Top 10 Royal Family Rules That Were Changed



Top 10 Royal Family Rules That Were Changed

VOICE OVER: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Savannah Sher
Some traditions never die, but these royal family rules were changed. Our countdown includes no touching, marrying non-royals, signing autographs, and more!

Top 10 Royal Family Rules That Were Changed

Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Royal Family Rules That Were Changed.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the British royal family’s rules, customs, and unofficial protocols that have reportedly changed over the years.

What do you think of these rules? Let us know in the comments!

#10: Giving Candid Interviews

For most of the history of the British royal family, members did not give interviews to journalists. In fact, the first televised one took place relatively recently, when Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, spoke to the BBC in 1961. Even then, the topics were quite measured. It was really Princess Diana’s 1995 conversation with Martin Bashir that paved the way for more candid interviews to come. She spoke about her marriage and expressed some less than flattering sentiments about the royal family, shocking the nation in the process. Since then, it has still been rare for senior royals to give video interviews, with the most memorable recent instance of course being Harry and Meghan’s sit-down talk with Oprah in early 2021.

#9: Marrying Divorcees

Anyone with any cursory knowledge of the British royal family knows that one of the biggest scandals in the history of the institution came about when King Edward VIII (later known as the Duke of Windsor) abdicated the throne in the name of love. You see, he had fallen for a woman with several strikes against her. She was American, she was a non-royal, and she was about to be divorced - for the second time. He had to give up his position in order to marry her. Today, of course, things have changed - after divorcing Diana, Charles went on to wed a once-divorced Camilla. Meanwhile, though it may have still been seen as controversial by some for Prince Harry to marry a divorced woman, there was no official rule preventing it.

#8: Signing Autographs

This one isn’t necessarily a rule that has been changed, but rather a rule that has been broken - or bent. Members of the royal family are famously forbidden from signing autographs as a security measure to prevent their handwriting from being replicated. On a visit to Wales in the late 2010s, however, Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex-to-be, reportedly skirted around the rule for a fan named Caitlin Clarke. Rather than giving her signature, she simply wrote “Hi Kaitlin”. Considering the fact that it’s easy to find images of the royals’ signatures online, this rule definitely seems dated anyway.

#7: Presenting Debutantes

Many of the abandoned royal traditions on our list today were ditched in more recent decades, but this one was axed by Queen Elizabeth herself within the first decade of her long reign. Starting in 1780, debutantes—young women from the higher classes deemed ready to enter society—would present themselves to the royal family as part of the formal “coming out” process. The last such ceremony took place in 1958, after Queen Elizabeth’s advisors cautioned that it was no longer a good look for the royal family’s image. Considering the changing role of women in society, this was definitely a step in the right direction.

#6: Childcare Expectations

Up until the 1980s, senior members of the royal family had quite formal relationships with their children—at least in public. They engaged nannies to do much of the day to day work and left them behind when travelling internationally. When Princess Diana gave birth to William, however, everything changed. She decided to parent in a new way, famously bringing him on a tour of Australia when he was a toddler and making him the first royal heir to be educated outside the palace from a young age. She was also publicly more warm and affectionate with both William and Harry, changing the face of royal parenting and passing on the tradition to her own children.

#5: Asking for the Queen's Permission to Marry

The Royal Marriages Act of 1772 stipulates a number of rules regarding marriages in the British royal family. Prior to 2013, when the Succession to the Crown Act was enacted, all members of the royal family had to formally request the Queen’s permission when they wanted to get married. This amendment restricted the list of people to just the first six people in the line of succession. That’s why Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie did not require the Queen’s approval for their own nuptials. Still, the rule is largely a formality, and there is one recorded instance of a British sovereign denying an official request to marry.

#4: Marrying Non-Royals

It’s easy to forget that many royal marriages used to have political goals, uniting countries and aiding in international alliances. Today, it has become acceptable for members of the British royal family to marry non-royals, as seen with both Princes William and Harry. 1937 marked the first time in British history that a senior royal married a “commoner” when King Edward VIII wed American Wallis Simpson. Of course, he was forced to abdicate the throne due to his decision, and it wasn’t until 1960 that it occurred again when Princess Margaret married Antony Armstrong-Jones.

#3: Bowing for the Queen

According to the royals themselves, “there are no obligatory codes of behaviour when meeting The Queen or a member of the Royal Family”. But there have still plenty of unofficial protocols in place over the years. It was once considered essential to either bow or curtsy to the Queen, but now that’s more of a gentle suggestion. The royal family does, however, stipulate how to properly address the Queen. When presented to the Queen, address her as “Your Majesty” and any following address can be simply ‘Ma'am’. For male members of the family, it’s suggested to use 'Your Royal Highness' and then ‘Sir’.

#2: No Touching

For a long time, it was considered unacceptable to touch - other than through a handshake - any member of the royal family, a tradition with some interesting roots. Historian Kate Williams says, “monarchs were divinely appointed to rule by God, so they were kind of seen as gods, so they demanded to be treated as gods.” In recent years, however, there have been several “breaches” of protocol, like when Michelle Obama put her arm on the Queen’s back or Lebron James casually put his arm around Kate Middleton. Realistically, however, the change has been slowly taking place over time, with one major advancement occurring when Princess Diana had physical contact with AIDS patients during a time when it was still considered a controversial behavior.

#1: The Rule of Succession

One of the most significant changes to royal family rules was a major step in the right direction in terms of gender equality. For centuries of British rule, male heirs were prioritized in the line of succession, regardless of age. For example, an older sister would be passed over and the crown would be given to her younger brother. This all officially changed in 2015 when the Succession to the Crown Act came into force - though Parliament had actually passed amendments to the Acts in 2013. The changes meant the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s first-born would be third in the line of succession, regardless of the child’s biological sex. Of course, they ultimately had a son. This also means Prince George’s sister, Princess Charlotte, is fourth in line to the throne, while younger brother, Prince Louis, is fifth.