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14 Times Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Broke Royal Protocol

Updated: Jul. 30, 2021

The power couple is taking the world by storm with their fairytale romance, but when it comes to their engagement, they’re writing their own story.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle official engagement portraits, Windsor, United Kingdom - 21 Dec 2017

When they set their wedding date

“Marry in May, and rue the day.” That superstitious rhyme is what led Queen Victoria to forbid her children from getting married in the month of May, believing it was unlucky. Generally, British royals have heeded the warning, but Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are set to wed on May 19, 2018. They aren’t the first royal couple to marry in May either; Queen Elizabeth’s eldest grandson, Peter Phillips, and his bride Autumn Kelly, and Princess Margaret and her groom Antony Armstrong-Jones also broke the tradition. Unfortunately, the latter couple eventually divorced. Coincidence? You tell us. Check out these other bizarre superstitions of the British royal family.

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Christmas Day church service, Sandringham, Norfolk, UK - 25 Dec 2017
Tim Rooke/Shutterstock

When they spent Christmas together

Specifically, Christmas 2017, when Markle joined Queen Elizabeth II and the rest of the Windsor family for the holiday festivities at Sandringham. This was a break from royal tradition because only spouses of the Queen’s invitees have been allowed to attend. Kate Middleton didn’t even go in 2010, even though she was engaged to Prince William.

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Actress Meghan Markle participates in AOL's BUILD Speaker Series to discuss her role on the television show, "Suits", at AOL Studios, in New York
Evan Agostini/Shutterstock

When they spoke publicly about their relationship

As an actress, Meghan Markle has a lot of experience with media interviews, so her talking about her relationship with Prince Harry for Vanity Fair’s October 2017 issue may not seem like a big deal. But where royal relationships are concerned, it was. People who date members of the royal family typically don’t open up about their relationships until they’re engaged or married. That didn’t faze Markle, who wasn’t engaged when she gave the interview, revealing “we’re two people who are really happy and in love.”

Prince Harry also made public comments pre-engagement, but on a more serious aspect of their relationship. In November 2017, he issued a statement through Kensington Palace warning the press to stop harassing his then-girlfriend and her family with racist and sexist comments. Such an announcement is highly unusual for members of the royal family, but he hoped that “fair-minded people will understand why he has felt it necessary to speak publicly.”

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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry at the Air Canada Centre

When they showed a little PDA

The royal family is known for avoiding any and all public displays of affection, mainly because of their roles as representatives of the British Monarchy. But Markle and Prince Harry don’t let this standard stifle their love. They kissed during their first public appearance at the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto, and they’ve been seen holding hands on countless occasions. This is likely because of his place in the line of succession. As fifth in line to the throne (sixth after Kate Middleton’s third child is born), Prince Harry has less responsibility to uphold compared to, say, Prince William and Kate Middleton, who have been photographed holding hands fewer than 12 times over the last ten years. Check out these etiquette rules every British royal must follow.

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Meghan Markle during the visit to Edinburgh Castle

Because Meghan isn’t Anglican

For more than 300 years, the Act of Settlement of 1701 prevented any Roman Catholic, or anyone married to a Roman Catholic, from ascending to the British throne. Meghan Markle hasn’t spoken publically about what her religious beliefs are, but she went to an all-girls Catholic high school in Los Angeles and it’s believed her father is Jewish. While being Anglican is no longer a requirement for royal spouses, thanks to a 2015 amendment, Markle was baptized and confirmed in the Church of England before the wedding to honor the Queen, who holds the title “Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England.”

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Anti Defamation League Awards Dinner Honoring Ryan Kavanaugh, Los Angeles, America - 11 Oct 2011
Picture Perfect/REX/Shutterstock

Because Meghan is divorced

Markle dated producer Trevor Engelson for seven years before marrying him in 2011, but the couple divorced in August 2013. Now, divorce isn’t a completely new issue to the British royal family. (See: Prince Charles’ marriage to divorcee Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, in 2005.) But her marriage to Prince Harry marks the first time a royal family member will have a church wedding with someone who is divorced. Considering that King Edward VIII abdicated from the throne in 1936 to marry a divorced American (Wallis Simpson), the upcoming wedding is more than just a historic first. It’s a sign that a centuries-old institution can and will change with the times for the sake of its continued prosperity.

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's royal wedding cake

When they picked the flavor of their wedding cake

It’s official: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will have a lemon elderflower cake garnished with buttercream frosting and fresh flowers at their wedding. Sounds delicious—with a dash of scandal. From Queen Victoria in 1840 to Prince William and Kate Middleton, every British royal has served fruitcake at their wedding. The cake’s fruits, spices, and alcoholic ingredients (port, sherry, rum, or whiskey) are symbols of wealth and prosperity. Since these ingredients also come from around the world, they also represent the vastness of the British empire. But who knows—maybe the couple will make fruitcake their second cake, for tradition’s sake.

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Britain's Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, right, with Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle attend the first annual Royal Foundation Forum in London, . Under the theme 'Making a Difference Together', the event will showcase the programmes run or initiated by The Royal Foundation
Chris Jackson/Shutterstock

When they made political statements

Queen Elizabeth needs to remain neutral to politics as the Head of State, and the rest of the British royal family avoids getting involved in political matters for the same reason. As CNN reports, “The royal family’s position requires the support of parliamentarians—on either side of the political divide.” However, Meghan Markle has broken this protocol by speaking up about the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, saying: “I hear a lot of people speaking about girls’ empowerment and women’s empowerment; you will hear people saying they are helping women find their voices. I fundamentally disagree with that because women don’t need to find their voices, they need to be empowered to use it and people need to be urged to listen.” On a separate occasion, she confirmed that Prince Harry is a feminist, too.

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Florist Philippa Craddock, who has been chosen to create the floral displays for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, in her studio.

When they chose their wedding florist

Just as A-list celebrities have their own “people” for buying suits or shoes or exotic animals, the British royal family has go-to businesses for nearly every good and service you could think of. They are called Royal Warrant holders, and these individuals and companies have served the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, and/or the Prince of Wales for at least five years. Royal Warrant holder Shane Connolly was chosen to create the floral arrangements for Prince Charles’ wedding to Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, as well as Prince William and Kate Middleton’s. However, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are straying from the unofficial tradition with their choice, London-based florist Philippa Craddock. They even went against the Queen’s suggestion of using the Palace staff for the job.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle engagement announcement, Kensington Palace, London, UK - 27 Nov 2017
Tim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock

When they switched up common wedding traditions

Speeches are a given at wedding receptions, but rarely do they come from the bride. Markle reportedly plans to give her own speech at her reception instead of letting someone else do it for her. A source says it will be an “affectionate” tribute to her new husband and will thank Queen Elizabeth, her family, and her friends. The other tradition that remains up in the air? Who will walk Markle down the aisle. Early reports speculated that the bride-to-be wanted her mother to do the honor instead of her father, and now rumors are spreading that Prince William may be her escort. We’ll just have to wait for the big day to find out the truth.

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Britain's Prince Harry pose with Meghan Markle during a photocall after announcing their engagement in the Sunken Garden in Kensington Palace in London, Britain, 27 November. Clarence House earlier 27 November 2017 announced the engagement of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle. 'His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince Harry to Ms Meghan Markle. The wedding will take place in Spring 2018. Further details about the wedding day will be announced in due course.' the statement said.

When they didn’t keep up royal appearances

Royal expert Victoria Arbiter tells INSIDER that female members of the royal family are expected to wear nude pantyhose with skirts and dresses in public, but in Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s engagement photos, guess what Markle wasn’t wearing? Exactly that. Arbiter also said that bit of dress code is “the only hard, steadfast rule in terms of what the Queen requires.” She also wears her hair in notably casual styles, usually a loose bun, and not the hats women must wear to official occasions, according to royal protocol. Prince Harry has also slacked on proper dress code. He didn’t shave his beard for a Remembrance Sunday service, which honors British servicemen and women. It prompted an uproar because the British Army forbids beards, but since the prince no longer serves in the army, he wasn’t technically breaking any rules. Don’t miss the dress code rules everyone in the royal family must follow.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visit the Eikon Centre

When they took public transportation

You’d expect anyone in the royal family to travel in the utmost luxury, especially if they were heading for a romantic getaway in the French Riviera. But Prince Harry and Meghan Markle decided to fly British Airways out of London’s Heathrow airport—in economy class, no less—to spend New Year’s in France. Granted, they did buy several rows of seats so they could have the back of the plane to themselves, but it was still on a commercial airline. In fact, the whole family is known to occasionally take commercial flights to save money. Here are some more surprisingly frugal habits of the British royal family.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle engagement announcement, Kensington Palace, London, UK - 27 Nov 2017

When Prince Harry designed the engagement ring

It isn’t mandatory for royal engagement rings to have gemstones, but it has certainly been a popular choice. Princess Diana’s ring, now worn by Kate Middleton, is a 12-carat sapphire. Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, wore a large ruby, as did the Queen’s sister Princess Margaret. Even Queen Victoria’s engagement ring featured an emerald, rubies, and diamonds. But Prince Harry designed a simple, but still stunning diamond engagement ring for his fiancée. It has one large diamond from Botswana and two smaller diamonds on either side, taken from his mother’s collection.

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Prince Harry, Meghan Markle at Cardiff Castle
Tim Rooke/Shutterstock

When Meghan signed an autograph

This actually did break a major rule. No one in the British royal family is allowed to give autographs because of the risk that the signature could be forged. However, on a trip to Cardiff Castle in Wales, Markle broke protocol for 10-year-old Caitlin Clarke and wrote “Hi Kaitlin” with a heart and smiley face on the girl’s autograph book. Although she wasn’t technically a royal at the time, the simple act still made international news. And as for Caitlin, she’s totally OK with her name being misspelled. Next, find out all the times the rest of the royal family broke protocol.