bit like seeking blessings from the head of the family, except here it was laid down by decree according to the Royal Marriages Act of 1722.

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And it doesn’t stop there. The Queen also picked out the bride’s wedding tiara from her personal collection. It remains to be seen whether King Charles or Queen Consort Camilla will keep this tradition.

No Nicknames in Public, Please!

Leaving your old life behind is a given once a “commoner” marries a British royal. But they must also say goodbye to nicknames in the public sphere. With marriage comes a new, formal name. “Princess Di” may be far more endearing than Diana, Princess of Wales, but it was the only acceptable title.

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Kate Middleton should technically always be referred to as “Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales.” The names don’t always roll off the lips, but the Queen would have approved.

Six Ravens Must Live at the Tower of London

According to legend, the monarchy will fall unless at least six ravens remain at the Tower of London. But does anyone believe that? They do! Nine birds currently live at the Tower. After being warned that the Crown and the Tower would fall if the ravens left, Charles II was the first monarch to insist on their protection.

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The King’s order went expressly against the wishes of his astronomer, John Flamsteed. Flamsteed had a bone to pick with the ravens for interfering with his observatory work in the White Tower.

Two Heirs Cannot Fly Together

Two heirs to the throne cannot travel together by plane in case something tragic happens en route. A morbid rule, but the logic is infallible. King Charles and Prince William must fly separately.

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Prince George is second in line to the throne after Prince William. Once he turns 12, he and his father will no longer be permitted to fly together. Whether on royal duty or traveling for holidays, the two must travel everywhere separately.

A Strict Royal Dinner Protocol

A royal dinner is anything but ordinary, and event seating is of the utmost importance. There’s an office dedicated to organizing guests for any royal event. While officially known as the Office of the Marshal of the Court, they prefer calling themselves “mini hosts.”

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Guests are seated around the monarch by order of precedence, but factors such as interests, age, and language are essential considerations too. The Queen spoke to the guests on her right during the first course. She addressed the guests on her left when the second course arrived.

The Art of Purse Carrying

Handbags and purses are popular accessories for royal outings. Even though they have an entourage that can carry stuff around, the royals believe that carrying purses make them more relatable. They never appear in public without it – even if the bag is empty.

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If you notice, the royal women usually hold purses in their left hand to keep their right hand free to shake hands or wave at numerous meets and greets.

The Royal Handshake

Of course, the family has rules for shaking hands. Royals must maintain good eye contact when shaking hands with the general public. A royal handshake must consist of two to three pumps. Anything more is a bad look!

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The palm must be open, and the thumb should be facing down. Handshakes should not appear to be giving one person preferential treatment over another.

Mind Your Utensil Placement

Unless you’re the kind of royal who doesn’t mind causing chaos at the dinner table. Knives, forks, and their placement can make or break dinner decorum. If royals must leave the room in the middle of a meal but haven’t finished eating, they cross their utensils — a signal to the staff to leave the plate on the table.

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If they have finished eating, they place their knife and fork at an angle. And the handles must touch the bottom right of the plate.

The Queen Approves Royal Wedding Gowns

Who knows whether King Charles will or should have a say in this one? However, Queen Elizabeth approved not just weddings (whether they should or shouldn’t take place), she also vetoed the bridal dress. It is tradition for the Queen to approve a royal wedding gown.

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Still, it is more a courtesy than a mandate, similar to how a new Prime Minister must seek the Queen’s approval before forming a government. The Queen approved Kate Middleton’s Alexander McQueen gown and Meghan Markle’s Givenchy gown before their respective weddings took place.

Loyalty to the Church of England

Religion is crucial to the British monarchy. Apart from personal belief and regular worship, this commitment is also a constitutional requirement. The monarch is the Church of England’s supreme governor and the “defender of the faith.” The monarchy is also not limited to Anglicans.

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The union of England and Scotland in 1707 committed English sovereigns to uphold the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. The Royal Family nowadays can marry Roman Catholics after a decree passed in 2011. However, they themselves must remain loyal to the Church of England.

When the Monarch Sits, Stands, or Finishes Eating – So Do You

Guests must follow the monarch’s cue at any event, even during a large wedding reception. If you are dining with the Queen or King, you must approach the table only after they do. No one is permitted to sit until the monarch has taken a seat. Guests eat only when the Queen or King begins to eat.

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It might be wise to eat quickly since dinner ends as soon as the monarch has finished eating. Don’t even think about second helpings or savoring meals at a royal dinner!

They Can’t Speak Without Permission

Meghan Markle’s tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey had audiences glued to their screens. Among the several revelations Markle made was how members of the royal family could not speak without permission. She shared how the family received clear directives on what to say or not at any engagement.

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Markle said the standard response to the press about most things must be “no comment”, which she carefully adhered to as soon as she and Prince Harry began dating.

The Queen Only Wore Bright Colors

One of the most well-known quotes by the late Queen about her image is that she “needed to be seen to be believed.” Her wardrobe with bright rainbow colors was an extension of this belief. The Queen’s love for neon colors is the stuff of fashion legend.

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She made it a point to wear the brightest shades of blue, purple, yellow, pink, and green – often rocking one color from head to toe, paired with neutral accessories. She liked making sure people could easily spot her in a crowd. A monarch must always stand out and not blend in.

Princes George and Louis Must Always Wear Shorts

For Princes George and Louis, it is always summertime. The boys in the family must wear shorts until they reach a certain age. Pants are for men and teenage boys. According to etiquette experts, the tradition goes back to breeching times in the 16th century.

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Young boys back then wore gowns and dresses until they turned eight. By the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the tradition evolved into shorts.

They Rarely Eat Shellfish

When dining out or traveling, the royals do not consume shellfish. The family has gone to great lengths to avoid eating shellfish while dining out or visiting foreign countries because it carries a higher-than-normal risk of food poisoning and illness.

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This is not a requirement, but Queen Elizabeth set the tone for this precedent. It remains a wise rule nonetheless, one many royals still follow religiously. Shellfish must not come in the way of royal duty.

One thought on “Odd Rules the Royals Must Follow

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