On September 8, 2022, Queen Elizabeth II — the second-longest-reigning monarch in history — died. After 70 years of her reign, she was succeeded by her son Charles. Now King Charles III, the new monarch has a whole set of rules to follow, whether official or informal. And if you think that being king is an easy gig, then just try and memorize this long list of royal rules that he has to obey.
1. Observe a strict dress code
Needless to say, the king has to look sharp, no matter what. Charles will always need to be dressed for the occasion, be it a royal funeral, a formal diplomatic visit, or anything else.
And, of course, it’s all very strict and formal. One of the most interesting rules here is that royals should never remove their coats if they wear one. For instance, if Charles enters any building with a coat on, he is then forbidden to remove it.
2. Never give autographs
Although famous, a royal should never be your average celebrity, no matter how hard the media might try to present them in such a light. This is especially true for the King.
And since Charles isn’t your average rockstar or influencer, it’s absolutely out of the question for him to sign autographs. The Reason? Well, the King’s signature would be a dream come true for anyone making forgeries.
3. Don’t allow selfies
Mind you, autographs aren’t that popular any more. In a way, they’re things of the past.
Today, selfies are the modern equivalent. And here’s the deal — there aren’t any official rules and protocols regarding them. Yet no one really takes selfies with the King. Additionally, another rule which says that you should never turn your back on a royal could technically prevent you from taking a selfie.
4. Act as a national figurehead
Sure, it’s been a while since a king or a queen has had any significant impact on the day-to-day running of the country and all of its associated realms. Since the 18th century, they’ve not had much say in the whole thing.
Yet this doesn’t mean that they have nothing to say or do. One of Charles’ new roles is to inspire a national identity and sense of patriotism. This helps to keep the country safe and stable in the long run and may impact some big decisions.
5. Rule the 15 Commonwealth realms
Of course, the monarch’s responsibilities extend beyond just the U.K.. While the King’s impact isn’t as strong there, he’s also the ruler of all of the 15 Commonwealth realms.
Among these are Australia, Canada, Grenada, and New Zealand, just to name a few. But this number may change, especially after Barbados decided to revoke this status in 2021. We’re yet to see what happens, but Charles is officially still the ruler of all of them.
6. Act as the head of the armed forces
In republics, the president is the one who acts as the commander of the armed forces. In the case of the U.K., it’s officially the King who calls all the shots.
In practice, the structure isn’t that simple: Charles is highly unlikely to be making any rash decisions and will have high-ranking officials to help him act and officially declare war if needed.
7. Act as the head of the Church of England
The U.K. is one of the most secular societies at this point in history.
Still, the King has to act as the head of the Church of England. Established back in the 16th century, it was Henry VIII who separated this religious body from papal jurisdiction. Ever since then, all of the nation’s rulers have also acted as the head of its church.
8. Dress for the occasion when traveling abroad
When the monarch goes abroad, he still has to represent his entire country. What this means is that he is there in the name of all the people of the U.K.
At the same time, the monarch needs to find an appropriate way to pay respect to the country that they’re visiting. So with him, Charles needs to have one piece of attire that represents the culture of the people there. It could even be the color of a piece of clothing, or even a small piece that represents the country’s flag.
9. Don’t voice strong opinions in public
Look, everyone has an opinion on most subjects. And these days, with access to large social media platforms, it’s easy to make them heard.
But for the King, this is an absolute no-go zone. While Charles can certainly think what he wants, he’s not allowed to ever talk about it in public. Sure, he might have spoken up publicly about various issues as a prince. But that’s all in the past now.
10. Observe strict dinner-party rules
You’d be surprised to know how extremely detail-oriented royals are about dinner parties. One could write an entire book full of these rules that strictly forbid certain behavior or practices during such events.
Of course, the King should follow all of them, no matter how weird they seem. For instance, Charles will be allowed to talk only to the person to his right at the beginning of the dinner. It’s only when the second course is on the table that he can turn anywhere else.
11. Avoid certain foods
Food is way more dangerous than one might think at first. Poisoning, in one form or another, is possible.
And you’re putting the ruler at risk if something goes wrong on the plate. So for the head of 15 Commonwealth realms, there’s no shellfish. It’s as simple as that. Shellfish are just too much of a risk.
12. Only eat when it’s official while outside
Speaking of risks and food, there are important protocols in place when it comes to the King and meals in general. When they’re at home, it’s business as usual.
But when going outside, Charles should never eat unless it’s at a predetermined official event. Additionally, the food should always be approved in advance, verifying its safety. Elizabeth even had dishes selected for her.
13. Don’t travel with other heirs
This might seem like a weird one. But when you think about it, the rule actually makes a lot of sense.
Traveling is another activity that’s far riskier than it looks: there are all sorts of things that could go wrong. That’s why royals always take separate planes when traveling. Not exactly the most eco-friendly approach. but hey, it’s safety first for the King!
14. Wait before getting the crown
Now that Elizabeth has died, Charles is automatically the new head of state. But not so fast! He isn't crowned straight away.
There’s some time that needs to pass. And in the case of Charles, he’ll get to wear the jewels on May 6, 2023. Of course, he’s the king already. But the crown isn’t on his head yet.
15. Observe absolute political neutrality and transparency
As already mentioned in the rules above, the British royal family represents all the people over whom they rule. And it follows that monarchs should, at all times, keep absolute political neutrality.
In fact, the King, and all royals, aren’t even allowed to vote. So in case you were looking to get politically active, don’t count on Charles’ support.
16. Open each new session of Parliament
On the other hand, Charles is in charge of starting each new session of the Parliament. It’s his duty, as the representative of all the people under his rule, to be the one to open the discussion.
So his role here isn’t to say anything about what he thinks is right or wrong. It’s more or less a ceremonial tradition for the ruler to make this first move before the Parliament starts doing its thing.
17. Assent to legislation and approve Privy Council Orders and Proclamations
And his responsibilities don’t end there. Again, absolute neutrality and transparency from the King is a must.
Yet aside from the ceremonial opening role, Charles will have to grant Royal Assent to legislation. Additionally, he will have to approve all Orders and Proclamations through the Privy Council. What that means in practice is that he’ll just have the final “yes” on the matter.
18. Keep all gifts
Now stepping away from such constitutional formalities, there’s also a rule in place requiring Charles to keep all the gifts that he receives. It’s not even an option to refuse anything.
And he should receive these gifts with absolute honor. The same rule is applied to any other British royal family member. But we’re also certain that those giving them gifts won’t just bring anything.
19. Always be the one to end conversations
This is more of a commoner-oriented rule, but it requires the King’s action. If you ever happen to talk to Charles, do not ever be the one who ends the conversation.
And don’t ever turn your back on him. It’s up to Charles, as the monarch, to end a chat. Don’t worry, he won’t go on talking forever. Just be patient.
20. Don’t cross your legs while sitting
Do this, do that — it seems like Charles can’t even sit down and rest without a rule being set in motion. And that’s quite literally the case, since no male royals should ever cross their legs while sitting.
Of course, he never was allowed to do so in public, and all the eyes will be on him, making sure he sits the right way.
21. Observe handshake rules
Up next, we have the special royal handshakes. Yes, that’s right — royal family members have their way of shaking hands that’s not necessarily the conventional “commoner” one.
Although not an official rule, one should pay attention to the monarch while shaking hands. Look them directly in the eyes and expect a firm handshake, with palms open and thumbs facing down.
22. Refrain from public displays of affection
This may be a tricky one to discuss. There’s no official rule in any book concerning public displays of affection.
Still, Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip were adamant about keeping things very modest. The rule has since been broken only once by Prince William and Kate Middleton during the 2012 Olympics. They just hugged each other and it immediately became a major talking point.
23. Be the first to stand up
This one is not for all royals but specifically for the monarch. As King, Charles has a new responsibility.
If he’s sitting down, surrounded by other people in the group, he should be the one to initiate standing up. Or, in other words, you aren’t allowed to stand up until Charles has. Once again, it’s one of those settings where you’ll just have to be patient.
24. Approve royal family marriages
Whoever might be monarch at a given moment, it’s their responsibility to have the final say on the potential marriages of their offspring. When they think they’ve found a partner for life, any royal descendant must first ask for the ruler’s approval: it’s either his way or the highway.
So if Charles’ grandkids want to remain part of the royal family, they’d better make sure they fall in love with a suitable person.
25. Always sit down first
It seems like the royals are really fixated on the issue of sitting down. In particular, one rule is focused on the order of who’s going to be sitting down when.
The rule is fairly simple: for as long as he’s King, Charles will have to be the first to rest his legs. The others should just know their number in the line of inheritance and time taking their seats accordingly. Of course, there are plenty of rules that the rest of the royal family have to remember as well...
1. Never turn your back on the monarch
Even if you think you’ve finished talking to the King or Queen, they may not feel the same way about you. To avoid any confusion, then, you must never turn your back on the monarch.
Always wait for them to turn away first.
2. Always sit properly
A female member of the family must always sit with her legs together and her chin parallel to the ground. Royals don’t cross their legs at the top, but keep their thighs next to each other and cross their ankles instead.
They must also master the duchess-chin-slant, as to not seem unsure, but not cocky either.
3. Dresses should be weighted down
Kate’s had a couple of accidents when her skirt’s blown up in the wind. In 2012 Jenny Packham, one of Kate’s designers, told the Evening Standard, “I had a little handwritten letter from a lady in Wisconsin passionately criticizing me for the primrose yellow shift dress I made for the duchess.
She said didn’t I know about putting weights around the bottom of a hem, so it can’t blow up?” The Queen apparently had her designers do this as well.
4. Don’t lend tiaras to others
If you keep up with the royals, you may have realized that tiaras aren’t passed around between noblewomen. When family members wear specific headpieces, they belongs to them for good.
They can’t be swapped! Though royals can apparently choose not to wear a tiara that’s been gifted to them.
5. Get baptized
The Queen insisted that all members of her family get baptized, and even Meghan Markle was required to be christened before she wed Prince Harry in 2018. Such is the tradition for the Windsors.
The Archbishop of Canterbury leads the ceremonies and uses holy water from the Jordan River.
6. Wear black in mourning
It may sound morbid, but this rule is merely practical. British royals are instructed to always pack — or have packed — a set of black clothes when traveling.
That way, should someone important pass away while they are on the road, they can return home in proper and respectful mourning attire.
7. When the monarch has finished their food, stop eating
Royal etiquette has it that when the King or Queen decides they have had their fill of posh nosh at the table, everyone else must also drop their forks. It is considered monstrously impolite to keep munching once the ruler has finished their meal..
8. The ruler can’t sit on any other throne
In ancient times, it would have kick-started a war to have a royal plop down on the throne of another king or queen. But the rule still holds fast today and — hilariously — even seems to extend to pretend thrones.
When Elizabeth II visited the Game of Thrones set, she passed on a chance to perch upon the Iron Throne.
9. Save the baby’s first official unveiling for their christening
Although a new royal baby may appear with their parents outside the hospital, that’s not actually their first official appearance. That would be the christening.
The royals usually release official photographs afterward, so everyone can get a good look at the new arrival.
10. Add myrtle to your wedding bouquet
This custom’s origin dates all the way back to Prince Albert, whose grandmother once gave Queen Victoria a sprig of the myrtle in the 19th century. Victoria later included some in her own daughter’s bridal bouquet, and thus a royal tradition was born..
11. Keep your hands to yourself
Technically, royals aren’t supposed to physically mingle with commoners — which technically rules out hugs with randomers. However, the House of Windsor clearly isn’t too strict about this law, as William and Kate are often spotted embracing their fans..
12. Always wear tights
Royal ladies are never supposed to have bare legs, and it drew no small amount of comment when Meghan Markle appeared to be going without tights in her engagement pictures. According to royalty expert Victoria Arbiter, speaking to the website Insider in 2017, “You never see a royal without their nude stockings… I would say that’s really the only hard, steadfast rule in terms of what the Queen requires.”.
13. Accept the name you're given
Upon tying the knot, royal couples are presented with a small hitch. Each is forced to take on a highfalutin new formal name.
So, William and Kate became the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, while Charles and Diana became the Prince and Princess of Wales.
14. Wear hats
Female royals are each strictly required to don a fancy hat to all formal events they attend. Yep, the women of Windsor certainly play their part in giving the milliners of old London town plenty of new business..
15. Save tiaras for the evening
If, however, the event to which the royal women are invited takes place both indoors and after 6:00 p.m., the rules change. Royal ladies can now each switch from a hat to every 9-year-old girl’s favorite accessory: a sparkly tiara..
16. Don’t use nicknames
Royal watchers and the tabloids love to say “Lady Di” and “Wills and Kate,” but such informalities don’t fly within the palace walls. Never mind “Brenda,” “Chuck,” or “Phil the Greek.” Royals must go by their given names at all times; it is Prince William, not Wills..
17. Keep your coat on
No matter the weather or the temperature, a royal must always smile and carry on. If you’re a duchess who happens to have on a heavy coat when you enter a building, there’s to be no removing it until you’re completely out of view.
It would be considered unbefitting to take a coat off in public.
18. Don’t eat garlic near the Queen
Garlic breath is punishable by beheading! Okay, maybe not beheading, but during Queen Elizabeth's long tenure, it definitely resulted in a few frosty frowns from the Queen. Reportedly, Elizabeth II detested garlic and didn't allow a single clove inside Buckingham Palace..
19. Run your wedding dress by the monarch
Here’s one thing it might be useful to know if you’re planning on marrying into the royal family. The King or Queen has to give the green light on all wedding dresses.
Kate and Meghan would’ve had to show Queen Elizabeth the gown designs before their marriages. Even Princess Eugenie — who was born into the family rather than married in — would’ve had to run everything by her gran.
20. Don’t show too much skin
Many of the royal ladies are known for their sense of fashion. Princess Di was a style icon, and Kate, while more conservative in her look, is also a trendsetter.
But there is one sartorial rule that all princesses must follow: no cleavage is to be shown.
21. Know how to hold a tea cup
The royals are big fans of teatime, and they know there’s a specific etiquette around how to drink it. The cup must be held with the thumb and index fingers looped through the handle, with the middle finger underneath.
And, contrary to what you may have been told, no pinkies should be held aloft!
22. You can’t choose your own tiaras
Did you know that royal women aren’t allowed to choose their own tiaras? Nope. Instead, they are given one by the King or Queen.
But there isn’t much information about what kind of say Elizabeth had when it comes to the style and even size of the headpiece.
23. Children must attend royal engagements
We're sure you remember being dragged to boring family events as a child. Well, the royal kids are required to do the same.
They're taught to act appropriately at weddings, christenings, and public events, such as the monarch's birthday ceremony.
24. No voting
While it isn’t against any written laws, it is simply understood that royals won’t cast votes in U.K. government elections.
A shame, since there is a personal interest here: the monarch has to endure a weekly meeting with the elected prime minister. But it is understood that as ceremonial heads of state, the British royals have a duty to keep politics separate from royal life.
25. Don’t wear wedge heels around the Queen
Kate has been seen in wedge heels often but never when the Queen was around. And there’s a good reason for that.
According to an anonymous source who spoke to Vanity Fair magazine in 2015, “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.”
26. Attend etiquette training
According to etiquette expert Myka Meier, the royal children all take etiquette classes “as soon as they’re old enough to sit at a table.” Teaching five-year-olds how to curtsy and use “inside voices” sounds like a headache and a half!.
27. Open Christmas presents early
All royal presents must be exchanged on Christmas Eve in the red drawing room with some tea. The family leans towards gag gifts more than serious ones.
When Harry was still single, for example, sister-in-law Kate gave him a “grow your own girlfriend” kit!
28. Wear shorts if you’re a young boy
Boys are required to wear shorts in public. While you’d think a pair of snazzy trousers would be more formal, this rule stems from the fact that pants on young boys used to be viewed as...
middle class. Heaven forbid!
29. Keep hair and makeup subtle
A royal woman ought to keep makeup to a minimum — and definitely not try out any outlandish hairstyles. A lot of ladies would have to give up favorite things upon joining the royal family.
No black lipstick, no blue hair dye... the list goes on. Even a dressed-down royal would still be expected to look neat.
30. Arrive to dinner appropriately dressed
The royals are always camera-ready thanks to their role in the public eye. But it turns out that even dinners at home are formal, according to Taste of Home.
Yes, the ruler's guests are expected to remain presentable even when they’re family.
31. Kids are to learn multiple languages
The royal kiddies often grow up learning a second language. The Queen, Prince Charles, and Prince William all speak French, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, is teaching little Prince George and Princess Charlotte how to speak Spanish..
32. Tell the monarch the baby news first
As the head of state and of the family, the King or Queen must always be the first individual to hear about both a pregnancy and birth – apart from the parents, of course. Apparently, William used a secure phone to speak to his grandmother as soon as George was born..
33. If you’re a man, bow; if you're a woman, curtsy
There are certain ways to greet the monarch by which even her own family must abide. Men perform a neck bow, while women curtsy. Imagine being asked to bow or curtsy for someone in your immediate family tree.
A bit formal, isn’t it?
34. Don’t wear fur
Royals aren’t really supposed to wear fur. This dates all the way back to 1137, when King Edward III issued a law preventing even his own family from wearing it.
In 2019 the modern royal family also appeared to stop wearing fur. And according to royal dresser Angela Kelly, the Queen even had it removed from an old outfit.
35. Wear uniform where appropriate
If you watched the weddings of Prince William and Prince Harry, you’ll notice that each groom wore a military uniform. Both of the princes have served in the army, and it’s tradition for them to wear their uniforms on special occasions such as Trooping the Color and weddings.
And this goes for women, too – Princess Anne is an honorary admiral and wears the uniform.
36. Only wear jeans when it’s acceptable
Royals can only wear jeans when it’s appropriate to do so, like, for instance, in their downtime. One place royals definitely can’t wear them is in the Royal Box at Wimbledon.
When Meghan attended Wimbledon in 2019, the media suggested she’d been told not to enter the box due to her denim trousers, but chances are she wasn’t planning to anyway — she sat with some pals.
37. Discreetly excuse yourself from the table
According to Business Insider, royals follow strict instructions when it comes to bathroom trips during mealtimes. Dinner guests merely say “excuse me” without further explanation of where they are going.
You don’t want to be vulgar, after all!
38. Keep royal pregnancies quiet
Celebrities often announce pregnancies relatively quickly, but that’s not typically the case with the British royal family. For them, things are supposed to remain an absolute secret until at least three months have passed, and even the midwives aren’t allowed to reveal a single detail.
An exception was made for Kate, though, as when pregnant with George she had to go to the hospital to be treated for extreme nausea.
39. Keep skirts long
You’re not likely to see a royal meeting crowds clad in a miniskirt. While they’re free to wear whatever they want at home, of course, dresses worn in public should be down to the knee or longer.
Yet this rule has been broken a couple of times by the younger, highly fashionable Kate and Meghan.
40. Always use cutlery correctly
Using utensils correctly is something the royal family take very seriously. For starters, knives are reportedly held in the right hand, while forks should be used on the left with the prongs curving downwards.
They aren’t allowed to let cutlery screech across plates, either.
41. Don’t reveal the baby’s sex until after it’s born
There are no gender reveal parties for royals, as no member of the public must know any sex of the baby until the birth itself. Sometimes, even the parents are in the dark.
When George was born in July 2013, it was reported by the BBC that William and Kate had chosen not to learn whether their new arrival was going to be a boy or a girl.
42. Wipe your lips while eating
Royals follow strict rules when it comes to using napkins while eating, according to Business Insider. You see, guests are expected to keep their faces clean during meal times, and it’s not the done thing to wipe errant food away with the back of a hand..
43. Follow hierarchy rules at dinner
More astute fans of the British monarchy may have noticed that the Windsors arrive at events in a particular order. Well, the same succession applies at mealtimes.
You see, the royal family walk into a room or take part in a procession in the same sequence that they are in line to the throne, according to Delish.
44. Don’t wear colored nail polish
The Queen dictated a few royal fashion rules — some of them harsher-sounding than others. None of the female royals — or the male ones, for that matter — were ever likely to be snapped wearing brightly colored nail polish, as the Queen reportedly considered it vulgar..
45. Give royal babies several names
One middle name isn’t nearly enough for a royal, it seems. Just ask Prince William Arthur Philip Louis, or Prince Charles Philip Arthur George.
And yes, as you can no doubt tell, the British royal family reuse names a lot. For example, Princess Charlotte’s full name is Charlotte Elizabeth Diana.
46. Get bodyguards for the children
It’s terrible to think that your child may need a bodyguard, but that’s a sad fact of life for the royal family. William and Harry had bodyguards, for instance, and now so does the new generation.
George has at least two who accompany him to school. And it’s proven to be a wise move, as there really has been a threat made against the young prince. Better safe than sorry.
47. Keep the tiara’s band hidden
When tiaras are made, designers center their gem work on the middle of the band — leaving part of it unadorned. This undecorated section isn’t meant to be seen by onlookers.
Its purpose is actually to provide extra support to the slippery metal diadem. Of course, royals aren’t allowed to have this showing.
48. Give children lots of godparents
Royals have everyone beat when it comes to godparents, as blue-blooded offspring are always assigned plenty. Prince George alone has seven godparents: Zara Tindall, Oliver Baker, Emilia Jardine-Paterson, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, Earl Grosvenor, William van Cutsem, and Julia Samuel.
Close behind him is Prince Louis, with six godparents, and Prince Charlotte, who has five.
49. Teach young children the special greeting
Ever heard of the "Windsor wave?" It's the royal family's go-to move when greeting the public, and all the royal children have to learn the suave, photogenic wave. They look pretty darn cute waving their little hands at all of the adoring peasants— er, fans..
50. Little girls must wear dresses
It's dresses all the time for the little royal ladies. "They tend to wear smocked dresses as little girls when they are in public with their parents," royal expert Marlene Koenig explained to Harper's Bazaar in 2018..
51. You can’t wear tiaras until you’re married
When you imagine a princess, you likely picture her in a fluffy cupcake gown with a sparkly tiara on her head. In real life, though, those sparkly headpieces are reserved for married royal women.
Sorry, Princess Charlotte!
52. Royal babies should have special shawls
When a royal baby leaves the hospital, they’re wrapped in a luxury hand-knitted shawl from the company G.H. Hurt & Son.
The firm has been providing the royal family with baby blankets for more than 60 years. And chances are pretty high that future royal babies will also be using these garments — they are very nice shawls, after all.