10 Times the Royal Family Broke Protocol This Year

When it comes to following rules, the royal family (usually) takes the cake.

There are some pretty stringent—and strange—etiquette guidelines and traditions that the Windsors adhere to. For example, Prince Philip must always walk behind the queen. And, of course, there are absolutely no autographs (or selfies) allowed. 

However, it’s hard (and boring) to always follow the rules, even if you’re a royal. And if the past year is any indication, some members of the fam aren’t afraid to shake things up a bit (we’re looking at you, Meghan). Here, ten ways the royal family broke their own protocol in 2019.

1. Queen Elizabeth: Accepting Gifts

It’s a rare occasion to see Queen Elizabeth disobey her own strict rules…but it happens. Back in May, the 93-year-old monarch defied her own rulebook during a garden party at Buckingham Palace.

In a video shared by Laura-Ann Barr, a Belfast-based blogger who attended the gala, the queen can be seen accepting a gift (gasp!) in the form of a bouquet of flowers—something she never does. 

“The security staff congratulated me and said they were surprised she stopped and accepted the flowers,” Barr told People magazine after the garden party. “They said that had not happened ever before.”

2. Kate Middleton: Abandoning The Cambridge Cross

The Duchess of Cambridge started off the new year by going against protocol. 

While visiting FamilyLine, a new program from London-based charity Family Action that uses volunteers across the U.K. to support parents digitally, Kate ditched her usual standard Cambridge Cross sitting position and instead crossed her left leg over her right knee. (Scandalous?)

If you didn’t know, the Cambridge Cross (the regal sitting position Kate consistently uses) is when you cross your legs at your ankles while keeping your knees centered and together and your feet planted firmly on the floor. It’s elegant and ladylike, not to mention comfortable. 

meghan markle dark toenail polish

3. Meghan Markle: Wearing Dark Nail Polish

This one might be the most frequently broken by the Duchess of Sussex. 

In early January, Meghan (who was still pregnant at the time) attended Cirque du Soleil with Prince Harry and wore dark polish on her toenails, which—as we all know—is looked down upon by members of the royal family. 

kate middleton clutch in right hand

4. Kate Middleton: Holding Her Clutch Incorrectly

OK, we know this might sound nitpicky, but it’s legit. 

Scan through any number of photos of Kate, Meghan, even Princess Diana and you’ll immediately see that the royal clan has a strategy when it comes to carrying their clutch: They always (always) hold their bag in their left hand.

Royal expert and founder of Beaumont Etiquette Myka Meier says, “When entering a room or event, handbags or briefcases are held in the left hand so that your right hand stays open to meet, greet and shake hands!” 

But on a certain day in February, Kate ventured outside the box and carried her clutch (you guessed it) in her right hand. Hey, we’re all for bending the rules, especially when it comes to fashion. 

prince harry shutting car door

5. Prince Harry: Closing His Own Car Door

Yup, Meghan isn’t the only one in the family doing this

The Duke of Sussex attended the fifth anniversary of the Invictus Games at the Guildhall in London in September and committed a minor faux pas. When he arrived at the reception, Prince Harry got out of the vehicle and shut the car door on his own. We repeat: Shut. His. Own. Door. 

There’s an unspoken rule that members of the royal family aren’t supposed to open or close their own doors; someone else should. Looks like Harry is a rebel without a door closer.

meghan markle british fashion awards

6. Meghan Markle: Dressing In All Black

The royal family is nothing if not prepared. A respectable all-black outfit must be packed with them on their travels in case of a sudden death where they must attend a funeral.

But while this dark hue is supposed to be reserved for more somber occasions (including Remembrance Sunday), Meghan wore an all-black ensemble at the British Fashion Awards earlier this year. 

7. Kate Middleton & Prince William: Pda

While there’s no formal rule that forbids members of the royal family from holding hands and kissing for the camera, Queen Elizabeth II set a precedent that encourages royals to keep public displays of affection to a minimum

Lucky for us, Kate and Will have been spotted partaking in some PDA on several occasions. Last month, when the duo attended an engagement at the Aga Khan Centre in London, the 37-year-old mother of three put a tender hand on William’s shoulder as they looked to be laughing at a joke. And it was caught on video...

meghan markle red leather skirt
WPA Pool / Pool/ Getty Images

8. Meghan Markle: Skipping Tights

This is something Meghan has been doing since, well, her engagement photo shoot

While this tradition seems to be loosening up, royal family members usually wear stockings with a dress or skirt for official events.

In October, the duchess was joined by Prince Harry at Windsor Castle for a roundtable discussion about gender equality and inclusion with young leaders from around the world. For the occasion, Meghan chose an all-red look, pairing a lambskin Boss pencil skirt with a cranberry V-neck sweater. And while she looked incredibly chic, there was one thing missing: tights. 

meghan markle messy bun birkenhead

9. Meghan Markle: Donning A Messy Bun

While royal protocol usually calls for a sleek appearance up top (the queen covers her hair with a hat, and Kate often rocks a perfectly polished updo or a smooth blowout), Meghan sometimes opts for a more casual look: a messy bun. 

During Meghan and Prince Harry’s first joint public engagement of 2019 in Birkenhead, the duchess wore her hair in a loose casual bun, something we used to see often before she officially became a royal. 

meghan markle prince harry africa day 1 pda
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

10. Meghan Markle & Prince Harry: Even More Pda

Kate and William weren’t the only ones with royal-tradition-breaking PDA this year. 

Meghan and Harry were also guilty of this during their royal tour of Africa. On the first day of their tour, the royal couple held hands and touched each other’s backs while meeting children and dancing with a group of teens. They also clutched hands as they visited the District Six Museum and Homecoming Centre in Cape Town later that day.