26 of the Most Ridiculously Strict Rules the Royal Family Must Follow

Based on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s tell-all interview, it’s clear that being part of the British royal family isn’t all tiaras and travel. There are some pretty stringent—and strange—etiquette guidelines and traditions that the Windsors adhere to. For example, did you know that members of the fam couldn’t eat garlic in the presence of the queen? Here, 26 of the most bonkers rules that the royal family must follow.

The One Surprising Royal Rule That Would Disqualify Heirs from Becoming King or Queen

the duke and duchess of cambridge receive gifts on canada tour1
Andrew Chin/Getty Images

1. They Must Accept All Gifts Graciously

While the royal family must accept every gift that they receive (even if it’s something super lame), it’s up to King Charles who gets to keep which gift.

royal family rules king charles
Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

2. They Can’t Just Propose Willy-Nilly

According to the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, royal descendants must seek the monarch’s approval before proposing. 

queen elizabeth ii walks in front of prince philip
Samir Hussein/Getty Images

3. Prince Philip Was Required To Walk Behind The Queen

During their marriage, Her Majesty’s husband had to always walk a few steps behind her. Time will tell if this tradition carries on with King Charles and Queen consort Camilla.

the duke and duchess of cambridge dressed up in formal attire1
WPA Pool /Getty Images

4. There’s A Strict Dress Code

Members of the royal family are expected to dress modestly and never overtly casual. (Serious question: Can you imagine a life without sweatpants?) That doesn’t mean that they can’t have some fun, though.

duchess of cambridge and queen maxima of the netherlands attend the annual remembrance sunday service
Carl Court /Getty Images

5. And They Always Travel With An All-Black Ensemble

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

the duke and duchess of cambridge with family step off plane
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

6. Two Heirs Cannot Fly Together

That’s in case something tragic were to happen. Once Prince George (who is second in line to the throne after Prince William) turns 12, he will have to fly separately from his dad.

german chancellor angela merkel welcomes duchess of cambridge and prince william
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

7. No Politics Allowed

Members of the royal family are not allowed to vote or even publicly express their opinion on political matters.

prince william and the duchess of cambridge during their visit at the taj mahal in agra
The India Today Group/Getty Images

8. PDA Is Frowned Upon

Although there is no formal law that forbids future monarchs from showing affection, Queen Elizabeth II set a precedent that encouraged royals to keep their hands to themselves. This is why you rarely see Prince William and Kate Middleton smooching in public, or even holding hands. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, on the other hand, clearly were not under as much pressure to adhere to this protocol.

queen elizabeth ii views the iron throne on the set of game of thrones
Pool/Getty Images

9. The Monarch Is Not Allowed To Sit On A Foreign Throne

Even if the throne was from the Seven Kingdoms.

king charles
Jonathan Brady/WPA Pool/Getty Images

10. When The King Stands, So Do You

And don’t even think about sitting until His Majesty does.

duchess of cambridge laughs during the queen s diamond jubilee lunch in westminster hall
AFP/Getty Images

11. They Leave The Table Discreetly

If a royal must use the restroom during a meal, they don’t announce it to the table. Instead, they apparently simply say “Excuse me,” and that’s that. (If only your toddler would do the same.)

duchess of cambridge wears tiara in car
Max Mumby/Indigo /Getty Images

12. Tiaras Are Only Worn By Married Women

No ring? No tiara.

prince harry meets the crowd
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

13. There Are No Autographs Or Selfies Allowed

So put that selfie stick away.

duchess of cambridge performs a curtsy to queen elizabeth ii
Samir Hussein/Getty Images

14. Curtsies Are Encouraged

While the official website for the British Monarchy says that there are “no obligatory codes of behaviour when meeting a member of the Royal Family,” it also states that many people wish to observe the traditional forms. That means a neck bow (from the head only) for men and a small curtsy for women.

queen elizabeth ii takes a tea break
Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

15. They Rarely Eat Shellfish

This isn’t a requirement, but a wise rule that many royals, including Queen Elizabeth, adhered to because of the increased likelihood of food poisoning.

the queen standing with her purse
Tim Graham/Getty Images

16. The Queen Signaled When A Conversation Was Over

While King Charles will undoubtedly come up with his own signals, his mother used accessories to send messages during her rule. If Her Majesty moved her purse from her left arm to her right, then it was time to stop talking. That apparently signaled to her staff that she was ready to move on.

queen and prince philip at a formal luncheon in paris during an official visit
Tim Graham/Getty Images

17. When The Monarch Finishes Eating, Then So Do You

Dining with royalty? No extra portions for you.

prince william duke of cambridge and catherine duchess of cambridge smile following their marriage at westminster abbey
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

18. Royal Wedding Bouquets Contain Myrtle

This tradition started with Queen Victoria and continued with the Duchess of Cambridge's marriage in 2011. This pretty flower symbolizes good luck in love and marriage. Aww...

london tower at thames river water front
rabbit75_ist/Getty Images

19. Six Ravens Must Live At The Tower Of London

According to legend, at least six ravens must remain at the giant fortress or else the monarchy will fall. But no one actually believes that, do they? Well, apparently so, since there are indeed seven (one spare) birds living at the Tower currently.

prince andrew duke of york
Samir Hussein/Getty Images

20. They’re Not Allowed To Play Monopoly

When the Duke of York was presented with the board game, he revealed that it’s forbidden in the royal household because “it gets too vicious.” Royals—they’re just like us.

royal family rules charles
Aaron Chown/WPA Pool/Getty Images

21. You Must Address Royals Properly

This one’s a little confusing. Apparently, when you first meet female members of the royal family, you should use “Your Royal Highness,” and then “Ma'am” in later conversation. For male royals, it's “Your Royal Highness” and then “Sir.” And under no circumstances should you address the king as “Charles.”

queen elizabeth handbag
Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images

22. Never Touch the Monarch’s Accessories

According to Capricia Penavic Marshall (former U.S. chief of protocol and author of Protocol), the queen’s handbag wasn’t only for looks. In fact, the monarch used it to send non-verbal signals to her staff. And under no circumstances could anyone else touch it.

kate dress
Pawel Libera / Getty Images

23. Wedding Dresses Have to Be Approved

It remains to be seen if King Charles will want to weigh in on fashion. But not only did Queen Elizabeth need to approve the wedding in general, she also had to say yes to the dress. Kate Middleton showed her grandmother-in-law her custom gown by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen in the design process, as did Meghan Markle.

queen elizabeth garlic
Anwar Hussein / Getty IMages

24. Eating Garlic Is A “No-No”

According to the Sunday Express, “Garlic [was] banned from being included in foods eaten by royal family members. With many meetings between official visitors, it is thought to be advised against to prevent any awkward bad breath.”

royal family nail polish
Karwai Tang/WireImage

25. They Must Avoid Bright Nail Polish

If Middleton paints her nails, it must be a neutral color. Royals are supposed to refrain from wearing bright, distracting colors while carrying out official duties.

prince harry meghan markle interview2

26. They Can't Speak Without Permission

Markle revealed that she was “silenced” by the royal family once she started dating Prince Harry. During the CBS interview, Oprah Winfrey asked: “Were you silent? Or were you silenced?” The duchess immediately responded, “The latter.”

Markle continued, “Everyone in my world was given very clear directive—from the moment the world knew Harry and I were dating—to always say, ‘No comment.’ I would do anything they told me to do.”

Stay up-to-date on every breaking royals story by subscribing here.

purewow author


Senior Editor

Greta Heggeness is a California-based editor at PureWow and has been writing about entertainment since 2015. She covers everything from awards shows to exclusive celebrity...