Being a royal means you get access to the most fashionable and luxurious clothes around. After all, designers are falling over themselves to dress Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle. Yet there’s one significant downside to all this glamor: royal fashion is governed by pretty strict and long-standing rules. And if the duchesses ever break free from these sartorial restrictions, they risk receiving the wrath of the Queen. Don’t believe us? Check out what happened when the Duchess of Cambridge chose a particular outfit that wasn’t in keeping with royal protocol…
To the casual observer, the item of clothing probably wouldn’t be worthy of a mention. Kate was making a public appearance at The Nook – part of East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices. The Duchess of Cambridge is a patron of the charity. Her visit on June 27, 2020, was to help plant a garden with the people who live and work there.
Kate was probably thinking more about the garden than her clothing during her time at East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices. That’s because the new garden included sensory herbs and strawberries as well as sunflowers – in memory of hospice children who had sadly passed away. The duchess also interacted with the families at the hospice and was very moved to hear their stories. One little boy called Sonny even gave her a bracelet, which she put straight on her arm.
Kate revealed that her own children had been having a sunflower-growing contest back at home, too. She reportedly told the families who were helping, “Louis is winning so George is a little grumpy about that.” Kate kept a smile on her face and seemed to lift everybody’s spirits – despite the difficult circumstances. So it’s safe to assume that no one there gave her outfit a second thought. But royal observers are always watching…
And while the duchess’ outfit looked casual, the truth is that royal outfits are almost always anything but. As we know, Kate and all the other royals have strict rules to follow whenever they’re out and about. Protocol governs not only what a royal must wear, but also how they should wear the clothes and when.
Take, for example, the tiara. Kate obviously didn’t wear a tiara to the children’s hospice, but these items alone are a minefield of protocol. They can only be worn at certain events and only by married women; single female royals don’t get a sparkly headpiece. So weddings are a good time for tiaras to come out, as the bride is meant to wear a “family tiara.”
Male royals must obey protocol, too. Military uniforms are similar to tiaras in that they’re generally a part of royal weddings. That’s why Prince William wore his bright red military attire for his wedding to Kate. The uniforms also come out during any royal event British soldiers are involved in – such as Trooping the Colour. They’re not just for men, though; Princess Anne wears her uniform on occasion, too.
Royal protocol even dictates what the young children of the family should wear. Prince George – the heir to the throne – is never seen in public wearing pants. Yep, he has been dressed in shorts for all of his life so far. And if George ever did wear pants, royal watchers would notice. In fact, royal etiquette experts were happy to explain when people noticed George’s shorts-based wardrobe and started to question it.
In 2018 etiquette expert William Hanson told Harper’s Bazaar magazine, “Trousers [pants] are for older boys and men, whereas shorts on young boys is one of those silent class markers that we have in England. Although times are slowly changing, a pair of trousers on a young boy is considered quite middle class – quite suburban. And no self-respecting aristo or royal would want to be considered suburban.”
So what restrictions does Kate have to follow – and how did she violate them at the hospice? Well, many of the royal fashion rules for women apparently involve maintaining a sense of modesty. A major wardrobe malfunction would probably make headlines all over the world, after all, and that’s the last thing the royal family wants. There were doubtless many gasps when, in the past, Kate’s skirt has blown up to almost reveal her underwear.
Needless to say, the whole world knowing what Kate wears beneath her dresses would be very embarrassing for everyone involved. So she’s apparently learned a fashion hack from the Queen herself. Yes, the monarch has tiny weights sewn into the hemlines of her dresses so no gust of wind can lift them. That’s what royal couturier Stewart Parvin told the MailOnline anyway.
For similar reasons, the women of the royal family generally don’t wear short skirts at all. Their dresses remain more or less at knee-length – as Kate’s was at the hospice in June. The royal ladies are also encouraged to wear pantyhose for an extra level of modesty. This rule seems more negotiable, though, as Meghan Markle sometimes goes without.
These rules are not just for modern royals, mind you. Princess Diana apparently had a trick to preserve her modesty when out in public, too. The mother of Harry and William liked low-cut dresses, but she understandably didn’t want photographers snapping pictures of her cleavage. So Diana would hold her clutch bag to her chest and cover everything up whenever she was getting out of a car.
Bags and clutches are actually a whole subject in themselves. Royals almost always hold these items in their hands, rather than slinging them across their shoulders with a strap, like most of us would do. There’s a reason for that. It means they have an excuse not to shake hands with people during walkabouts, according to royal experts.
And the Queen uses her handbag to avoid people in an entirely different way. When she wants a dinner party to wrap up, according to The Telegraph, she will place her bag on the table as an indication to her staff to finish things within five minutes. And this is not the only signal she uses.
For instance, it’s not a good sign if you’re ever speaking to the Queen and she shifts her handbag from one hand to the other. Hugo Vickers – a royal historian – told People magazine that this means she’s tired of the conversation and would like to move on. And if she puts her bag on the floor that’s even worse. This means that the Queen is signaling that she would like to be “rescued” from you immediately.
The Queen does, however, specifically pick her clothes out with the public in mind. Royal fans may note that the monarch wears something very brightly colored during almost every public appearance she makes. The Queen’s daughter-in-law Sophie, Countess of Wessex, explained on The Queen at 90 documentary that this is done so that members of the public will be able to spot her in a crowd.
There’s also the matter of the Queen’s gloves. These items are fashionable, of course, but that’s not their only function. They also spring from the concept of a monarch frequently going out and meeting her people. The Queen wears gloves because they help slow down the spread of germs, and obviously that’s of paramount importance.
Was it these rules that Kate broke during her time at the hospice, then? Well, no. You see, there are a few royal fashion rules that aren’t a matter of protocol or safety. These rules are simply there due to the personal preferences of the Queen. For example, she reportedly hates brightly colored nail polish and considers it vulgar. So you probably won’t see members of the family wearing it very much.
There’s another royal rule the Queen has placed down. Simply, all royals need to carry a black outfit when traveling overseas in case another member of the family passes away while they’re gone. It’s no doubt unpleasant to think about, but this rule must be adhered to. The Queen found this out the hard way when she was still a princess.
In 1952 the Queen didn’t take black clothing with her when she went abroad to Kenya. But while she was away, her father, King George VI, died. And because it would have been very inappropriate for her to be seen wearing a color other than black when she arrived in Britain, she had to wait while someone fetched her one.
Such is the seriousness of managing the Queen’s wardrobe that the monarch actually has someone break in her shoes for her. In 2017 Stewart Parvin told the Evening Standard newspaper, “The shoes have to be immediately comfortable… She does get someone to wear them. The Queen can never say, ‘I’m uncomfortable, I can’t walk anymore.’”
So there’s clearly a lot that goes into picking a royal outfit – whether you’re the Queen or a duchess. And, as we’re sure you’ll agree, Kate’s outfit for The Nook children’s hospice outing seemed well-chosen at first. It was also highly praised by royal fashion fans – even though there was a noticeable rule-break in there.
Kate’s dress was a $189 Marie-Louise Midi Dress by Faithfull the Brand. One commenter wrote on the royal fashion website What Kate Wore, “I simply love this dress on the duchess. It’s simply cheery, and everyone needs a bit of cheer these days. It made her stand out in photographs in a pleasant way as well.” The duchess also accessorized with aplomb.
Kate wore a pair of $167 wedge heel Coco-Nut espadrilles from Russell and Bromley to go with the dress. And one person on What Kate Wore commented on the attractive number, “I adore the espadrilles with the metallic sheen.” But it was actually these that were a big breach of the Queen’s fashion rules.
That’s because Elizabeth II apparently hates wedge-heeled shoes just as much as colored nail varnish. Kate probably knows this, too. Back in July 2015, in fact, an inside source told Vanity Fair magazine, “The Queen isn’t a fan of wedged shoes. She really doesn’t like them, and it’s well known among the women in the family.”
Interestingly, Kate appears to rarely wear wedged heels while the Queen is actually present. But looking back over her many public appearances, it’s clear that she doesn’t share the thoughts of her grandmother-in-law. After all, the duchess has rocked wedges a few times after becoming a member of the royal family.
So Kate seems to be quite a fan of wedges. The duchess has a few particular pairs she wears during engagements when the Queen isn’t around, too. She’s worn one style from the outlet Monsoon during her tour of India and Bhutan and also when she helped launch the Heads Together initiative in 2016.
And Kate’s sister-in-law, Meghan Markle, has also worn wedges a couple of times – when the Queen was not present. In September 2019 she wore black Castañer wedges during a tour of South Africa with her husband, Harry. These were kind of affordable for those who wished to copy her style, too – as they sold on Net-a-Porter.com for about $120.
And other royals seem to like the style of shoes, too. In 2019 Lady Amelia Windsor wore wedges to her sister’s wedding, even though they were arguably far too casual for such an occasion. At the time, the website Who What Wear noted, “We would never think of wearing espadrilles to a wedding – and a very formal one at that – yet Amelia Windsor gets the balance right with her daisy-print Gül Hürgel dress and white hat.”
And while Elizabeth II may not like wedges, it turns out that other Queens do. In 2020 Queen Letizia of Spain toured a monastery with her husband and wore Castañer canvas wedge shoes. The Daily Express wrote that they were “clearly comfortable for the royal as she walked around the medieval monastery.”
So it seemed that Kate had no problem at all flouting the wedges rule. And not long after wearing that style of shoe to the hospice event, she decided to do so again. In July 2020 she wore wedges to the launch of Tiny Happy People, a BBC initiative for children.
The What Kate Wore website noted that the shoes the duchess had on during the BBC event were Castañer Carina wedge espadrilles, which retail for $190. The website informed viewers, “The style is handmade in Spain and has a suede upper, thin ties that wrap around the ankle, and a 3-inch rubber-trimmed heel.”
It’s also been noted by keen fashion-watchers that Castañer wedges seem to be a favorite among the royals. In November 2019 Good Housekeeping magazine did a feature on them and showed where fans could get hold of them for inexpensive prices. They called the items “Kate and Meghan’s favorite shoes.”
The magazine wrote of the shoes, “Why are Castañer’s espadrilles so coveted, you may ask? Well, quite simply, they are comfortable – we can vouch for that – and where trainers aren’t so appropriate for public outings, these wedge shoes are the next best thing. What’s more, the Spanish brand is known for its craftsmanship. Rumour has it [that] lots of luxury designer brands’ espadrilles are made in the same factory, so if you buy a pair you know they’ll last you a few summers.”
Good Housekeeping also suggested that Kate’s royal rebel sister-in-law might have encouraged the duchess to let her guard down regarding shoes. The article said, “It seems Meghan’s smart/casual outfits inspired Kate to try something new in 2019. [She] was spotted wearing a pair of suede Castañers several times this summer.”
Yet Kate might well have developed her apparent love of wedge heels from her sister, Pippa. The Middleton sibling has been seen in that kind of shoe a lot, including while she was on her honeymoon to Australia. And she too seems to prefer the Castañer brand above all others.
But why does the Queen herself dislike wedge heels so much? People have long been trying to figure it out. In 2019 someone posed the question on the Quora question-and-answer forum and got some interesting responses. One person suggested that the Queen’s experience of World War II could be to blame.
One user wrote in response, “The Queen hates wedges because they remind her of austerity and rationing during [WWII]. One thing that was not rationed was cork, so people used it to make their own shoes, which had to be a wedge shape because the cork was too soft to make a separate sole and heel.”
But whatever the reason, Kate manages to wear her wedges despite the Queen’s hatred of them. And there have been no reports of footwear-related tension at the palace. So, as people on the What Kate Wore website pointed out, fashion choices are probably the least important thing when visiting a children’s hospice.
And rules are made to be broken, right? Prince Harry and Meghan Markle reportedly have strict rules that they are supposed to follow during their official engagements, too. But in October 2018, the couple went on their first overseas royal tour to Australia. And when they met a boy who has Down syndrome, they decided to bend them in a way that has warmed people’s hearts.
Harry, 34, and Meghan, 37, started dating in June 2016 after going on a blind date organized by a friend they have in common. And four months later, their relationship became public knowledge. At that time, moreover, the Duchess of Sussex was starring on the legal drama Suits as Rachel Zane.
Harry and Meghan’s relationship then blossomed quickly. And after the couple announced that they were engaged in November 2017, Meghan also confirmed that she was retiring from acting. Then just five months later, on May 19, 2018, the pair exchanged vows at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.
October 2018 then saw the Duke and Duchess of Sussex set off on their first official royal tour. They visited Australia, New Zealand, Tonga and Fiji. What’s more, the tour had been planned in conjunction with the Invictus Games – a sporting competition for wounded veterans created by Harry.
After Harry and Meghan landed in Sydney, however, they revealed some exciting news: they are expecting their first child in spring 2019. “Their Royal Highnesses have appreciated all of the support they have received from people around the world since their wedding in May and are delighted to be able to share this happy news with the public,” a statement from Kensington Palace read.
As part of their tour, meanwhile, Harry and Meghan traveled to Dubbo in New South Wales, Australia, for a one-day trip. The couple were there to witness the donation of a new plane for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
While they were in the area, Harry and Meghan also planned to visit a local school and a farm that had been impacted by drought. And they would later go on to attend a community picnic. When the couple arrived in Dubbo on a Royal Australian Air Force flight, meanwhile, they received an incredible greeting.
Children between the ages of four and 12 were there to welcome Meghan and Harry to Dubbo. Among them were several students from nine different schools. And according to Buninyong Public School principal Anne Van Dartel, the visit was an unforgettable experience for the kids.
“It was so lovely,” Van Dartel told Australia’s 9News. “We took 21 students to the airport and joined all Dubbo primary schools to greet the duke and duchess. Harry walked along the line speaking personally to every student, asking them their name, their school and favorite subjects and sports.”
Van Dartel continued, “It was really special for each of them. The way the duke and duchess gave every student individualized attention was truly exceptional.” And their interaction with one of the principal’s pupils was particularly memorable.
Why? Well, the last child in the line of those waiting to meet Harry and Meghan was Luke Vincent. The five-year-old has Down syndrome, a chromosomal condition that causes learning disabilities and certain physical traits. And when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex met the young boy, they decided to break protocol.
You see, Van Dartel had instructed her students not to touch Harry or Meghan, as is royal etiquette. And according to historian Kate Williams, this goes back to the Middle Ages. “Monarchs were divinely appointed to rule by God, so they were kind of seen as gods, so they demanded to be treated as [such],” she told the BBC.
However, video captured the moment when protocol was thrown out the window. In it, Harry bends down to say hello to Vincent – and the child hurries towards him. Then the five-year-old wrapped the royal in a big hug.
But the moment didn’t end there. Vincent then presents Meghan with a bunch of flowers before giving Harry a sweet embrace. He also affectionately plays with the prince’s beard. In turn, the laughing royal rubs the little boy’s chin.
Eyewitnesses appeared to be in awe of the sweet exchange. And at one point, Harry even suggested that Vincent give his wife, Meghan, a cuddle, asking him, “Can you give her a hug, too?” Although the child obliged, he soon went back to hugging Harry.
Van Dartel went on to reveal that Harry was a good sport about meeting her pupil who is fascinated by facial hair. “Prince Harry was completely gracious and was so polite and realized what was happening and his infatuation with his beard,” she told the U.K.’s Daily Mail. “Luke’s favorite person in the world is Santa Claus, who has a beard. And now his next favorite is Prince Harry.”
She added that following the terrible drought that Dubbo has been experiencing, it was just what they all needed. “This is a real morale boost,” she said to the Daily Mirror. “It’s been a wonderful experience for these little country kids to meet people they’ve only ever seen on TV.”
And when footage of Vincent’s meeting with the royal couple was published online, fans were thrilled, adding how “adorable” the exchange was. One user wrote on YouTube, “Aww! That’s so sweet! Harry and Meghan will be such great parents!”
Yet while Vincent captured hearts worldwide, the other children were just as excited to meet Harry and Meghan. “It’s the first time I have met a princess, and I will remember it forever,” five-year-old Lyra Rose told the Daily Mirror. Ten-year-old Millie Sutcliffe added, “My wish came true. I said congratulations on the baby, and they thanked me. I said ‘I love you guys,’ and I got a hug.”
Following this heartwarming encounter, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex returned to the United Kingdom on November 2, 2018. Before leaving, though, Harry used a speech at the opening ceremony of the Invictus Games in Sydney, Australia, to thank locals for their support. He said, “I’ve been so proud to be able to introduce my wife to you, and we’ve been so happy to be able to celebrate the personal joy of our newest addition with you all.”