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10 Times the Royal Family Broke Fashion Protocol

With old-fashioned rules like these, you can't blame the royal family for stepping out of line from time to time.

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Britain Royal Engagement, London, United Kingdom - 27 Nov 2017AP/Shutterstock

Meghan Markle skipped tights

All these fashion “rules” might be more accurately called “guidelines”—there’s no explicit rule book that the family brings out when discussing clothing choices, but there are certain pieces that are known to make Queen Elizabeth II unhappy. And since she’s the monarch, she gets to make the rules—er, guidelines. That said, some are more important than others, like wearing tights with leg-baring dresses. “I would say that’s really the only hard, steadfast rule in terms of what the Queen requires,” royal expert Victoria Arbiter told Insider. Until now, apparently. Kate Middleton has been spotted in tights every now and then, and Meghan has been skipping them on the regular—which was particularly controversial during her and Prince Harry’s first post-engagement public appearance. Maybe the Queen is getting laxer about her old-school rule. You won’t believe these other 18 etiquette rules everyone in the royal family is expected to follow.

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Princess Diana visit to Washington DC, America - Sep 1996Tim Rooke/Shutterstock

Princess Diana picked her own engagement ring

Traditionally, engagement rings are something extra-special in the royal family. They’re either designed by the husband-to-be (like Prince Harry did for Meghan Markle) or selected from precious family heirlooms (like when Prince Charles proposed to Camilla Parker Bowles with a ring that belonged to the Queen Mother). So when Princess Diana not only took her ring into her own hands but picked it from a catalog of all places, it caused quite the stir.

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Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge visit to Cornwall, UK - 01 Sep 2016Tim Rooke/Shutterstock

Kate Middleton wore wedged shoes

If the Queen had her way, it would be heels and flat soles only—and nothing in between. “The Queen isn’t a fan of wedged shoes,” a source told Vanity Fair. “She really doesn’t like them and it’s well known among the women in the family.” But that hasn’t stopped Kate Middleton from pulling on a pair from time to time. In fact, there are 12 other times the royal family has broken their own protocol.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Duchess of Sussex visit to Sussex, UK - 03 Oct 2018Tim Rooke/Shutterstock

Meghan Markle wore dark nail polish

Blink and you might miss the royal fashion rule Meghan Markle broke at the British Fashion Awards in December 2018. The Queen reportedly considers anything but bare or nude-polished nails vulgar, meaning fake nails and bright or dark colors are no-no’s for royal women (and men, presumably). So when Meghan stepped onstage with dark burgundy nails, tabloids were all in a tizzy—especially when she sported dark polish on her toes the next month.

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Princess Diana Of Wales- Visit Australia & Usa 30th October 1985 Princess Diana Let A Dazzling Fashion Idea Go To Her Head Yesterday. Instead Of Arriving At A High Society Dinner In Melbourne As A Super Sloane Ranger She Turned Up As A Red Indian PriJames Gray/Daily Mail/Shutterstock

Princess Diana got creative with her jewelry

Although we’d imagine Queen Elizabeth II never explicitly told her daughter-in-law to keep necklaces, well, on her neck, we also have a feeling that Princess Diana putting one heirloom on her head wasn’t what Her Majesty had in mind. The Queen gave one of her grandmother’s chokers to Princess Diana as a wedding present, and Diana famously switched things up and used it as a headband during a 1985 trip to Australia. Check out these 19 times Princess Diana and Kate Middleton wore basically the same thing.

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The wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Pre-Ceremony, Windsor, Berkshire, UK - 19 May 2018Shutterstock

Prince Harry got married in uniform

Normally, tradition dictates that only those in active service members can wear a military uniform on their wedding day. So it might have raised some eyebrows when Prince Harry pulled up wearing the uniform of the Blues and Royals, which he joined in 2006—if it weren’t for his stamp of approval from Grandma. “Her Majesty The Queen gave her permission for Prince Harry to get married in his uniform,” Kensington Palace announced in a statement. Guess the Queen isn’t so rigid about the rules after all.

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The wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Carriage Procession, Windsor, Berkshire, UK - 19 May 2018David Fisher/Shutterstock

Prince Harry let his beard grow

That wasn’t the only rule Prince Harry bucked on his wedding day. Men in uniform aren’t supposed to have beards either, and he reportedly also needed to get special permission to avoid shaving before his big day. And we have to commend Her Majesty for giving him the thumbs-up, considering she’d love to make a no-beards rule. “She doesn’t mind royal men growing beards when they are away in the Armed Forces or out in the wilds like Harry was in the Antarctic, but she expects them to be clean-shaven when they get home,” a source told The Mirror in 2014. Looks like she’s given up on that!

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WellChild Awards, London, UK - 04 Sep 2018Tim Rooke/Shutterstock

Meghan Markle wore trousers (again)

While other royal women—Kate and Diana included—have certainly been seen walking around in jeans or trousers off-duty, they would usually (though not always) reserve those looks for when they were off duty. Meghan’s habit of wearing pants, rather than skirts or dresses, at official engagements has reportedly been bothering royal aides. Prince Harry himself apparently even told her that wearing a tuxedo for a formal evening event would be going too far, so she had to rethink her outfit. Don’t miss these 17 photos of Meghan Markle’s stunning transformation since becoming a royal.

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Charity Dinner at the Serpentine Gallery, Hyde Park, London, Britain - 1994Nils Jorgensen/Shutterstock

Diana walked out in a “revenge dress”

Princess Diana was never one to shy away from controversy, and that was never truer as after she separated from Prince Charles. The same day that her ex’s tell-all documentary about their breakup was airing, she stepped out in a slinky, daring LBD. Sure, she was headed to a Vanity Fair-hosted fundraising event and wanted to look great, but royal women wouldn’t typically wear short hemlines for formal events, and they certainly won’t show that much cleavage. It’s no wonder the look has gone down in history as Diana’s “revenge dress,”

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visit to Edinburgh, Scotland - 13 Feb 2018Nieboer/Picture Press Eur/Sipa/Shutterstock

Meghan Markle wore a cross-body bag

It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but royal women opt for clutches and short-strapped bags most of the time for a specific reason: When meeting and greeting, they can just hold it with both hands to politely signal they don’t want to shake hands. So it was a bold move when Meghan Markle walked around Edinburgh with an over-the-shoulder purse after she was engaged to Prince Harry. Next, find out about all the dress code rules the royal family is supposed to follow.

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.