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Setting the record straight on the dos and don'ts of royal life

By Sophie Dodd and Simon Perry
July 27, 2018 01:27 PM
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From how they travel to what they eat and what they wear, there’s a long list of rules and protocol members of the royal family must follow. Even the newest member, Meghan Markle, has been struggling with the minutiae of royals dos and don’ts.

While the royals are notoriously tight-lipped about what goes on behind the heavily-draped windows of Buckingham Palace, various speculation has captured the public imagination. Does the Queen really have a secret code to communicate with her staff? Is the family actually forbidden to play Monopoly?

Here’s the truth behind the royal rules!

1. The royal family cannot vote or have political views.

True! Regardless of the political party in charge, the monarchy and parliament must work together in order to keep things running smoothly. Therefore, the royal family is not allowed to vote or publicly express their political views (a challenge Meghan herself recently faced!). That being said, they’re perfectly entitled to their own private beliefs.

Britain Trump Visit, Windsor, United Kingdom - 13 Jul 2018
Credit: Matt Dunham/AP/REX/Shutterstock

2. The board game Monopoly is forbidden in the royal household.

Rumor has it that Prince Andrew was once gifted the notoriously time-consuming game and quipped, “We’re not allowed to play Monopoly at home. It gets too vicious.” While many took his joke about the game’s intensity to heart, it’s safe to assume it was just that — a joke.

3. Royals are required to pack an all-black outfit when traveling abroad in case of a family member’s death.

This widely-held notion likely stems from when the Queen famously didn’t have proper mourning attire after the sudden death of her father, King George VI, forced her to abruptly fly home from her Commonwealth tour of Kenya. While it isn’t required, it’s more about being sensible should it be needed.

4. No shellfish allowed!

While this may be a reasonable precaution — eating shellfish does run a reasonable risk of food poisoning for anyone, especially when it comes to those consumed raw, such as oysters — this is definitively not a rule. Just ask Prince Charles.

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5. Two heirs aren’t allowed to travel together in order to protect the lineage.

While the Queen has occasionally bent the rules when it comes to air travel and allowed two heirs to fly together, Charles and William rarely ride in the same car. However, Prince William and Prince George often do, perhaps because George is (a little) further down the line of succession. The rule does not apply to Prince Harry, as he is now sixth in line.

6. The royal family doesn’t open presents on Christmas Day.

True, but don’t worry — no Grinch here! As a tradition, they open presents during tea time on Christmas Eve instead.

7. Garlic is forbidden.

This one is true. The Queen is said to hate garlic, a fact that Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall recently revealed. During an appearance on MasterChef Australia, she said garlic is a “no-no” — especially at royal events and state banquets where there’s lots of chatting.

8. The Queen always wears vibrant colors in order to be easily spotted in a crowd.

True! The Queen’s rainbow wardrobe is both chic and practical. In the documentary, The Queen at 90, the Queen’s daughter-in-law, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, said: “She needs to stand out for people to be able to say ‘I saw the Queen.’ Don’t forget that when she turns up somewhere, the crowds are two, three, four, 10, 15 deep, and someone wants to be able to say they saw a bit of the Queen’s hat as she went past.”

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Credit: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty; Alex Lentati/WPA/Getty; Mark Cuthbert/UK Press/Getty; REX/Shutterstock

9. The Queen uses a “secret code” to communicate with her staff.

The rumored variations on what that code is, per se, are constantly shifting, as if the original information is being passed along through the game of Telephone. Many believe that the Queen uses her purse to subtly signal her staff: if she shifts it to her right arm, they must politely interrupt her conversation; if she places it on the dinner table, the meal needs to end within five minutes. While she does in fact have private signals with her security and staff in order to subtly move things along, it’s more likely a look or a quiet word.

10. No one can go to sleep before the Queen if they’re staying in the same household.

The Queen, 92, is likely one of the first to go to bed these days, so it’s never an issue.

11. PDA — even hand holding — is looked down upon, particularly when traveling.

While the royals may be wary of holding hands in front of the Queen, each couple has their own style when it comes to public outings. The proof is in the pictures — William and Kate occasionally hold hands in public, while newlyweds Harry and Meghan have rarely been spotted not holding hands! “It’s all simply a matter of preference for each couple and is also likely dependent on the nature of the event they are attending,” explains royal etiquette expert Myka Meier, founder and director of Beaumont Etiquette. “A more serious engagement would warrant a more serious level of professionalism, which each royal is sure to follow.”

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Credit: BAV/Geoff Robinson

12. Royal women are required to wear pantyhose in public.

Nude tights — or pantyhose — have long been a staple of Kate Middleton’s wardrobe. But they’re rumored to be less of a fashion faux pas than a royal mandate, which both Kate and her new sister-in-law Meghan Markle have managed to make look more modern. Princess Diana was also a fan.