Meghan Markle is often described as a royal “rule-breaker,” which is both flattering and disconcerting. On the one hand, it’s admirable Markle is becoming a royal on her own terms and not paying much attention to some of the archaic traditions upheld by the family.
But these so-called “rules” Markle is breaking are so outdated and minute, the Internet often praises her for doing things as simple as wearing her hair down. It feels a bit backward to talk about women in these terms, so perhaps there should be a change in what we expect from female royals.
One way to do that is to examine all the times Markle broke this so-called royal protocol. You’ll see many of the items are quite ridiculous, which begs the question: Why are we policing royal women in these ways? Take a look, below, and chew on that thought.
1. Her sleeveless looks. Markle wore a dress with an off-the-shoulder neckline to Queen Elizabeth’s Trooping of the Colour ceremony in June, setting off a media firestorm. According to The Sun, it’s customary for royal women to “not wear off-shoulder or other more revealing styles.”
2. Markle’s coat of arms. The Duchess of Sussex received her crest directly from Kensington Palace shortly after her wedding, which breaks with royal tradition. Typically, the coat of arms is bestowed upon the bride’s father, so in Markle’s case, it should’ve gone to Thomas Markle. That didn’t happen for…various reasons…so Markle snagged the arms herself.
3. Her bridal procession. Markle began her walk down the aisle at St. George’s Chapel alone and was later joined by Prince Charles. Those first few moments of solitude were groundbreaking.
4. Markle’s wedding cake choice. She went with lemon elderflower. Traditionally, royal weddings have included fruitcakes.
5. Her political commentary. It’s customary for royals to stay out of political debates and remain neutral. However, Markle seemingly broke this unspoken rule in February when she vocalized her opinions about Time’s Up and female empowerment during a panel discussion at The Royal Foundation. “What’s interesting is that I hear a lot of people saying, when talking about girls‘ empowerment and women as well, you’ll often hear people saying, ‘You’re helping them find their voices,'” she said. “I fundamentally disagree with that. Women don’t need to find their voice. They need to feel empowered to use it, and people need to be encouraged to listen.”
6. Her cross-body bags. There’s no formal rule that prohibits these types of purses, but royal women typically opt for clutches. Some reports say this is so they can avoid shaking hands with people, which brings us to…
7. Hugs, selfies, and autographs. Markle hugged several children on a January trip to Wales, which is considered outside the norm for a royal. They also don’t really take selfies or sign autographs, both of which Markle has reportedly done in the past (notably on a trip to Cardiff.) When Prince Charles is asked for an autograph, he reportedly says, “Sorry, they don’t allow me to do that.”
8. Her wedding speech. Markle reportedly gave a very touching speech at her own royal wedding, which is something typically reserved for the notable male figures at the event: the groom, the best man, the father of the bride, etc.
9. When she spent Christmas with the royal family. This went against royal protocol because typically only married couples can join the queen for Christmas. Markle and Prince Harry were just engaged at the time.
10. The pantyhose. Markle’s been consistently wearing pantyhose since tying the knot with Prince Harry; however, she broke the unspoken rule about exposed legs in November during her engagement announcement.
11. The fact that Markle is divorced. A royal marrying someone who was previously married is rare, and certainly breaks with tradition. It should go without saying this custom (and many of these) are outdated.
12. Markle and Prince Harry’s PDA. By PDA, we mean hand-holding, but even that breaks with royal protocol to a certain degree. Consider the fact Prince William and Kate Middleton are rarely photographed holding hands.
13. The sermon at her wedding. Instead of choosing a standard British clergyman, Markle and Prince Harry went with Bishop Michael Curry, whose speech at their wedding was a highlight of the day.
14. Markle and Prince Harry’s first post-wedding kiss. Because Markle and Prince Harry didn’t get married at Buckingham Palace, they couldn’t share an iconic kiss on the balcony. Instead, they opted for a smooch right outside Windsor Castle, where they exchanged their vows.
15. Markle’s lack of a maid of honor at her wedding. She had too many good friends to choose from. If you remember, Pippa Middleton was Kate’s maid of honor in 2011.
16. Her messy bun. Royal women’s up-dos are historically tight and in place. Markle’s bun look from January 2018, however, was loose, free, and a total deviation.
17. Markle reportedly turning her back to the queen at the Royal Ascot. Granted, this is just a rumor, but if so this would be a break from tradition, as well. Customarily, you don’t turn your back to the queen.
18. The “duchess slant.” Royal women have a traditional way of crossing their legs, which Markle seemingly forgot during an appearance last month; however, she quickly corrected it. Of course, this didn’t stop trolls for coming after her. Again, this feels like an…unnecessary rule.
Christopher Rosa is entertainment staff writer for Glamour.
Photos: Getty Images