The glamorous events, the lavish dinner parties, the downright stunning dresses: Living the royal family lifestyle appears glorious to us mere plebes. But look a little closer, and you’ll come to realize that with great power comes
great responsibility a laundry list of royal family rules.
From traveling do’s to even more royal family don’ts, the many royal rules affect nearly every single aspect of their lives — including what and how they eat.
Below, we’ve gathered all the interesting food rules the royal family must follow — and for many, we have former royal family private chef Darren McGrady, who worked for the family from 1982 to 1993, to thank for spilling them.
Formal wear is a must at dinner
In an interview with Marie Claire in October 2017, McGrady said the family would come down to dinner in “dressy ball gowns” and sit at the table “like a Downton Abbey dinner.”
“They would come in for afternoon tea by the log fire in outdoor clothes, and then they’d all change for dinner,” he said. “All the fine china was brought out. At the end of the meal, a bagpipe player would walk around the table.”
It’s perfectly OK to eat fast food
“The boys loved McDonald’s and going out to pizza and having potato skins — sort of the American foods,” he said. “They were royal princes but had children’s palates.”
Queen Elizabeth II chooses her meals well in advance
The queen chooses her dishes from a menu book delivered to her — and selects her meals at least three days in advance.
“At Buckingham Palace, we’d do a menu book that we’d send up to the Queen and she could choose the dishes she wanted,” McGrady said in the Marie Claire interview. “The book would come back to the kitchen and we’d prepare them.”
As far as servings go, she eats small portions four times a day according to McGrady in an interview with RecipesPlus.
Dinner parties are planned to a tee
You didn’t think guests simply showed up and grabbed whatever seating they wanted, did you? Please.
For Swedish royal family events, the seating at dinner parties is strategically planned by The Office of the Marshal of the Court.
“We are what you could call ‘mini hosts,’ and we make sure that the guests find their seats and particularly, that they enjoy their evening,” say grand master of ceremonies Lars Grundberg and master of ceremonies Jan-Eric Warren on the Swedish Royal Court’s website. “The royal family may only have time to speak to 10 or so guests at a dinner, and it is our job, together with the other members of the Royal Court taking part in the dinner, to see to it that all the guests have a pleasant evening.”
During dinner, the queen even follows certain protocol on which dinner guest she speaks with when: During the first course, she will speak with the person on her right. During the second course, she’ll engage in conversation with the guest on her left.
Utensils aren’t just for eating
Back in the U.K., utensils also allow you to signal to the staff if you’re done with your meal or not.
According to Business Insider, if royals need to step away from the table but they haven’t finished their meal, they must cross their utensils — so the staff doesn’t remove their plate.
If royals are done with their meal, they must place their utensils side by side at an angle, with the handles facing the bottom-right of the plate.
And if royals need to use the restroom? Easy. They simply say, “Excuse me,” and leave.
Knives right, forks left
Also according to Business Insider, the royal family must use utensils a certain way: Knives go in the right hand, and are used to scoop food to the back of the fork before the food is brought to the mouth. Forks are held in the left hand and must always face the plate.
There are rules to using a napkin
To use a napkin, royals must fold them in half and then use the surface area inside the fold to wipe their faces to prevent their clothes from getting stained.
The queen’s purse
If the queen puts her purse on the table, it signals it’s time for everyone to leave, and quick — within the next five minutes according to Reader’s Digest.
If the queen stops eating, everyone else does too
The second the queen finishes her meal, the royal family and all guests must also stop eating.
According to Kate Hubbard, author of Serving Victoria: Life in the Royal Household, Queen Victoria ate so fast, guests would find their plates removed within 30 minutes.
“She was a hearty eater and she was a fast eater,” Hubbard said, confirming in a 2013 interview with The Splendid Table that when the queen was done eating, “your time was up.”
The right way to drink tea
Because members of the royal family take part in a lot of afternoon tea sessions, they’re required to hold the cup a certain way.
First, they pinch the top of the handle with their thumb and index finger. They then place their middle finger to support the bottom of the handle. They must also always ensure the handle of the cup is kept at 3 o’clock, and women are to sip from the same spot in order to keep the lipstick stain in the same spot on the rim.
No garlic, onions, shellfish, potatoes, rice — & spaghetti is rare
McGrady confirmed this in the Marie Claire interview too, saying, “The Queen would never have garlic on the menu. She hated the smell of it, she hated the taste of it.” He also told RecipesPlus that the chefs “can never serve anything with garlic or too many onions.”
However, Express reports that Duchess Meghan (née Markle) of Sussex is allowed to eat garlic in private.
As far as long pasta and tomato sauces go, BBC News states the two items shouldn’t be served unless it’s for a special occasion.
And, lastly, McGrady told The Telegraph in a September 2015 interview that you’ll rarely see potatoes and rice served for dinner at Buckingham Palace because the queen doesn’t eat starches.
Shellfish is also banned — both at the dinner table and while traveling — because it could lead to food poisoning and allergic reactions, which makes perfect sense.
The royals love their seasonal foods
McGrady also told RecipesPlus that the queen won’t accept foods that aren’t in season.
“You can send strawberries every day to the Queen during summer at Balmoral [Castle] and she’ll never say a word,” he said. “Try including strawberries on the menu in January, and she’ll scrub out the line and say don’t dare send me genetically modified strawberries. She absolutely does eat seasonal.”