- Meghan Markle married Prince Harry and became the Duchess of Sussex.
- Royals follow a very strict protocol that dictates their dress and behaviour.
- Markle paved her own way by not wearing nude stockings, holding hands with Prince Harry, and spending Christmas with the Queen before she was married to Harry.
- She and Harry didn’t use their official titles on their royal tour of Africa, and recently announced that they’re stepping back from their positions as senior royals.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
While Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were engaged, she was already paving her own way within their established traditions. She made royal life her own as the Duchess of Sussex. Now, she and Harry are stepping back from their roles as senior royals in order to launch a “new charitable entity” and become financially independent.
Here are 14 ways she’s shaking up the royal family’s strict rules.
Markle didn’t wear nude stockings at her engagement photocall.
Members of the royal family are expected to wear nude stockings with skirts and dresses, according to royal expert Victoria Arbiter. In her first official photocall with Prince Harry announcing their engagement, it appears that Markle opted for strappy heels without stockings.
“You never see a royal without their nude stockings. Meghan, from what I can see from the engagement photographs, it doesn’t look like she was wearing tights or stockings,” Arbiter told Insider. “I would say that’s really the only hard, steadfast rule in terms of what the Queen requires.”
Some people thought that Markle’s tote bag broke royal protocol, as royals like Kate Middleton usually carry a clutch to avoid unwanted handshakes.
While it’s true that clutches are one handbag option available to royals, the Queen carries a Launer purse with the strap in the crook of her arm to leave her hands free. And Middleton has been known to tuck her clutch under her arm to greet people.
“There is no rule book, there is no protocol, there is no set bag that royals are required to carry. It’s more about personal comfort and what works for every given individual on the day,” Arbiter told Insider.
Fiancées aren’t usually invited to the Queen’s holiday festivities, but Prince Harry reportedly asked for an exception to be made for Markle.
In 2010, Kate Middleton wasn’t allowed to spend Christmas with the royal family. She and Prince William were engaged, but royal protocol dictates that only spouses of royals can attend the Queen’s festivities at her private estate in Norfolk.
Prince Harry reportedly asked the queen to make an exception for his then-fiancée, who became the first royal fiancée to spend Christmas with the royal family.
Royals usually refrain from public displays of affection on official engagements, but Prince Harry and Markle can’t keep their hands off each other.
There’s no official rule restricting PDA, but royals like Prince William and Kate Middleton usually refrain from holding hands or wrapping their arms around each other on engagements. According to Myka Meier, a royal etiquette expert, this is because they’re technically working as representatives of the British monarchy and must remain professional on official business.
Royal protocol dictates sleek hairstyles, but Markle wore her hair in a loose casual bun on a royal engagement.
Royal protocol applies from head to toe. The Queen often keeps her hair covered with a hat in public as per tradition, and Kate Middleton usually opts for perfectly-coiffed updos held in place by hairnets when she’s not letting her hair down in a smooth blowout. But Markle went for a more casual look when she and Prince Harry visited a radio station.
She wore a variation of the same hairstyle — a low, loose side bun — while visiting Northern Ireland.
The casual look became her go-to hairstyle.
The relaxed updo made another appearance on a visit to Cardiff Castle in Wales.
She wore an understated outfit – a black coat by Stella McCartney and dark jeans – but added a fresh twist with mismatched earrings.
On that same trip to Cardiff, Markle broke another royal rule by signing a 10-year-old girl’s autograph book.
Royals aren’t allowed to sign autographs for security reasons to prevent their signatures from being forged. That didn’t stop Markle from signing 10-year-old Caitlin Clarke’s autograph book with a heart and smiley face.
Clarke told HELLO magazine that Markle misspelled her name and wrote “Hi Kaitlin,” but that she didn’t mind.
“I don’t really care,” she said. “My heart is still racing. I’ve never got a royal autograph before. This is going to make everyone jealous.”
Royals usually stick to more formal greetings, but Markle is a hugger.
Embracing royals is usually off-limits for both security reasons and out of respect for their positions. But Markle goes right in for hugs.
“Meghan told me that I can achieve whatever I want to achieve. And Meghan said she would like to see me on TV when I become an actress,” Richards told People. “It was a dream come true. I will never forget this day.”
On her first engagement with the Queen, Markle wasn’t sure who was supposed to enter the car first.
On her first solo engagement with Queen Elizabeth as the Duchess of Sussex, Markle rode the royal train to Cheshire and the two were picked up at the station by a car. In a video published by The Daily Mail, a member of their entourage seemed to gesture to Markle to get in the car first, but the Queen had already started making her way in. Markle appeared to look around, unsure of who was supposed to enter first. She could then be heard asking the Queen “What’s your preference?” and the Queen let her go before her.
For what it’s worth, Queen Elizabeth herself doesn’t care much about royal protocol surrounding car seats, according to Michelle Obama. The former first lady wrote in her bestselling memoir “Becoming” that when a similar miscommunication happened on one of her royal visits, the Queen told her “Oh it’s all rubbish, just get in.”
Unlike Princess Diana and Kate Middleton, Markle held a photocall with her new baby a few days after giving birth.
A statement from the palace said that Markle and Harry planned to “celebrate privately as a new family” before they introduced Archie to the world. Princess Diana and Kate Middleton were both photographed hours after giving birth on the hospital steps with each of their pregnancies.
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry wrote a sweet birthday message for Prince Louis, which some people thought was a breach of royal protocol.
Prince Harry and Markle’s account left a comment with birthday wishes.
“Happy Birthday Louis!” they wrote in the comment, “Sending lots of love from both of us! ????????xo”
Some commenters thought the couple broke royal protocol by not addressing him as “Prince Louis.”
Both she and Harry didn’t use their official titles on their first royal tour as a family.
Harry, Markle, and baby Archie went on their first royal tour as a family in Africa in 2019.
Palace aides told Vanity Fair’s Katie Nicholl that the royal couple is happy to be addressed by members of the public with just their first names, no titles or formalities necessary.
Usually, members of the royal family should be referred to as “Your Majesty” or “Your Royal Highness.”
The couple announced that they’re taking a “step back” from royal life, with plans to become financially independent and launch a “new charitable entity” while still supporting the Queen.
How closely Markle observes royal protocol may not matter as much in the future as she and Harry step back from their positions as “senior royals,” but the decision to distance themselves from the royal family certainly does. It appears the Queen may not have been aware of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s decision based on a statement from the royal communications office.
“Discussions with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage,” the Queen’s statement read. “We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.”
- Read more:
- The 26 most adorable photos from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s first year of marriage
- The royal family publishes lists of all of the gifts Meghan Markle, Prince Harry, and the others receive from the public, and some of them are pretty bizarre
- How members of the royal family dress to respect local culture while travelling around the world
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