Royal Protocols King Charles Was Supposed To Follow, But Didn't

The royal family is admired by fans across the globe and the members are recognized for upholding traditions that are centuries old. Some of the rules are shockingly stifling, waiting for the queen to signal when the family must start and stop eating their food. In spite of maintaining the rules and regulations bestowed upon them, they also face pressure to be relatable and remain likable to the general public in current society, which has led some royal members to bend and adjust the protocols to better suit them. 

Remember the stir Prince Harry and Meghan Markle caused when they cast royal wedding tradition aside and skipped out on having a fruitcake at their reception? Or when Queen Elizabeth signed a young football supporter's ball while attending a match in Malaysia in the late '90s? Or how about when Princess Diana stopped wearing gloves when out and about because she wanted to be more accessible? Well, King Charles also knows a thing or two about breaking a royal rule, bending protocol, and bucking tradition.

He was present in the delivery room

King Charles bid an old royal tradition farewell on June 21, 1982. Contrary to past royal regulations, he opted to be present in the delivery room to witness the birth of Prince William. And two years later, he was in the room when Prince Harry arrived. While this was indeed a big deal, Charles actually did not pioneer this royal trend. As noted in "My Husband and I: The Inside Story Of 70 Years Of Royal Marriage" (via Independent), Charles' father, Prince Philip, was in the room when Prince Edward was born, per Queen Elizabeth II's request.

Before Charles and Philip established a new precedent, royal men were to steer clear of the delivery room, as childbirth was believed to be for "women only." Prince William and Prince Harry were also in the delivery room when their respective children were born, following in the footsteps of their father and grandfather.

After William was welcomed into the world, Charles opened up about the life-changing moment. Per Town & Country, he wrote in a letter, "I am so thankful I was beside Diana's bedside the whole time because by the end of the day I really felt as though I'd shared deeply the process of birth and as a result was rewarded by seeing a small creature which belonged to us even though he seemed to belong to everyone else as well!"

He signed an autograph without thinking twice

Members of the royal family are always in the spotlight whenever they make a public appearance. They're celebrities in their own right, but they aren't free to participate in some of the most basic exchanges with the public that other famous figures can. Much to the dismay of their fans and admirers, members of the royal family are not permitted to give citizens their autograph. But in 2010, Prince Charles set this rule aside while visiting citizens in Cornwall who were affected by torrential downpours that had flooded the area.

Charles listened to the story of Tony and Meg Hendy, a couple whose home had been overtaken by mud and water. According to The Daily Mail, at the end of their interaction, Meg went out on a limb and asked the royal for an autograph. We can only assume Charles' team was caught off guard when he obliged and requested a piece of paper and pen. While he is not the only member of The Firm to sign something for a member of the public, royal family autographs are few and far between. Royals are prohibited from signing autographs in an attempt to prevent forgery. 

He partook in some underage drinking

Some of the royal rules and protocols may seem exceptionally stuffy compared to the rules that most of us have to follow, but some are aligned with societal norms — such as drinking underage. It should come as no surprise that consuming alcohol when under the legal age is prohibited in the royal family, but that didn't stop Prince Charles from indulging in 1963 at the age of 14. The young royal stopped in the Crown Hotel in Stornoway as part of a trip that was organized by his school. Charles was in the company of some older classmates and bravely requested a drink of cherry brandy, which he was served. That resulted in a national scandal and topped headlines across the globe. 

Per "Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Impossible Life" by Sally Bedell Smith, the future king was overwhelmed by the backlash; as he would later say, "the whole world exploded around my ears." As for why he went with something as bold as a cherry brandy? "I said the first drink that came into my head, because I'd drunk it before, when it was cold, out shooting," Charles recalled. 

In September 2022, Charles' underage drinking incident was revisited when Crown Hotel owner Tom Strathmore publicly congratulated Charles on becoming king. "Of course should he ever head this way again we'd be delighted to serve him his tipple of choice, a cherry brandy as we did all those years ago when he was just 14," Strathmore told the Scottish Daily Express.

King Charles has spoken out about environmental issues

Members of the royal family are expected to remain neutral on political issues at all times and are encouraged against speaking out on controversial matters. However, protocol is no match for King Charles' environmentalism. Over the years, Charles has stated that the government has a responsibility to take action on climate change, promoted sustainable manufacturing, advocated for regenerative agriculture, and more. As noted in The Guardian, Charles' history of stepping outside protocol for the sake of environmental issues dates all the way back to 1970. 

Charles has also encouraged his children, Prince William and Prince Harry, to use their platforms to bring worldwide attention to environmental issues. Queen Elizabeth's eldest attended a reception for the COP26 summit on November 1, 2021 in Glasgow where he publicly credited his sons for their contributions toward environmental change. "As a father, I am proud that my sons have recognized this threat," Charles wrote in Newsweek in 2022. He went on to praise William and Harry for their respective efforts. 

When he was made king in September 2022, Charles noted what this new royal role may mean for his role as an environmentalist. "It will no longer be possible for me to give so much of my time and energies to the charities and issues for which I care so deeply," he said. "But I know this important work will go on in the trusted hands of others."

He engaged in a whole lot of PDA

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip set a precedent by remaining physically distant from one another in public, thereby encouraging all members of the royal family to refrain from physically touching one another affectionately in front of the cameras. They kept their exchanges with one another very cordial yet distant, and refused to let the rest of the world in on the intimate bond they shared. According to CBS News, the queen encouraged all royal family members to avoid public displays of affection, but the message didn't resonate with King Charles.

On the day of his wedding to Princess Diana, Prince Charles made a mistake at the altar and completely forgot to kiss the bride. He made up for his error later that day by planting a passionate kiss on Diana on a balcony at Buckingham Palace — and the crowd standing below witnessed the unprecedented exchange. Charles and Diana were photographed sharing affectionate moments with one another during their honeymoon in Balmoral, and on a number of other occasions over the course of their marriage. 

Diana and Charles would not be the last royal couple to smooch in front of a crowd on their wedding day, nor would they be the last to show casual PDA while out and about. While Prince William and Kate Middleton mostly keep their affection to themselves, they've been photographed canoodling; Prince Harry and Meghan Markle don't shy away from holding hands when in public. 

His divorce disappointed his mother

Divorce is not strictly prohibited by way of formal royal rules, but it is far from encouraged by the British royal family. After all, the monarch is the head of the Church of England, and the church isn't exactly a fan of when people don't uphold the vows they exchange when they marry. So, when a senior member of the royal family — let alone the person who is next in line — pulls the plug on a marriage, it can really shake things up.

Despite the frequent displays of affection, the marriage between Prince Charles and Princess Diana fell apart behind the scenes. By 1992, they had formally separated. That same decade, Princess Anne and Prince Andrew also ended their respective marriages. In "Queen of Our Times," a former palace staffer said Queen Elizabeth struggled with the three divorces. "It distressed her much more than she let on. ... One shouldn't underestimate the pain she's been through," they claimed. 

That said, Charles and Diana's deep-rooted issues got to be too much even for the queen. According to The New York Times, Elizabeth not only approved of their divorce, but told them to get on with the proceedings. The palace said in a statement to The Sun, "After considering the present situation, the Queen wrote to both the Prince and Princess earlier this week and gave them her view, supported by the Duke of Edinburgh, that an early divorce is desirable." Their divorce was made official in 1996.

King Charles posed for a selfie

While it might be tempting to ask one of the members of The Firm to pose for a quick picture, maybe think twice before you try to get a selfie. While selfies aren't officially banned, they are discouraged at most gatherings. As one royal event attendee told Insider in 2022, "The one thing they talked about a lot was no selfies, and the reason was that they didn't want people turning their backs to the royal family and the queen. And that was very important to them." For starters, it's impolite to turn your back on the sovereign. On top of that? There's the safety factor, as selfies can pose a threat to their otherwise structured interactions with the public. As CNN royal expert Victoria Arbiter explained, "From a security standpoint, [selfies are] also not ideal as they warrant a certain closeness."

Of course, there have been exceptions. While meeting with First Nation leaders in the Northwest Territories of Canada in 2022, King Charles took selfies with attendees. And while he may not be accustomed to taking selfies at public events, this selfie moment seemingly went swimmingly: Not only did Charles give a big smile for the cameras, but a photo of the selfie made it onto the royal family's official Instagram account.

Charles is not the only royal to take impromptu pictures with non-royals. As People noted in 2023, Kate Middleton and Prince William have happily posed for a number of selfies. 

King Charles remarried

Second marriages are not a comfortable topic for the royal family. "Historically the Church of England's position was that divorce was acceptable, but remarriage was not," Arianne Chernock, an associate professor of history at Boston University, explained, per History. It was not until 2002 that the church started to permit divorced people to remarry; after Charles and Princess Diana obtained a divorce in the '90s, marrying fellow divorcée Camilla Parker Bowles seemed totally out of the question — especially for someone who was set to be the next monarch. 

However, it all eventually worked out. In 2005, Charles and Camilla got married in a civil ceremony. Evidently, the event itself proved to be a problem for the queen, given her role in the Church of England. "The Queen feels she has to put her role with the Church before her role as a mother," a source told The Telegraph. "The civil nature of the service is the issue. She did not feel it was appropriate for her to attend." Per The Times, Charles' sons approved of their father's second marriage, despite the controversy that surrounded it. 

Per Queen Elizabeth's request, when Charles became king in 2022, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, was named queen consort. 

He is not opposed to giving hugs to non-royals

King Charles has broken some rules for his own best interests, but there are some instances where he confidently disregarded protocols for the sake of others. The royal family insists that there be no physical contact with fans beyond handshakes, but Charles kindly embraced the moment when he received a surprise hug from a young boy during a walking tour of Bucharest in 2017. As The Daily Mail reported, an 11-year-old boy was so thrilled to be in the presence of Prince Charles that he threw his arms around him and gave him a big hug. In the photos, Charles is seen smiling and returning the hug. 

When it comes to young fans who certainly aren't aware of the numerous protocols that are in place for the royal family, Charles isn't opposed to bending the guidelines. While visiting a farm in Ipswich in 2017, a little girl surprised Charles with a hug and he didn't seem to mind at all. "She gave him a cuddle and then she asked him if he wanted to stroke one of the chickens and he did," the girl's mother said to the Press Association, per Hello! magazine. "I asked 'Why did you hug him, Skye?' and she said 'Because he's the best'. She likes the royals. She was a bit excited."

One time, King Charles ate an oyster

The royal family might be able to indulge in many of life's most exquisite cuisine while inside the castle, but if they have a craving for eating oysters, that's a firm "no." When out and about, there are a number of food items that are off limits to royal members, such as shellfish. Per Woman & Home, a former royal staffer explained the reasoning for the rule: "It is a very sensible move to abandon having seafood when out and about on public duties. ... We don't want a member of the Royal family having a serious reaction to food poisoning, especially if she is on an overseas tour."

Charles is certainly aware of the shellfish rule, but he couldn't resist the temptation and decided to enjoy an oyster during his 2013 visit to the Whitstable Oyster Festival. Cameras rolled as Charles picked up an oyster and gulped it down. The late queen had a number of other guidelines surrounding cuisine, such as steering clear of garlic at events. 

King Charles has implemented some food rules of his own. Per the BBC, the monarch has banned foie gras from being served at the palace or any other royal properties. 

He didn't mind when a guest didn't follow dress code

There are a number of dress code regulations in effect for the royal family. Small weights are reportedly stitched into the hems of the dresses worn by the women of The Firm to avoid wardrobe malfunctions, and gloves and hats are a must. Both men and women should always pack a black outfit when they travel, in case they have to attend a funeral at the last minute. Being prepared is key, and the royals ensure they are never caught off guard, especially when it comes to the way they present themselves in public. What's more, when attending a royal event, guests are expected to follow some sartorial guidelines. Per Express, fashion expert Lucy Hume explained that when meeting the royals, it is probably best to leave everyday casual attire at home. 

Charles has already proven to be a bit more flexible with the dress code rules. When the king hosted a lunch event for the members of the Order of the Merit in November 2022, he did not bat an eye when artist David Hockney, who uses a wheelchair, did not wear dress shoes. Charles maintained his formal attire by wearing a crisp suit; Hockney also wore a suit, but paired his outfit with comfy yellow Croc slip-on mules in lieu of formal footwear, according to Hello! magazine. Charles reportedly complimented the shoes during their conversation.