It was the hug seen ‘round the world. At the London premiere of The Lion King, the Duchess met the Queen — or the Queen of the Beyhive, anyway. And fans were definitely buzzing over how gorgeous Meghan Markle and Beyoncé looked while chatting at the event.
There’s just one question: when the two women leaned in for that epic hug, was it a break in royal protocol?
There were rules about touching royals
Meeting a member of the royal family isn’t exactly like meeting American politicians or other VIPs. A firm handshake isn’t necessarily your best bet — in fact, etiquette experts advise against touching royal family members at all, especially during the first interaction.
British historian Kate Williams explained the concept in an interview with BBC. “From medieval times, monarchs were divinely appointed to rule by God, so they were kind of seen as gods, so they demanded to be treated as gods,” she said.
Times have changed and no one thinks like this anymore, but the rules from the old days still apply to some extent. On the monarchy’s official page, a code of behavior outlines that anyone meeting the Queen should “observe the traditional forms,” meaning a curtsy would be proper.
Beyoncé isn’t the first to go for the hug
It’s worth noting that Meghan Markle is considerably further down in ranking compared to Queen Elizabeth. No one is expected to bow or curtsy to her even if they should give her respect fitting of her title.
Even the Queen has been seen hugging certain people, though it always causes a bit of a stir when it happens. Michelle Obama was criticized for hugging the Queen when they saw each other in 2009 (it wasn’t the first time Queen Elizabeth broke protocol with Mrs. Obama, either). LeBron James also caught heat for draping his arm around Kate Middleton in 2014.
Rules about touching royals have relaxed over the years
After the incident with Michelle Obama, a Buckingham Palace spokesperson went on record saying there are no formal rules that say you can’t touch members of the royal family. Queen Elizabeth seemed accepting of the hug from Michelle Obama just like Meghan Markle looked happy to embrace Beyoncé. There’s no reason to believe the interaction was a mistake on either side.
That statement combined with the lower rank of Meghan Markle in the royal family proves that their meeting at The Lion King premiere was completely within guidelines.
Meghan Markle wasn’t supposed to take photos with Beyoncé
The bigger break in protocol at the event were the photos themselves. E! News royal commentator Justin Sylvester explained that being seen with Beyoncé on the red carpet was just asking for trouble. “If she takes a photo with Beyoncé everyone’s going to say, ‘She’s so Hollywood, this is not what Royals do,’” he said.
Meghan Markle has faced backlash over her bucking of royal traditions and refusing to move past her pre-royal life. Walking the red carpet at a movie premiere? That’s just fueling the critcs’ fires, proving that the Duchess of Sussex can’t let go of her past.
Still, the hug was sweet. Obviously, Meghan Markle doesn’t care what everyone thinks about it.