Protocols The Royals Have Broken Since The Queen Died

Throughout Queen Elizabeth II's 70-year reign, she adhered to strict royal protocol and expected the same from her extended family, who were instructed on protocol from an early age. "Etiquette training for the royals starts as soon as they're old enough to sit at a table," etiquette expert Myka Meier told People. "They are raised having formal meals, going to formal events and practicing everything from voice levels to dressing appropriately to ... how to curtsy and bow."

Unfortunately for the much-loved monarch, not all the royals take tradition to heart. For instance, there have been claims that the queen was deeply unhappy with Princess Catherine's habit of repeatedly breaking protocol. Namely, she expressed her displeasure at Catherine supposedly exhibiting a tad too much flesh, albeit unwittingly. And before Catherine, there was Princess Diana, who broke tradition on multiple occasions, such as when she adopted a more genial parenting style in contrast to the stoicism expected from royals. However, there were some (admittedly rare) occasions in which the queen herself defied protocol, the most notable being when she bowed to Diana's coffin.

Since the queen's death in September 2022, the surviving royals have each been doing their bit to ensure that the decorum the monarch upheld for 70 years remains respected and enforced. But there are some Windsors who are simply too rebellious to stick to the rules. From inappropriate manicures to smashing the patriarchy, let's take a look at protocols the royals have broken since the queen died.

Princess Catherine gave her former teacher a big hug

Traditionally, royals are expected to uphold a certain level of restraint. As such, they are sternly advised against any overly familiar interactions with the public, and this includes hugging and kissing their subjects. But after a surprise reunion with her former history teacher, Jim Embury, in February 2023, Princess Catherine majorly broke protocol.

During a visit to the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, Catherine spotted Embury among the crowd of admirers and swooped in to hug him. "The things you taught me, I now teach to my children," an evidently overwhelmed Catherine declared, per Cornwall Live. It was the first time that the pair had seen each other in over two decades, hence Catherine's big bear hug.

The princess may have broken royal protocol, but she made her former teacher's day. And judging by her enthusiasm, he likely made her day, too. Chatting to the Daily Mail, Embury acknowledged that it was an emotional reunion, with the teacher making a last-minute decision to head to the Maritime Museum after hearing that his former pupil would be there. "It was an incredible meeting and the first time I had seen Kate in 25 years," he said. "She hasn't changed, not one bit, and is just like she was — conscientious, considerate and exuberant." As for Catherine's declaration that she uses the knowledge she gleaned from Embury to teach her own kids? "I hate to think what those children are learning!" he quipped.

Prince George was allowed to be a Page of Honour

The Pages of Honour play a pivotal role in a coronation, as they're expected to hold the monarch's robe during the ceremony. In line with royal protocol, the pages are traditionally comprised of the children of aristocrats, but they are not meant to be working royals themselves. For instance, when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned, she hired Maids of Honour to hold the train of her gown, and these consisted of girls with the title of "lady" as opposed to "princess." However, King Charles III chose to break royal protocol for his coronation in May 2023. 

The king opted to make his eldest grandson, Prince George, a page despite it being against tradition. Speaking to People, a royal spokesperson revealed that Princess Catherine and Prince William did not take the decision lightly. "His parents are very excited and delighted that he is a page," they said. "It's something that his parents have thought long and hard about and are very much looking forward to — and I'm sure George is, too."

In addition to appointing his grandson as a page, Charles also broke centuries-old coronation tradition by modifying George's uniform for the occasion. Typically, the pages wear tights, but George balked at the idea. "He also wasn't keen on wearing tights and becoming a subject of ribaldry at school," a royal insider told the Daily Mail (via Express). Subsequently, instead of donning tights, Charles allowed his grandson to wear black pants.

Camilla, Queen Consort, broke royal protocol for the sake of her pals

Camilla, Queen Consort, is famed for her love of the arts, so it stands to reason that she's made an arty celebrity BFF or two. During a visit to the Reading Room Literary Festival in June 2023, she greeted some thespian friends, including Dame Judi Dench and Gyles Brandreth, by kissing them on the cheek. While giving one's pal a friendly peck on the cheek is pretty commonplace behavior for, well, commoners, it's most unorthodox coming from a royal — and the queen consort, no less.

Subsequently, her actions reportedly left some guests feeling rather perturbed. "Greeting rituals, especially royal ones, need an element of etiquette rules about them to avoid this kind of awkwardness," body language expert Judi James told the Mirror. "Presumably these actor/performer friends of Camilla have offered support and warmth in the past ... But now she is Queen there needs to be a proper decision about whether the rituals get an upgrade or not."

James went on to argue that such behavior was at odds with Camilla's lofty role within the House of Windsor, with the royal supposedly acting in a manner that may have been acceptable when she was merely the Duchess of Cornwall but is unbefitting of the queen consort. "This is not really an option for a Queen though," James explained, "as it leaves guests or hosts feeling awkward and it also seems to alienate anyone not in the 'inner circle.'"

Princess Anne became the only woman to walk in a monarch's funeral procession

Breaking royal protocol isn't always a sign of disrespect. Often, such traditions are a relic of a bygone age, with The Firm implementing a number of sexist rules throughout the years. There are numerous royal regulations that have, historically, prohibited women from taking part in major ceremonies. One such tradition pertains to who can and cannot walk in a monarch's funeral procession. Historically, only men have been allowed to do so; significantly, Queen Elizabeth II didn't walk in her own father's funeral procession, instead traveling in a carriage with fellow female mourners.

But during Elizabeth's funeral, a stoic Princess Anne walked the procession with her brothers and nephews, becoming the first woman in history to do so. Although it was a world-first for the Windsors, Anne was deeply affected by her mother's death and to not allow her to walk with her siblings would undoubtedly appear harsh. Indeed, she was by the queen's bedside when she died.

Furthermore, breaking tradition made sense for the defiant Anne, who has previously expressed her frustration with what she deems sexist royal protocol. "Of course, the Queen is the Queen and it's a different relationship, but I still got the feeling that there were women at that end of the room and men at this end of the room," she told Women's Weekly in 2020. "I didn't go for that, so I just annoyed the men at the other end."

Princess Catherine and the colorful manicure

There are stringent rules pertaining to how royals ought to conduct themselves in public. But in addition to modifying their conduct, this protocol extends to royals' outward appearance. For instance, they are strongly advised against sporting colorful nail polish, and instead instructed to wear muted and natural tones. "It needs to be skin coloured so hot red and bright pink, for example, are not correct, especially for official occasions and particularly during mourning," royal etiquette expert William Hanson told The Sun.

Apparently, Queen Elizabeth II strongly disapproved of colorful nail polish, which she deemed "vulgar." This is allegedly why Princess Catherine never exhibited painted nails while the queen was alive. But after the monarch's death, Catherine started to bend the rules.

In April 2023, Catherine turned heads when she showcased a bold red manicure while attending an Easter church service. Accordingly, fans were quick to call her out for supposedly being disrespectful. "Too bad the whole photo op is ruined by Kate's brazen red nail polish," tweeted one detractor. "It's not protocol and Kate Middleton has shamed the entire family. Shocking." Another argued on Twitter that Catherine's decision to don the seemingly audacious manicure highlighted the double standard Meghan Markle was subjected to (Meghan was criticized for wearing dark nail polish in 2018). However, rules relating to manicures are, after all, unofficial protocols. "It's simply about being appropriate — we'd never see this at a royal engagement," royal commenter Omid Scobie explained to Harper's Bazaar.

William and Catherine snuck a sneaky selfie (or two)

Members of The Firm are not supposed to get too friendly with their subjects. This includes posing for selfies, which they have long been advised against doing, particularly prior to Queen Elizabeth II's death. "Royals would always rather have a personal interaction than have people clamoring for selfies," royal commenter Victoria Arbiter explained to Business Insider. "If you grant one, then it quickly becomes overwhelming." It's a simple directive and one that most royals should be able to easily abide by. But no royal is infallible, and now that Elizabeth is no longer alive, this selfie rule has been bent more than a few times.

Notably, Prince William has posed for selfies on multiple occasions since his grandmother's death. Just two months after the queen's passing, William and Princess Catherine could already be seen doing away with royal protocol, pausing for selfies with fans on a visit to Scarborough. According to royalist YouTuber Neil Sean's Daily News Headlines, the pair were at risk of angering Princess Anne, who is reportedly known for loathing selfies.

And it doesn't appear as though William and Catherine will be halting their selfie-snapping sprees any time soon. During a trip across the pond in December 2022, they smiled for photo-ops with fans while attending an NBA game at TD Garden Stadium. Then, in the spring of 2023, William could be seen happily agreeing to selfies when visiting Poland, even exhibiting physical affection to fans while posing.

Prince William failed to bow for Camilla, Queen Consort

According to royal protocol, members of The Firm must bow in deference to senior royals. This means that after Queen Elizabeth II's death, King Charles III's sons were required to bow before the queen consort. "Any time the royal family meets the new king and queen, the done thing would be to bow or curtsy to them," royal commenter Joe Little explained to Page Six.

But at Charles' coronation, Prince William and his children defied protocol by not bowing for Camilla, Queen Consort, despite Princess Catherine curtseying to her. William did, however, bow for his father. Footage of the seemingly disrespectful act was uploaded to TikTok, where folks in the comments section praised the prince for defying tradition. According to body language expert Judi James, this was an act of rebellion on William's part, with the gesture, or lack thereof, a sign of solidarity with his late mother. "Would William have felt comfortable bowing to the woman who took the place of his mother on the throne of the UK?" James told Express (via the Mirror).

Indeed, it has long been reported that William has qualms about Camilla being his children's step-grandmother; as such, he reportedly views her merely as his father's wife. Whether his absence of a bow was a mere slip-up, albeit an anomalous one for a royal as seasoned as William, or an act of throwing shade remains a mystery.

King Charles broke tradition by opening up Balmoral to the public early

Traditionally, the reigning monarch is expected to spend the summer at Balmoral, as Queen Elizabeth II did throughout her reign. However, in July 2023 it was reported that King Charles III wouldn't be staying at his mother's beloved castle. Rather, Charles considered rebuking tradition by spending the summer at Birkhall, his smaller home on the Balmoral estate, until the fall. It was a history-making decision, the first time a monarch had elected not to reside at the castle since the 19th century.

Devastated by the death of his mother, the trip to Balmoral Castle would be Charles' first summer without the queen. Subsequently, spending the summer months at the castle was indeed an incredibly poignant prospect for the king. "Balmoral Castle is the place where he said goodbye to his mother, the Queen," ex-royal butler Grant Harrold told Express. "It's where she died, and spent her last memories."

Although Charles ultimately did abide by protocol by kickstarting his Scottish stay at Balmoral Castle at the end of August, he ended up breaking tradition by opening up the estate to the public far earlier than expected. Typically, the queen didn't make Balmoral public until April, but it was reported that Charles would be opening up the estate to the public as early as September, with an artisan market scheduled for October, thus seemingly adhering to his promise that he would modernize the monarchy.