Strange Etiquette Rules Members of the Royal Family Must Follow at All Times
Being a member of the British royal family must be weird. You don’t have to follow the same laws as other British citizens, but you do have to abide by a strict list of family rules. And boy are there a lot of them — including a list of etiquette rules that must be followed at all times.
From the way they sit to the (very formal) way they address their own grandmother, we share the strangest, most uptight royal family etiquette rules, ahead.
1. They must curtsy or neck bow to the queen — and be as subtle as possible
Regardless of whether you’re a member of the royal family, you should always curtsy or neck bow to the queen. That said, don’t be overly dramatic about it. Instead, make the gesture as subtle and quick as possible.
2. They can’t cross their knees
You’ll never see a royal crossing their knees — especially royal women. They must always sit with their legs together. And, if they must cross something, they can cross their ankles.
That said, they can also angle their legs to the side. Kate Middleton’s go-to position incorporates all three aspects and has even been coined “the duchess slant” by Beaumont Etiquette.
3. Teacups must be held in a specific way
Members of the royal family can’t slurp their tea and should always hold their teacups the correct way. They use their index finger and thumb to hold the handle and their middle finger to support the bottom of the cup.
In addition, they must sip from the same spot every time. This is especially true for women, as they don’t want lipstick stains on multiple spots. And, contrary to popular belief, they don’t hold out their pinkies.
4. They can’t have nicknames
Notice how we never hear Prince William call the Duchess of Cambridge Kate? That’s because the royal family doesn’t have nicknames — at least, publicly they don’t. When referring to his wife in a public matter, he always calls her Catherine.
5. The queen must be addressed as ‘your majesty’ upon first introduction
After that, she goes by “ma’am.” In addition, male members of the royal family are addressed as “your royal highness,” followed by “sir,” and female members are addressed as “your royal highness,” followed by “ma’am.”
6. They must always be dressed appropriately
The royal family has a strict dress code policy — one that should never be broken. As a rule of thumb, all members of the royal family must dress modestly.
For more royal family style rules, click here.
7. When the queen stops eating, they stop eating
No matter who you are or where you are seated, the queen has control of all dinners, including when everyone is finished eating. As soon as she stops, so must everyone else.
8. Use napkins properly
Another strange royal family etiquette rule? The way they use napkins. The napkins must always be folded in half, and the inside of the fold is where they wipe their faces. That way, their clothes don’t get ruined by having a dirty napkin on their laps.
9. The royal always walks in front
While royals are always accompanied by their spouses, it’s tradition for the royals to walk a few steps ahead. That said, it is also proper etiquette to let the woman lead. While the queen always walks slightly ahead of Prince Philip, Prince Harry often allows Meghan Markle to lead the way.
By royal family standard, the queen follows proper suit, but that doesn’t mean Harry is in the wrong. It’s still considered polite to let the lady lead — royal, or not.
10. No affection
The royal family has strict rules against showing affection in public. That said, this rule has been broken numerous times by the younger royals, and the repercussions for not following suit are probably not as serious as they once were.
11. Walk in order of precedence
If the royal family is partaking in a procession, they must walk and be seated by order of precedence — i.e., who is next in line to the throne. That said, they never walk without their spouses.
Right now, the order goes: Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William, Kate Middleton, and so on.
12. Use utensils properly
The royal family has strict dining rules, including how utensils are held and used. Knives are held in the right hand, and forks are held in the left. In addition, they cannot stab their food with a fork. Instead, they shovel the food onto the back of their forks and raise it to their mouths.
13. Never say pardon
One word that is completely off limits? “Pardon.” Instead, when a member of the royal family can’t understand or hear, they simply say, “What?”
14. Walk down stairs with poise
Descending stairs in a ball gown and heels can be a recipe for disaster. Luckily, members of the royal family are trained to walk down stairs with poise. For added stability, men typically put a hand out for their spouses.
That said, women must descend stairs in a specific manner. The royal family protocol is to keep their hands at their sides and the chin in line with the ground. They may use the banister for stability but cannot grab onto it. Instead, they place their hand gently on it and point their toes toward it as a they walk. Who knew walking down a flight of stairs could be so complicated?
15. Don’t ask to be excused from the table
When dining, the royal family doesn’t ask permission to be excused from the table, and they certainly don’t make a fuss about it. Instead, they simply say, “excuse me,” and get up and go.
16. Lead conversations
When speaking to non-royals, it is expected that the royal lead the conversation. Non-royals should not ask too many questions and should not dictate the duration of the conversation.
17. Never turn their back to the queen
Royal, or not, one should never turn their back to the queen. It is considered impolite.
18. Refrain from saying certain French words
Certain French words are off limits for members of the royal family. So you’ll never catch Kate Middleton asking to use the “toilet,” sharing her favorite “perfume,” or saying “pardon” when she can’t hear you.
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