9 Times The Royal Family Threw Their Own Rules Into The Trash

As they say, rules are meant to be broken. It's a well-known fact that the royal family of the United Kingdom must follow a number of rules, regulations, and traditions. While some of those rules seem obvious, such making sure to maintain good posture at all times, others, like Queen Elizabeth's reported ban on the game Monopoly, are less so. Though the members of the royal family hold a place way above the common people in terms of hierarchy, at the end of the day, they are humans made up of blood and flesh. And so, it shouldn't come as a surprise that every now and again, they breach protocol. 

Over the years, members of the royal family have placed their own beliefs before falling in line with the rules set by their elders. Princess Diana, for example, was known for bending the rules of the royal family. From choosing her engagement ring from a catalog to wearing the legendary revenge dress, she blazed an unforgettable trail — and ruffled a number of feathers along the way. But she's not the only royal to throw the rules into the trash. In recent history, several core members of the royal family disobeyed royal traditions, seemingly prioritizing their human instincts over protocol. 

Queen Elizabeth II bowed her head to honor Princess Diana

While other members of the royal family bow and curtsy to the British monarch, the British monarch isn't supposed to return the greeting. In fact, the late Queen Elizabeth II apparently didn't bow or curtsy to anyone — except for someone who, at the time, wasn't a working member of the family. That person was none other than Princess Diana, the former wife of King Charles III.

When Princess Diana died on August 31, 1997, the royal family was not at Buckingham Palace, but at the queen's Scottish estate, Balmoral. The monarch waited nearly a week before releasing a statement. However, once she was back in London, the Queen of England broke not one but three royal rules for the People's Princess. 

Per The Washington Post, the first two breaches came about when Elizabeth II returned to Buckingham Palace. She not only got out of her car to greet the people waiting outside the palace, but she addressed the tragedy on TV. And at Lady Di's funeral, the queen bowed her head to the casket. Per MyLondon, Alberto Angela explained the significance of the moment on the documentary "Ulisse." "It is known that before the Queen, who is the symbol of national unity, everyone bowed," Angela said. "But that day, it is Elizabeth who bowed her head as a sign of respect for the passage of Diana's coffin, the woman who more than anyone else had defied the conventions of the Palace."

Prince Philip broke tradition when Prince Edward was born

Listing a number of royal birth traditions, British Heritage notes that royal men were previously prohibited from being present in the delivery room during childbirth. It was Prince Philip who broke the rule by attending the birth of his youngest child with Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Edward, in 1964. In the book "My Husband and I: The Inside Story Of 70 Years Of Royal Marriage," author Ingrid Seward wrote (via Town & Country), "The Queen, by then aged 37, had asked him to be there; she'd been keenly reading women's magazines that stressed the importance of involving fathers in childbirth and had become fascinated by the idea." She also noted that Prince Philip held onto his wife's hands throughout the process.

The no-men-during-childbirth tradition has since been changed. Per Express, King Charles III followed suit by attending both the births of his and Princess Diana's sons. Prince William was also present for the births of all three of his children with Kate Middleton. And the same can be said for Prince Harry who was in the room when Meghan Markle gave birth in 2019 and 2021. In his 2023 memoir, "Spare," Prince Harry even revealed a number of details about the births of both of his children, noting that he was very involved in the delivery process both times. 

King Charles III signed an autograph for a family

If someone tells you they have something that has been signed by a member of the British royal family, there is a good chance that the signature was not actually drawn by a royal hand. There's a logical reason for this: Per Glamour, the royal family sticks to a no-autographs rule to help prevent any sort of royal fraud or forgery. However, King Charles III violated this policy in 2010 when a family whose home was destroyed by a flood asked if he might sign an autograph for them. Rather than stick to protocol, Charles promptly obliged. A photographer who was there that day told the Daily Mail, "Charles astounded his protection squad and asked them to find him some paper, which they did." The royal then jotted "CHARLES 2010" on a piece of paper and handed it over.

According to Express, the late Queen Elizabeth II had also broken this rule in 1998 when she signed two Manchester United footballs for some of the club's young supporters during a visit to Kuala Lumpur. Per the club's website, legendary footballer Sir Bobby Charlton helped her hold the balls as she signed them.

Prince William hugged a Grenfell Tower survivor

In June 2017, a blaze engulfed Grenfell Tower, a 23-story public housing complex in North Kensington, London. 72 people died in the disaster, which was the worst residential fire in the country's history since World War II. Two days after the fire broke out, Prince William and Queen Elizabeth II visited the Westway Sports Centre, which was being used as a shelter for the ones affected by the fire. Per the Daily Mail, during their visit, the prince was photographed hugging 78-year-old Fatima Jafari, a woman whose husband, Ali Yawar Jafari, went missing in the blaze. As per The Guardian, Ali Yawar Jafari was one of the Grenfell Tower residents who did not survive the fire.

While William giving a hug to a distraught person was an act of human kindness, it also happened to be a breach of royal protocol. Per Harper's Bazaar, a member of the public can shake a royal family member's hand, but that's really the only form of physical contact that can be exchanged. 

In 2022, William broke protocol again when he offered a hug to someone while visiting the Wheatley Group in Glasgow. Per the Daily Mail, the prince was photographed embracing William Burns, a 66-year-old man who'd experienced housing instability. "It was a boost," Burns said of the hug. "I've never felt anything like it in my entire life before and my existence as a human being.

Kate Middleton shared her family's favorite foods

As you've certainly noticed, the late Queen Elizabeth II (and other royals, for that matter) followed a number of rules, including one that basically kept her from revealing her favorite meal to the world. Per Express, Gordon Rayner, a former royal correspondent for The Telegraph, learned why the queen chose to never disclose her absolute favorite dish to dig into. Rayner shared, "As one of her staff told me, 'If she said she had a favourite meal she would never get served anything else.'" Variety is the spice of life, and apparently, Elizabeth wasn't interested in being too bland. (It is worth noting, however, that the late royal famously ate a jam toasty every single day.)

That's not to say the royals never speak about the foods they enjoy. As Hello! noted, there was some hubbub made when Kate Middleton opened up about what she and her kids like to eat while chatting with a 4-year-old at Great Ormond Street Hospital in 2018. After the young child mentioned olives and pasta, Middleton divulged that she is a fan of olives and that Charlotte loves pasta. And per the Daily Mail, while visiting a primary school in 2019, Middleton told students that her daughter cannot get enough of olives, and that her two eldest kids call cheesy pasta one of their favorite dishes. Going off of Queen Elizabeth's rule, it seems safe to assume Princess Charlotte and Prince George can look forward to a lot of cheesy noodles in their future. 

Prince Harry broke a royal family travel rule

Taxpayers foot the bill for royal family business trips, but they are not supposed to fund royal family vacations. Per Elle, this rule came about in 2004 after Prince Andrew caught flak for dipping into taxpayers' money to go on personal excursions. The Royal Household declared, "In order to avoid confusion, combining private and public engagements in the same trip is actively discouraged." From that point forward, royals were to keep their personal and professional excursions entirely separate. (It is worth noting Prince Andrew's spending of taxpayer money didn't stop being an issue.)

Alas, Prince Harry reportedly broke this rule in 2016 to meet up with his then-girlfriend, Meghan Markle. The prince was supposed to return to England on a British Airways flight following an official two-week trip he made to the Caribbean. However, he canceled the flight and decided to fly off to Toronto to see Markle. Per Elle, it was likely that the prince paid for his expenses for flying to Toronto and going back home after the trip.

Meghan Markle had a baby shower

While baby showers have, in some form, been around for centuries, the version we know today is a relatively new thing — and not exactly an English thing. As noted by British Heritage, an expectant member of the British royal family is not to expect a baby shower because it's not a common a tradition there. However, back in February 2019, a few months before giving birth to her firstborn, Meghan Markle was honored with a surprise baby shower that took place in New York City. The star-studded celebration was planned and executed by Markle's friends, including Amal Clooney, Serena Williams, Abigail Spencer, and Gayle King. At the time, the duchess faced harsh criticism from the press, with some outlets reporting the event cost up to $500,000. Per the Daily Mail, royal family journalist Omid Scobie heard the palace apparently wasn't thrilled, either. "I remember speaking to a palace aide at the time who rolled their eyes, they were horrified that something so common was happening within the House of Windsor," he said in the 2021 doc "A Very Royal Baby: From Cradle to Crown." 

Per the Independent, in the fourth episode of the Netflix docuseries "Harry & Meghan," Markle addressed the backlash she faced and defended her friends. "These independent, strong, successful women choose to use their own money, and it's not taxpayer money, to throw a party for their friend from a place of love," she stated. "Why are you taking such a beautiful moment and trying to ruin it?"

Prince William hugged the England Lionesses

Prince William, who happens to be the current president of the Football Association, got emotional and broke a royal rule at the UEFA Women's Euro 2022 final as he witnessed the Lionesses of England beat Germany. The prince, who was there to present the winners with their medals, ended up hugging members of the Lionesses in order to congratulate them. While it may seem like he offered hugs simply because he was swept up in the moment, former royal butler Grant Harrold theorized to OK! that it was a totally intentional move. 

As Harrold told the outlet, William hugging the Lionesses was a symbol of the some of the royals' willingness to change with times. "I think William and the other younger royals have realised that they can't get away with being aloof," he said. Harrold also mentioned that the way Princess Diana brought the prince up played a big part in it. "Diana was a hugger and I think that this physical contact and hugging people has a lot to do with how William was raised," he explained. According to Harrold, that gesture could also be a way of showing the commoners a more accessible side of Prince William. "As [Prince William] does more work and gets to grips with his role, he wants people to see the real him, which is why we've seen a lot more affection recently," he added.

Kate Middleton has broken the handshake only rule, too

As previously established, there's a strict handshake only rule that the members of the British royal family must follow when it comes to interacting with members of the public. However, Kate Middleton has broken this rule quite a few times when greeting children.

While in Germany in 2017, the princess visited the nonprofit Strassenkinder. There, she was seen doling out hugs to the kids present at the event, per PopSugar. Similarly, when she stopped by Bond Primary School in Mitcham in January 2018, Middleton — who was, at the time, pregnant with her third child, Prince Louis — humbly wrapped her arms around the students who greeted her. The students initially formed a line to shake hands with the princess but ultimately ended up giving her hugs, per Smooth Radio. Middleton was once again seen embracing children in October 2018 when she stopped by the Sayers Croft Trust Forest School and Wildlife Garden, ending her maternity leave with the visit. As The Sun's Emily Andrews shared on Twitter, the princess was not only greeted with big hugs from two students, but she participated in a number of fun nature activities. And yes, the royal was bade farewell with hugs, too.