9 times Queen Elizabeth was a royal rebel and broke her own protocol

Chris Jackson/Getty ImagesQueen Elizabeth II smiles as she arrives in Scotland in 2015.
  • Queen Elizabeth II is the longest reigning monarch alive, which means she has plenty of experience when it comes to breaking the rules.
  • The Queen has been known to ignore protocol from time to time. For instance, she allowed Meghan Markle to join the family for Christmas before she was married to Prince Harry.
  • More recently, she chose to stand with her lady-in-waiting at the royal family’s Remembrance service on Sunday, rather than have the highest ranking royal stand beside her.
  • Insider has rounded up all the times Elizabeth II broke her own royal rules.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.


She embraced former First Lady Michelle Obama.

Daniel Hambury, Pool/APThe Queen and Michelle Obama put their arms around one another when they met.

The first rule of royal protocol is never to touch a member of the royal family. When meeting Queen Elizabeth, the public are advised to simply curtsy or bow their heads.

However, when Michelle Obama met the Queen in 2009, not only did she break the rules by wrapping an arm around Her Majesty, but the royal returned the favour and placed her own hand on Obama’s back.

Obama opened up about the encounter in her 2018 memoir, “Becoming,” writing that the Queen was happy to break from the norm.

“If I hadn’t done the proper thing at Buckingham Palace, I had at least done the human thing,” she wrote.

She added: “I daresay the Queen was ok with it, too, because when I touched her, she only pulled closer, resting a gloved hand lightly on the small of my back.”

Last year the Queen’s senior dressmaker Angela Kelly wrote about the incident in her book, “The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, The Dresser, and the Wardrobe.”

“Much has been made about the meeting between Michelle and Her Majesty, when an instant and mutual warmth was shared between these two remarkable women, and protocol was seemingly ‘abandoned’ as they stood closely with their arms around each other’s backs,” Kelly wrote.

“In reality, it was a natural instinct for the Queen to show affection and respect for another great woman, and really there is no protocol that must be adhered to,” she said.


She let Meghan Markle stay for Christmas, even though she wasn’t yet married to Prince Harry.

AP ImagesThe Queen and Meghan Markle during a joint royal engagement.

Prince Harry proposed to Meghan Markle in November 2017. The following month, Markle joined the royal family at the Queen’s Sandringham Estate for Christmas.

Her Majesty also reportedly broke from this rule again by inviting another non-royal, Markle’s mother, Doria, the following year and Princess Beatrice’s then-fiancĂ© Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in 2019.


Her Majesty shares a drink with the royal family’s chef every Christmas.

Mark Cuthbert/ UK Press/ via Getty Images.The Queen taking part in a toast.

According to former royal chef Darren McGrady, the Sandringham House dining room is strictly off limits to non-royals.

However, the Queen makes an exception at Christmas, and invites the royal chef to have a drink with the family.

“Right before the Christmas buffet, the senior chef on duty goes into the dining room and carves the rib roast or turkey or ham and once he’s done, Her Majesty presents the chef with a glass of whiskey and they toast,” McGrady told the Mirror.

“That’s the only time the chef goes into the dining room and has a glass of whiskey with the royal family. It’s one of the chef’s favourite traditions.”


She reportedly let Kate Middleton take photographs during her first trip to Balmoral.

Pool/Getty ImagesKate Middleton is an avid photographer.

It’s no secret that the Duchess of Cambridge is a photography buff.

She became the first royal to take the official photographs of her children, which she shares with the public on each of their birthdays.

Last year the Queen made Middleton patron of the Royal Photographic Society – so it’s not hard to believe Her Majesty allowed her to take out the camera at her Scottish vacation home.

According to royal biographer Katie Nicholl, the royal “went out of her way” to make Middleton feel welcome during her first trip to Balmoral in 2009, back when she was dating Prince William.

“Until now the Queen had met Kate only fleetingly at the wedding of Peter and Autumn Phillips, but she went out of her way to make her feel welcome, giving her permission to take pictures at Balmoral – a true gift to a photographer, with its turreted and Gothic-inspired architecture,” Nicholl wrote in the biography, “Kate: The Future Queen.”

“As a woman who has lived her entire life in the public eye, the Queen rarely lets her guard down, and very few apart from her family and closest friends get to see the real Elizabeth,” she added.


The Queen has been known to accept flowers from her fans.

Chris Jackson/Getty ImagesHer Majesty holding flowers gifted to her by a well wisher.

Laura-Ann Barr, an Instagram influencer from Belfast, attended one of the Queen’s Buckingham Palace garden parties in 2019.

Barr told People how the Queen accepted a bouquet of flowers from her when they met at the party – even though she was told by guards that she wouldn’t be able to.

“They did inform me that unfortunately she would not stop to accept them as it’s not protocol and if I’m lucky her lady-in-waiting might spot them and accept them on her behalf. I think they were very shocked when it happened,” said Barr.


She reportedly told Kate and William to invite whoever they wanted to their royal wedding.

Hugo Burnand/Clarence House/Handout/ReutersThe Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with their wedding party.

According to royal biographer Marcia Moody, William was presented a guest list of hundreds of people with important connections to the royal family.

However, Moody said his grandmother “told him to tear up the list, invite his friends, and start from there.”


Her Majesty was rumoured to have attended a funeral in 2019.

Daniel Leal-Olivas/APQueen Elizabeth II.

According to Cheat Sheet, it’s a known rule that the Queen doesn’t attend funerals, so that her presence doesn’t distract from the “solemn occasion at hand.”

However, an exception was made for the Queen’s former housekeeper, Annette Wilkin, who passed away in May 2019.

Although Buckingham Palace never commented on the claims, royal sources said that she would be in attendance.


The monarch broke her own “never complain, never explain” rule when she addressed the “intense scrutiny” Harry and Meghan faced in a rare statement.

Pool/Max Mumby/Getty ImagesPrince Harry with the Queen.

The “never complain, never explain” mantra was first adopted by the Queen Mother when she became Queen Consort in 1936, and passed on to Elizabeth II.

For the most part, Her Majesty appears to have followed the rule unflinchingly during her reign. She rarely engages with the press – the palace has a strict “no comment” policy on the majority of stories – and she has never given an interview.

However, the monarch appeared to break protocol when she addressed the “intense scrutiny” Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have faced from the press in a rare statement.

She also referred to them by their first names, rather than their official titles in the statement, which was released in response to their step back from royal life in January.

“Harry, Meghan, and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,” the Queen said. “I recognise the challenges they have experienced as a result of intense scrutiny over the last two years and support their wish for a more independent life.”


She stood on a different balcony from the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Cornwall at the royal family’s Remembrance service.

PETER NICHOLLS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images, Chris Jackson/Getty ImagesThe Queen stood with her lady-in-waiting instead of Kate Middleton.

The Queen stood with her lady-in-waiting instead of Kate Middleton and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, at the royal family’s Remembrance service on Sunday.

Members of the family usually stand together, and in order of rank. Last year, the Queen stood on the same balcony as Camilla and Middleton, as they are two future queen consorts – their husbands, Prince Charles and Prince William, are closest in rank to the Queen at first and second in line to the throne.

But this year, social distancing was reportedly the reason that the three royals wouldn’t have been able to share a balcony.

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