Marry Harry? Sounds like a dream: all the perks of royalty without the pressure of becoming an actual monarch one day. But in reality, Meghan Markle is about to get a rude awakening. Becoming a duchess (which she probably will be after the wedding) isn’t all designer dresses and diamond tiaras. There are a ton of royal family rules to follow, and if she doesn’t, she could find herself out in the cold like Fergie. Here are just a few.
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Markle revealed this rule herself during her first public appearance with Harry after their engagement was announced. It may not be entirely accurate, as other royals — including the queen — have been snapped in selfies during public appearances before, but it certainly makes sense to want to curtail the practice. If they did it for one person, they’d have to do it for everyone. They also don’t sign autographs for the same reason.
Curtsying to the Duchess of Cambridge
There’s a whole minefield of etiquette Markle will have to learn ASAP, not the least of which is who she will have to curtsey to on the daily. A 2005 document titled “Precedence of the Royal Family to Be Observed at Court” specifies the rather elaborate list above and below her. To complicate matters, who receives a curtsey and when is dependent upon who else is there. So, for example, she will always have to curtsey to the Duchess of Cambridge, formerly known as Kate Middleton, and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall — but she will only have to curtsey to Sophie, Countess of Wessex when Prince Edward is also in the room. If she is with Harry, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie will curtsey to her, but if Harry is not present, she will curtsey to them. She will always have to curtsey to Princess Anne, but never to Anne’s daughter, Zara Phillips — but Phillips will have to curtsey to her if Prince Harry is present.
Wait your turn!
Precedence rears its head in many other places. When the royals gather, they enter rooms in order of succession. So Markle would have to wait until the queen and Prince Philip, Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, Prince George and Princess Charlotte have all made their way to the dinner table before she and Harry can join the fam.
This practice even extends to who can arrive by car first. In this case, the arrivals happen in reverse order. For example, when the family gathers at Sandringham for Christmas, Camilla and Charles are always the last to arrive (the house is the country residence of the queen and Prince Philip, so they have no “arriving” to do).
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Hunting & shooting
While not so much a rule as a practice, the royals love hunting and shooting. Harry himself is a hunter (despite speaking out against big game shooting in Africa), and Prince Philip hosts a shoot every year on Boxing Day at Sandringham. Markle has said she eats vegan during the week and has spoken on behalf of PETA. Holding herself at arm’s length from one of the family’s favorite activities won’t win her any allies, so she might have to join in.
No politics in public
Markle has been vocal about her disdain for Donald Trump, calling him “misogynistic” and “divisive,” and about her support for Hillary Clinton. Those days are over. The royals are forbidden from discussing politics in public and must appear impartial at all times. This extends as far as not being able to vote. Markle also has to give up her position with the United Nations as women’s advocate for political participation and leadership.
Always travel with funeral clothes
Then-Princess Elizabeth was caught off guard when her father, King George VI, died suddenly while she was visiting Kenya with Prince Philip. She returned to the U.K. right away, but had no proper mourning clothes to wear for her first appearance on the airport tarmac after news of his death broke. A palace aide rushed clothes to her inside the plane, where she changed before emerging in proper mourning. Since then, all royals must carry funeral clothes with them on all trips.
She has to convert to the Church of England
Markle is from a Protestant family, but let’s hope she isn’t too attached to that particular faith. Since the monarch is the head of the Church of England, the entire family is expected to follow the faith, too. Kensington Palace already confirmed Markle plans to convert ASAP.
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Don’t get caught on film
Any untoward behavior caught on film is not just bad for Markle; it’s bad for the entire family. Fergie (the Duchess of York) was forced out after tabloids published photos of her frolicking with a Texas millionaire — and it was pretty clear they were having an affair by the way he was devouring her toes. Diana and Charles were ordered to divorce after they each gave explosive interviews about their extremely troubled marriage and respective affairs. If, heaven forbid, Markle’s marriage to Harry starts to falter, she had better make sure it does so entirely behind closed doors or she will find herself persona non grata around Buckingham Palace.
A version of this article was originally published in December 2017.
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