6 times the British royal family broke protocol, from Meghan Markle wearing Dior at Archie’s christening to Princess Diana’s dance with John Travolta

From Queen Elizabeth to Prince William and Kate Middleton to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – who has broken the most royal rules over the years? Photos: @yesqueensandconsorts; @theroyalfamily/Instagram, AFP

From Princess Diana to Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle to Queen Elizabeth, members of the royal family have all had to adhere to strict protocols and unwritten rules over the years – however some have managed to deal with them better than others.

So what are some of these rules and who broke them?

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“Never complain, never explain”

The queen mother and her daughter, Queen Elizabeth. Photo: @yesqueensandconsorts/Instagram

Queen Elizabeth’s famous “never complain, never explain” rule was in fact first coined by British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli in the mid 19th century, and went on to be adopted by British aristocrats and the queen mother in the 1930s. It soon became a motto to live by.

But Prince Harry and Meghan Markle seemed happy to break this rule with their bombshell Oprah Winfrey interview, which led to public criticism of the royals – although this was after they’d already stepped back as working members of the family.

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PDA is OK in photos, but not in public

PDA in official portraits is one thing, but quite another when out in public or touring other countries together. Photo: @theroyalfamily/Instagram
It’s normal to see the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge being affectionate in photos on their Instagram pages. However, when on royal duty or travelling, public displays of affection are frowned upon by the palace as a sign of respect for more conservative cultures. Prince Harry and Meghan broke this rule while on tour in Africa by holding hands and touching each other’s backs while meeting local children and visiting a museum in Cape Town.

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No wearing black

Princess Diana dancing with John Travolta at the White House in 1985. Photo: @johntravolta/ Instagram

Princess Diana often pushed the boundaries when it came to fashion and what was deemed acceptable by the palace. One occasion in particular that raised several royal eyebrows was her visit the White House where she danced with John Travolta. The princess wore a black dress – but the general rule is that royal ladies should only wear black when in mourning. The Princess of Wales also controversially ditched wearing gloves and often neglected to wear hats when on royal duty during the daytime – two more royal fashion faux pas.

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Official titles only

And who caught Kate Middleton addressing Prince Charles as “grandpa” during the recent G7 Leaders Summit in Cornwall, England? According to a lip reader via Cornwall Live, the Duchess of Cambridge greeted her father-in-law by saying “Hello grandpa. How are you?” Why is this a big deal? Royal protocol dictates that members of the royal family must address each other by their official titles in public. She therefore should have addressed him as “Your Royal Highness”.

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Wear British fashion at special occasions

Meghan, Harry and their son Archie. The Duchess wore Dior to his christening – an apparent no-no. Photo: @archieharrison.mountbatten/Instagram
While Meghan Markle was still a senior member of the royal family, eagle-eyed observers (and no doubt a few Meghan haters) noted that she broke numerous royal rules. For example, the fact that she wore Dior to her son Archie’s christening – typically, royal mothers wear an outfit by a British designer on such occasions. Similarly, when Archie was born, Harry and Meghan announced his birth on Instagram when traditionally a royal birth is first shared on an easel placed outside Buckingham Palace.

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On another occasion, during an official photo session, Meghan chose not to wear tights and went bare legged. This may be normal for most women, but seemingly not for royals – neither Diana nor Kate ever breached this one.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, with Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland, present baby Archie to the queen and Prince Philip after announcing his birth to their fans on Instagram. Photo: @sussexroyal/ Instagram

Oh, and like Diana, Meghan often ditched the hats and wore a lot of black.

Only other royals at Christmas


Queen Elizabeth broke her own “royals only” rule during Christmas at Sandringham several times in recent years. First with Meghan when she was newly engaged to Prince Harry in 2017, and then again the following year, when Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland was invited to join too.

In 2019, the queen invited Princess Beatrice’s then fiancé Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi. Yep, it seems this unspoken rule has been well and truly broken!

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  • Harry and Meghan holding hands on an official visit to Africa raised eyebrows, as did Kate Middleton calling Prince Charles ‘grandpa’ during the G7 Leaders Summit
  • But even Queen Elizabeth breaks her own royal rules sometimes, inviting non family members to Christmas at Sandringham three years in a row for starters