Life as a member of the British royal family is filled with protocols and strict rules (both written and unwritten) on everything from who to marry to what to wear. While the Queen and her children may be intent on upholding tradition—no matter how outdated some of it may be—William and Kate, Harry and Meghan and the rest of the young royals are rewriting the rules to suit their much more modern lives. Here’s a look at the 15 ways this generation of British royals are changing the monarchy. For more on what the royal family’s rules, check out the 10 Style Rules The Royal Family Must Follow.
They’re marrying outside ‘The Firm.’
Prince William married commoner Kate Middleton, Harry is marrying Meghan Markle, a biracial American divorcee, and Princess Eugenie just announced her engagement to former bartender and wine merchant Jack Brooksbank. The young royals are marrying for love, not to further the royal bloodline. Curious how they are already changing royalty, here are 10 Signs Harry and Meghan Will Break All the Royal Rules.
Photo via @kensingtonroyal Twitter account
The Church of England is welcoming a divorced person.
Prince Harry will be the first royal family member to have a church wedding with a divorcee. In 2002, the Church of England agreed that divorced people could remarry in church — at the discretion of the pries. Prince Charles and Camilla got married in a civil ceremony and only received a blessing at Windsor Chapel. They also had to admit publicly to their “manifold sins and wickedness.” Meghan is walking down the aisle in white even though this will be her second marriage.
They’re tech savvy.
Although they don’t have their own personal social media accounts, the official Twitter feed (@KensingtonRoyal) that shares news about Princes William and Harry as well as Kate and Meghan is constantly updated with video, photos – and news of their scheduled appearances.
They’ve embraced the media.
Kate was a guest editor at Huffington Post in Britain, William gave a revealing interview to British GQ about how the loss of his mother, Princess Diana, has affected his life and Harry recently interviewed Barack Obama for BBC Radio. Meghan proclaimed her love for Harry in Vanity Fair (“We are two people who are happy and are in love”) and appeared on the magazine’s cover. Is there an American Vogue cover in Meghan’s future? We wouldn’t be surprised. Curious about the actual proposal? Here’s exactly How Prince Harry Popped the Question to Meghan Markle.
They’re not afraid to get personal.
Harry’s revelations about his feelings at the time of Diana’s death made headlines around the world when he told Newsweek, “My mother had just died, and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television. I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen today.”
They are passionately involved in the fight against AIDS.
Years ago, the Palace tried to discourage Princess Diana when she informed the Queen she wanted to help raise awareness for the need for compassion towards AIDS patients. It was suggested she stick to “nice” causes. Years later, Harry very publicly took an AIDS test with Rihanna. He cofounded his charity, Sentebale, which helps babies and young children living with AIDS in Africa in memory of Diana.
They’ve become mental health advocates.
Having gone public with their emotional struggles related to Diana’s death, William and Harry, together with Kate, started Heads Together, a country-wide initiative whose mission to is de-stigmatize mental illness and get people talking about their feelings. How very unroyal. For some advice on mental health, Steal These 16 Mental-Health Secrets of Famous Geniuses.
They won’t give up their own families.
Traditionally, when marrying into the royal family, new members have had to leave their own families in the dust. Kate, with William’s support, refused to do so. In fact, the couple seems to spend as much time — if not more — with the Middletons as they do with the Queen. Kate’s mother, Carole, has lived with her daughter and son-in-law for a period of time during each of Kate’s pregnancies and is a favorite babysitter.
They have real jobs.
Despite the palace’s concerns over his safety, Prince Harry did two tours of duty in Afghanistan. He now runs the Invictus Games in addition to carry out a full schedule of royal appearance. After completing his military service, William worked as a helicopter ambulance pilot for two years before finally committing to his royal role full-time. Princess Eugenie lived in New York for several years working for the digital art auction house Paddle8 before returning to London in 2015 to work at the art gallery, Hauser & Wirth. The young royals know that duty calls, but they aren’t willing to let it engulf their entire lives. Curious what other celebs have done the same thing? Check out these 30 Celebrities Who Now Hold Regular Jobs.
They’re hands-on parents.
There’s an unofficial rule that says two heirs to the throne should never be on the same plane together to protect the royal lineage. William and Kate don’t abide by that and take their children with them on royal tours (which usually results in the most precious images. Remember Charlotte’s meltdown on the runway in Poland?) Closer to home, they are the ones seen looking after their kids in public. When Kate was bedridden with extreme morning sickness last fall, it was William who took Prince George to his first day of school.
Photo by Duchess of Cambridge via Getty Images
Kate tells it like it is about parenting.
The duchess has been candid about the struggles of pregnancy and motherhood. She has said, “Personally, becoming a mother has been such a rewarding and wonderful experience. However, at times it has also been a huge challenge.” Just recently she told a group of mothers struggling with post-partum depression that she understood their plight by saying, “There’s an expectation you’re going to be super happy all the time, and one in four of us aren’t.” In her own words, Here Are Kate Middleton’s Surprising Words About Pregnancy.
The youngest royals go to school with commoners.
William and Kate are following in Princess Diana’s footsteps by choosing to send their children to nursery school from an early age rather than have them instructed by governesses and tutors as the most of the older generation did.
They’re openly affectionate with each other.
There’s an unwritten royal rule that PDA is not appropriate for royals. Harry and Meghan are rarely photographed not holding hands. She’s usually hanging on to her fiancé for dear life. William and Kate are more discreet, but there’s been enough tender gestures caught on camera between them for us to see they’re crazy about each other.
Photo via @kensingtonroyal Instagram
Meghan has ditched the royal dress code.
She went bare legged for her engagement photocall, loves the messy bun look and wore black jeans (!) to an official engagement in Wales. We’re pretty sure her choice of a sheer $75,000 couture gown for the official engagement portraits wasn’t the Queen’s idea. Harry’s bride to be seems intent on breaking all the fashion rules.
Photo via @kensingtonroyal Instagram
They fly coach.
Harry and Meghan flew economy class on British Airways for their New Year’s holiday on the French Riviera. They sat at the back of the plane near the bathroom. A few years ago, William flew coach on American Airlines to and from the wedding of pal Guy Pelly in Tennessee. We’d be willing to endure a middle seat if it meant sitting next to Kate for a few hours in the air. They aren’t the only famous people who fly coach, here are 17 A-List Celebs Who (Almost) Always Fly Coach.
Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana: A Novel.
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