Weird History
331 voters

Times Royals Broke Official Protocol

Updated June 4, 2021 2.6k votes 331 voters 10.7k views14 items

List RulesVote up the most understandable times royals broke with their own traditions.

Members of the British royal family are known for the laundry list of rules and traditions they have to follow. But even though protocol and precedent cover everything from the color of their nail polish to the food they eat, royals breaking with tradition aren’t as rare as you might think. In fact, royals have been known to break tradition for events as significant as weddings and even funerals.

Below are notable times the modern royal family members have broken with their own traditions. These rules range from practices steeped in centuries of royal customs to more simple directives based on Queen Elizabeth II’s personal preferences. Vote up the rule-breaking moments you’d forgive if you were the queen.

  • 1

    When Queen Elizabeth II Bowed To Diana’s Casket

    Video: YouTube

    Queen Elizabeth doesn’t often break protocol - she once refused to sit on the Game of Thrones Iron Throne because she’s “not allowed to sit on foreign thrones” - but when she does, there’s usually a very good reason. 

    In 1997, Elizabeth broke one of the most important decorums of her position: She bowed to Princess Diana at her memorial service. Though Diana was no longer a member of the royal family following her divorce from Prince Charles, her service brought the entire world, including the royal family, together in her honor. 

    In the wake of Diana’s death, the queen ushered the princes William and Harry to Balmoral Castle, allowing them to privately grieve their mother. The public, however, took this as a sign the queen was uncaring and unmoved by the public reaction to Diana’s passing. 

    The queen then broke protocol several times throughout the service proceedings. Diana was no longer an official member of the royal family and technically should have had a private service. The queen allowed for a full public service, including flying the flag above Buckingham Palace at half-mast to honor Diana’s legacy.

    It was a moment during the procession, though, that captured the attention of the world. As Diana’s procession drove by Buckingham Palace, the queen lowered her head to bow to her former daughter-in-law.

  • 2

    When Prince William Hugged A Distraught Commoner

    Most interactions between royals and commoners look the same: a smile, a gracious head tilt in their direction, and maybe a handshake. On a few notable occasions, however, royals have broken this rule. 

    In 2017, Queen Elizabeth and Prince William visited victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, which claimed 72 lives. During their visit to a crisis center, William chose to forego protocol and embrace one of the victims, whose husband was trapped in an elevator after the fire broke out.

  • 3

    When Diana Sent Prince William To School

    Although less of a must-follow rule than a longstanding tradition, Prince William’s education was a huge departure from the royal norm. 

    Prior to William, all royal heirs began their early education privately with a governess. So when Princess Diana tried to convince Prince Charles that William needed to be around other children, it was breaking with precedent. As a toddler, William ran amok in the royal palaces, making it evident to Diana he would benefit from a more structured environment. William’s antics were reportedly so bad, they helped sway Charles to Diana’s side. 

    Notably, William is the first heir to spend the entirety of his formative years in public school. However, he’s not the last. William has followed suit with his own children, sending both Prince George and Princess Charlotte to a nursery school.

  • 4

    When Prince Philip Attended Prince Edward's Birth

    Though it’s not uncommon for fathers to witness the births of their children today, for decades, women in the royal family gave birth without their husbands by their side. In fact, Prince Philip was reportedly playing squash when Queen Elizabeth II gave birth to Prince Charles. Philip was also not present for the births of Anne or Andrew. 

    In 1964, however, the queen gave birth to Prince Edward, and in a royal first, Prince Philip was in the delivery room alongside her. Prior to this, no other royal father in history was present for the birth of one of their children. The queen had reportedly been reading about the importance of including fathers in the births of their children and decided Philip should be present when Edward was born.