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  • Rachel Burchfield

Royal protocol 101

The Queen's purse is not just a purse - it sends a myriad of messages. CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK

As we’ve discussed previously, the Royal Family is a family bound by endless rules and protocol. Here are some of the most interesting customs of the Firm (keeping in mind there are about a bazillion more):

Food, Drink, and Formal Dinners

· If you like a good starch for your dinner, you’re out of luck. Pasta, potatoes, and rice are never on the dinner menu; you’re more likely to find grilled fish and veggies, but not shellfish – the Family tries to avoid food poisoning at all costs. The Family also skips rare red meat.

· The Queen hates garlic, specifically the smell of it; you’ll never find it on the menu. Plus, if you’re a Royal and speaking to hundreds or thousands of people, you don’t want garlic breath, anyway.

· Regimented, she is: The Queen eats the same breakfast every day – nuts, dried fruit, and Corn Flakes.

· When you’re done eating, you must fold your napkin in half so as not to show a dirty napkin.

· When the Queen stops eating, everyone stops eating. But, to make sure everyone has a chance to finish their meal, the Queen intentionally eats very slowly.

· Britons are known for their tea, and there is a Royal protocol for how to sip it. The teacup handle must be held with the thumb and the index finger, while the middle finger holds the bottom. Also, lady Royals can only take sips from the same spot so they don’t get their lipstick all over the teacup. Choose a spot, and sip from it until you’re done.

· Royals aren’t allowed to accept food or drinks from anyone. (Too much fear of poisoning.)

· At formal dinners, the Queen spends the first half of the meal speaking to the person seated to her right. Then, for the second half of the meal, she switches and speaks to the person at her left.


· The Queen sends tons of messages with her purse. When she puts her purse on the table, it’s time to go in no more than five minutes. Also, when she moves her purse from her left arm to her right arm, the conversation you are having with her is over. It’s time for a staff member to jump in and move things along. The worst is if she puts her bag on the floor – that means she’s not having fun with the conversation, is bored to death, and it’s time to wrap it up now.

· When a clutch is, well, clutch – if Royal ladies are wearing a more cleavage-bearing number (think Princess Diana – this was her signature move), they always should hold their clutch over their bosom while exiting cars and bending down so as not to reveal too much. Diana did this so much that her clutches became known as “cleavage clutches.”

· The Queen usually wears gloves at events because she shakes a lot of hands and people have germs. But on the occasion when she isn’t wearing gloves at an event and you see her twisting her wedding ring, that is her secret (well, not so secret now) hint to her staffers that she wants the conversation to end.

· Wonder why ladies always wear hats at formal events? It’s because they’re required to. However, if the event is after 6 p.m., out come the tiaras instead. That said, only married women can wear tiaras.

· Lady Royals may not wear colored nail polish – only nude polish – and must wear pantyhose. They are forbidden from wearing fur.

· After the Queen's father, King George VI, died unexpectedly while she was abroad in Kenya and had no mourning clothes with her, Royals are now required to bring a black mourning outfit with them every time they travel, just in case.

· George, Louis, and Archie may only wear tailored shorts, not pants. Not sure at what age that rule expires, but it’s for Royal boys.

Human Interaction

· Prince Philip must trail two steps behind his wife, the Queen, in public.

· When shaking hands, it’s a two-pump maximum and you must maintain eye contact. There should be no touching of Royals beyond a handshake.

· Royals aren’t supposed to be touchy feely in public; Meghan has the hardest time with this and you can often catch her reaching out for Harry then snapping her hand back, remembering protocol. Also, no pet names in public – although Meghan “got caught” calling Harry “my love” at an event last year.

· When curtsying, Royals only do a slight bend of the knee, not a full bow.

Royals at Work

· If a meeting is being held at Buckingham Palace, the Queen has a secret buzzer she can press to alert her staff to interrupt she and her guest and end the meeting.

· Royals must accept every gift given to them in public but can choose later to get rid of the gift.

· No autographs or selfies should be given by (or asked for of) a Royal.

· Two heirs cannot travel together. You’ll never see Charles and William on the same plane, and, as time passes and George gets older, you’ll never see William and George on the same plane. That way, God forbid something happens, two heirs are not killed together.

· Royals cannot get paid to work. (They have enough money. They’ll be okay.) So, as Meghan guest edits the September issue of British Vogue, she can’t profit from it.

Special Occasions

· Christmas at Sandringham (see last Thursday’s post for a photo of the residence) is mandatory for all Royals. And no Christmas morning excitement – presents are always opened on Christmas Eve at tea time in the Red Drawing Room.

· All Royal brides must include myrtle in their wedding bouquets.


· Royals can’t vote, so as to never show favoritism towards any particular politician or political party.

· The Queen can drive even without a license. Of course she can! She’s the Queen!

· This is hilarious – the Family banned itself from playing Monopoly together because the game got too heated and everyone got too pissed off. Alright then!

· Per protocol (and not just my pet peeve), once you marry into the Royal Family as a female, your maiden name should never be used again. See, it’s not just me!

Thank you to Good Housekeeping for so many of these factoids!

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