Let's make something very clear. Royals are the weirdest set of people on the planet. No, really. Behind the gracious waves and glittering tiaras, this family is being held captive by more rules than the Church of Scientology – even Tom Cruise doesn't want to join this lot. As Brits gear up for literally losing their minds with Meghan Mania, the rest of the world isn't far behind. The "2.0" of Kate Middleton's 2011 wedding to Prince William is all anyone can talk about, and it gets juicy when you learn neat little facts –like the fact that Meghan Markle's old divorce (which is going to stick like glue) was a blip in ancient laws that the Queen let slide. It kind of ends there, though.
If royals aren't hiding behind palace doors, they're out in the open. What are they doing? Traveling. Where to? Everywhere. The British Empire basically used to own the whole world. In nicer ways, the grip is still there though – for the 53 countries Her Majesty the Queen has as part of her Commonwealth. But this family has more rules than countries it has reigned over. Everything from the way Kate Middleton drinks her tea to how she must stand, sit, wave, and dress is controlled, and the "Royal Travel Protocol" is no picnic.
If you thought these people are fancy Kardashians with a fleet of private jets and appetizers on-tap, you need a reality check. Alongside banned board games, these travel rules dictate the food royals chew, how they do it, when, and in what order. At the same time, royals are being treated like the common folk they wave down to. In the weirdest set of codes we've ever seen, here are 20 strict rules that royals must follow when they travel.
20 TWO HEIRS CANNOT FLY TOGETHER
The royal lineage is literally sacred. Keeping Up With The Kardashians might have #family as its mantra, but the royal family is built on this idea. Over 1200 years of British monarchy has been passed down the bloodline from king to queen, and the succession to the throne is something royals are terrified of breaking. The official protocol, as reported by The Times, is that two heirs cannot travel on the same plane in case it crashes.
Royal protocol prevents two royal heirs from traveling on the same flight in case of a crash. Protecting the royal lineage and succession to the throne has gripped this family for over 1200 years. Even Kate Middleton's toddlers have to abide.
This means that Prince William and Prince Harry are not permitted to share a flight. In 2014, when Prince William and Kate were on an official visit to New Zealand, the travel situation got tricky. Their children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte are as much heirs as their parents are. When Kate traveled with Princess Charlotte, where did little George stay? Home with his nanny, according to Hello. The Queen has been known to relax the rule once in all her 52 years on the throne. William was allowed to "bend the rules" for his nine month-old baby. Once.
19 PACK BLACK FOR FUNERALS
All royals must travel with a fully packed, all-black outfit in case of a funeral. That's non-negotiable. Each and every member of the royal family must pack funeral-appropriate black clothing should the worst happen while they're off British soil. British monarchy takes the mourning process on a whole other level. No, really.
The loss of a royal family member will have every flag in Britain flying at half mast, and the country basically stands still. It's quite a sight – every town hall, castle, and crumbling mansion displays the official mourning code, although there's been some scandal there. When Princess Diana tragically lost her life in a 1997 car accident, the Queen decided that flags would not fly at half mast. Princess Diana had already divorced Prince Charles in a bit of a disgrace, and the Queen saw no reason to change the flags for an "ex-royal," according to The Sun.
You'll generally see the royals in smart, preppy, and neutral colors. Kate Middleton sticks to royal blues, ivories, and fur-piped jackets in winter (matching hats, of course). But among the neatly packed dresses and button-down coats, there'll be an all-black alternative whenever any royal flies. The next one just blows our minds...
18 THE QUEEN DOESN'T NEED A PASSPORT
If you've ever traveled outside of your home country, you'll know this. Plan all you like – you won't get anywhere without a passport. That applies if you're American, British, or any other nationality. It also applies to members of the royal family – except for the Queen. In what is possibly the most bizarre exemption ever, Her Majesty the Queen doesn't actually have a passport. Why? Because she's the one issuing them. We're not joking. Every government department in the UK has "Her Majesty" as its opening line. The IRS? That's Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. The correctional facilities? They all start with "HRM: Her Royal Majesty's..."
The Queen doesn't have a passport or a driver's license. You don't need one when you're the one issuing them. In all her 92 years, the Queen has never been asked to show a passport while traveling.
This would be hilarious if it weren't so ridiculous. But it's all true. The first page of a British passport reads: "Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State requests and requires in the name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance." Dish them out she might, but the Queen is above having a passport.
17 YOU MUST SUPPORT BRITISH AIRWAYS
You'll be hard-pressed to find a nation more patriotic than the British– their tea culture can have people straight-up ghosted in offices for putting the milk in first. Part of the royal family's job is to promote all things British, and that includes the way they travel. The Queen is reportedly quite the penny pincher. The Sun has reported that she walks around Buckingham Palace switching lights off, and Her Majesty has a strict royal travel budget. That could be because the British taxpayer is footing the bill, but the message is clear: you must support British Airways.
The royal travel budget cost British taxpayers $7 million in 2012. Regardless of their status, the royal family must support their nation and fly British Airways whenever possible.
Kate and Will have been known to skip chartered royal jets and fly just like the rest of us. Kate Middleton's 2016 flight from Rotterdam in The Netherlands to London? She sat in seat 1A on a British Airways flight. Will and Harry actually flew coach from Memphis to Dallas in 2014, according to Hello. British Airways don't do US domestic flights, so these two princes flew American Airlines. If you're a British royal, you must fly British.
16 YOU CAN NEVER EAT SHELLFISH
Traveling the world should mean getting to try all kinds of awesome food. Lucky enough to go to Japan? All the sushi, please. Not for royals. Shellfish is strictly forbidden for this family, alongside rare-cooked meat, tap water in foreign countries, and overly exotic or spicy foods. The travel rulebook dictates every bite the royal family eats – not to mention an insane etiquette rulebook to make sure they appear poised and regal at all times. According to the BBC, the food poisoning potential from shellfish is deemed "too high a risk" to ever reach a royal mouth.
Alongside rare-cooked steaks, anything spicy or exotic, and foreign tap water, the royal family cannot consume shellfish while traveling. Shrimp tempura? Nope. Lobster roll in Japan? Not a chance. Oysters on a date? Forget it.
It doesn't end there. Travel and Leisure reported that royals must also avoid garlic in the Queen's presence – wait, isn't that the basis for like, every dish? Her Majesty is apparently "not fond of the taste." The result? "At Buckingham Palace, you don't cook with garlic. In case you get the royal burp." That came straight from John Higgins, a former palace chef. So. Some pretty bland... everything.
15 CAN'T FINISH MEALS BEFORE THE QUEEN
Presumably, this would be Her Majesty The Queen's reaction if ever you dare break this rule. This well-documented rule applies as much when royals are traveling, as it does when they're gracing the royal table at Buckingham Palace. Prince George and Princess Charlotte may still be toddlers, but table manners are something these kids are going to have to learn young. According to OK!, royal kids (and adults) aren't allowed to finish their dinner before the Queen. If she stops chewing, so must they.
Whether home or away, the royals all follow the same chewing rule. If the Queen stops eating, so does everyone else. Royal kids can't even finish their dinner before the queen.
The royal food rules literally know no end. Meghan Markle actually had to undergo professional training on how to sip tea. Etiquette specialist, Myka Meier told People: "They use their thumb and index finger to hold the top of the handle, while the middle finger supports the bottom. They also sip from the same spot, so the entire rim doesn't have lipstick stains." For coffee, the protocol is to "loop your index finger through the handle." So, to sum this rule up? More than we'd ever want to handle? Pity on the seafood, though. Scampi spaghetti? Never, ever, ever.
14 MONOPOLY IS BANNED
Keeping kids entertained while traveling is literally the biggest challenge any parent, sibling, or family member can face. If you've ever sat near a screaming kid on a plane, you'll know what this is actually like. If you're the parent of that poor child, you'll know how it feels to have the whole world watch you (and judge you). Royal kids are reportedly not allowed iPads or smartphones under Kate Middleton's strict parenting protocol, but this travel rule is the most bizarre one we've ever heard. Monopoly is actually banned in the royal family, according to The Telegraph.
"We're not allowed to play Monopoly," the Duke of York said. "It gets too vicious." Even little Princess Charlotte is banned. To be fair, they kind of own all the properties, anyway. According to The Daily Mail, a game of Monopoly wouldn't have the chance to make its way onto a royal flight. Even if the Queen isn't traveling herself, her endless list of rules keeps her family prisoners, wherever in the world they are. It's kind of amusing to imagine how this rule might have come into place, though. Exactly what is driving the Queen to fear competition? She's the most powerful person in the country. What are they gonna do, kick her off her throne?
13 WHEN THE QUEEN STANDS, YOU STAND
The power this woman has over her family is terrifying. If you've watched medieval movies about ancient kings and queens (or happen to watch Game Of Thrones), you'll have a vague concept of how to behave "in royal presence." Here's the thing, though. GoT is a fantasy TV show. Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman were acting it out in The Other Boleyn Girl. There's nothing fabricated about British royal rules, and they're especially strict during travel. When the Queen stands, so must everyone around her, according to The Sun.
No one is permitted to sit down while the Queen stands. Whether you're 90 or just turning two, if the Queen is on her feet, so are you.
British people have "how to behave in case I meet the Queen" as something they grow up with. Barack Obama had to learn it from scratch, back when he was President. Of course, he made the rookie mistake of making a short speech after toasting to the Queen. Major "no-no." According to the BBC's royal protocol, the President should have stopped speaking after the toast. The "standing rule" is especially confusing to foreigners. If the Queen is visiting some far-flung island in the Pacific Ocean, the locals have to read up on the rules before she arrives.
12 EXCEPT WHEN YOU'RE BOWING TO HER
It doesn't matter who you are – you bow to the Queen. Presidents, Prime Ministers, even Angelina Jolie have all had to bow in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen. The travel protocol takes this on a worldwide level, plus it works for other royals, too. It's considered common courtesy and good etiquette to bow to Kate Middleton if you meet her, and just remember – Kate was a regular Brit before marrying into royalty. She had no fancy title or prestigious aristocratic origins. When the royal family travels, other people must bow to them, and they must bow to each other. This family spends more time working on their core balance than anything else.
There is literally a British government website with the full bowing code, should you meet a member of the royal family. You must address the queen as "Your Majesty," followed by "Ma'am." And that MUST rhyme with "jam."
The endless bows and curtsies aren't going anywhere. In fact, as Meghan Markle marries into the royal family, it's only going to get more complicated. Despite both being 36 years old and (soon-to-be) sisters-in-law, it is quite possible that Meghan will have to bow to Kate. When royals travel, they bow to each other, and to the Queen. The welcoming public? Eh, they never had a choice.
11 NO SELFIES AND NO AUTOGRAPHS
Come on. The best part of vacations are the pics, right? While celebs take epic sunset selfies at whichever white-sand beach they've hired out for themselves, we do it too – just maybe, you know, on a regular beach? Royal travel rules have a strict "no selfie" policy, alongside a flat-out ban on autographs. If you Google the Queen, Kate Middleton, or any other member of the royal family for selfies, you won't find any. Why? Because they're not allowed to take any. This Meghan Markle pic is from her already deleted from social media.
Meghan Markle had to turn down a selfie in the British town of Nottingham, telling a fan "I'm not allowed to take selfies." A US ambassador told OK! that the Queen disapproves of selfies because the "eye contact doesn't suit her."
Autographs are also strictly forbidden, according to The Sun. Fans wait for hours in line to get a glimpse of the high and mighty royals. To be fair, when you do it in real life, it's got a kind of buzz. The royals are such a symbol of British identity, it's hard not to get wrapped up in the drama. Flags are waving, fans are screaming, and the national anthem actually opens with: "God save our gracious Queen." Just don't take a selfie near her...
10 12 BODYGUARDS AT ALL TIMES
Royal security is no joke. When People reported that Kate Middleton's 2011 wedding to Prince William cost $36 million, it was estimated that $32 million of that was JUST for security. Royals are some of the most protected people in the world, and when they travel, it gets intense. The royal travel entourage is less focused on Louis Vuitton luggage, and more focused on armed snipers and doctors. For Kate and Will's 2011 tour to Canada, 12 armed guards had to accompany the royal couple everywhere they went – and that's just the visible part. A ton of protective measures are already in place in the palaces (like rows of conifer trees), and safety is the number one concern as these royals fly.
Travel security details cost $160 million in 2010 according to the Mirror. The 21 members of the royal family cannot go anywhere without trained snipers, bodyguards, and doctors.
Personal protection is even given to minor members of the family. The very minimum, according to OK!, is five highly trained armed officers to keep the royals safe. Royal correspondent, Victoria Murphy said: "I have covered a lot of the royal tours and I can't think of any family where security is this visible." If you're a traveling royal, prepare for armed guards everywhere.
9 ROYAL MONOGRAMMED LUGGAGE
The royal packing is one grand affair. While Hollywood celebs empty Gucci in one go for their #ClosetGoals, the royal closet is one giant #ClosetRule. Royals have a strict luggage protocol (on top of the zillion other rules). Neatly labeled with color-coded tags is the way to go, and colors are allocated to each royal. Kate Middleton's luggage, for instance? Always yellow. For Prince William? Red. And it doesn't stop there. Royal luggage must, according to Hello, be monogrammed and emblazoned with the royal's first name, plus a crown.
Royals must travel with crown-embellished, color-coded and tagged monogrammed luggage. Kate Middleton's color is yellow, while Will must stick to red.
Of course, considering these royals don't wear the same outfit twice, that can add up to a lot of bags. The same report listed 25 as the number of outfits Kate Middleton packed for her 2011 tour of California. And that's when the super-organized luggage arrangements sort of start to make sense. If you think we're making this up, here's the picture to prove it. This British soldier is carrying what is clearly Prince William's red color-coded monogrammed luggage. It also looks like you have to be super careful with how you handle it...
8 SURPRISING IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS CHECKS
What with all the silver spoons in their mouths they were born with, you'd think that royals are somehow exempt from immigration or customs. Nope. Aside from the Queen's whole "doesn't need a passport thing," royals must strictly comply with all international immigration and customs checks – just like you. According to Hello, royal status will get you fast-tracked through the process (like these people have the time to wait in line), but undergo immigration they must. That means having their passports checked, being finger-printed at the border, and having to declare what they have or haven't brought into the country.
Strict immigration and customs rules are applicable to all royals, which is kind of amusing.. "What is the purpose of your visit?" "Um, I'm a princess." "Have you brought anything valuable?" "Um... my crown?"
When Kate and Will took their daughter, Charlotte to Australia, they had to spend $65 to have their little princess issued with a passport. Since the Queen issues the passports, she gets away with not having one. That said, Her Majesty the Queen is still asked her full name, age, address (duh, Buckingham Palace), nationality, gender, and place of birth to immigration officials. And we're nowhere near done...
7 STRICT DRESS CODE
Where do we even start on this one? We've all seen for ourselves how Meghan Markle has had to ditch her entire former wardrobe in favor of super-formal, "royal-appropriate" attire. The beachy shorts and jeans are solidly gone, and a rather frumpy Meghan is now photographed looking more and more like Kate Middleton. Most of us choose something comfortable to travel in. Sweats or leggings are probably on your list. Not in a million years for royals. The uncomfortable wardrobe of smart suits, formal dresses, and blazers are required by every single traveling royal, and it doesn't matter if it's 110 degrees.
Royals must be stylish, sophisticated, and "Royal Appropriate" when they travel. Leggings, sweats, or jeans are strictly forbidden. Kate Middleton must travel in high heels, button-down coats, and matching hats.
If you haven't seen Prince George in a Spiderman t-shirt like any regular kid, that's because he isn't allowed one. The Queen always wears a hat – always. According to the BBC, the "breeching etiquette" that sticks little George in shorts dates back to the 16th century. Prince William and Harry have both served in the British Armed Forces. If the visit requires it, they must wear full military uniforms. Modesty is also an absolute rule. So that's a "no" to Paris Hilton dresses for Kate, then...
6 STRICT SEATING CODE
For all the time these royals spend standing around greeting people, you'd think they'd get a break when they finally sit down. Again, no. How Kate Middleton sits even has a name. It's called The Duchess Slant. You'll spot it whenever you see Kate sitting, and it's the exact same way William's late mom, Princess Diana sat. Royal etiquette expert, Myka Meier broke it down for People.
"The Royal Duchess Slant involves slightly slanting the knees to create a zig-zag effect when wearing a dress or a skirt." Shoulders must be square, hands must be folded one over the other, or placed in your lap."
The biggest mistake a royal can make, according to Myka is to cross her legs at the knee. Instead, she said: "Royal women should sit with their knees and ankles together and should only cross their legs at the ankle if needed." The royal family members aren't even allowed to hold hands in certain situations, according to Harper's Bazaar. Every movement they make is monitored in microscopic detail, and Princess Charlotte and Prince George have already adopted the royal mannerisms. Add on the way royals must hold their tea and coffee cups (differently)... sitting down with their precious cup of tea doesn't sound so glamorous anymore. After a long flight? It doesn't matter. The rules still apply.
5 GOLDEN CARRIAGES ON SPECIAL OCCASIONS
This is the kind of stuff you see in movies. Seriously, just take a minute to look at the sheer level of detail in that picture. The royal carriage (officially called The Gold State Coach) is an enclosed, eight horse-drawn carriage that's been used by the royal family since the year 1760. The four-ton coach is gilded with cherubs representing England, Ireland, and Scotland, and the 2014 remodelling of The Gold State Coach cost a staggering $1.57 million, according to People.
For occasions like a royal Jubilee, the Queen rides in a $1.57 million gilded carriage. Eight horses draw it, and the entourage must include six footmen, eight grooms, and four "Yeoman of the Guard." The Queen herself has called it "a horrible experience."
Think that's it? No way. The horses must be Windsor Greys – the Queen is, after all from "the House of Windsor." The footmen must also be clean-shaven. In a very rare interview with Sky News, the Queen admitted that riding in her carriage is an unpleasant experience. After traveling four miles "halfway around London," the Queen said that it's the most uncomfortable thing ever. Well, aside from the Imperial State Crown. She actually said she can't look down while wearing it as her "neck would break." And yet, you can't break the rules...
4 ENTER ROOMS IN A SPECIFIC ORDER
Okay, so we've covered what the royals have to do once they're in a room. The bowing, the curtsy, addressing the Queen as "Your Royal Majesty." Then there's the food they can or can't eat, how they can or can't sit, and who they can (or can't) fly with. Guess what? The order in which the royal family enters a room also has its rules. On the many travel occasions where the royals are traveling as a pack, there's a procession order that applies to how they enter rooms. What it's based on? The order of who's in line to the throne, of course.
When entering a room, royals must proceed in the order that reflects their order to the throne. Right now, that's the Queen, her husband Prince Phillip, then her son, Prince Charles and his wife. Prince William, Harry, and Kate are all the way at the end.
You might think that's mildly funny, but these guys are dead serious. The order of succession to the throne is this family's equivalent to Hollywood status. The Queen and her husband get to be Kim and Kanye (or Beyonce and Jay-Z). Everyone else just stands around figuring out whether they're Rihanna, Selena Gomez, or – if they're further down the line, Blac Chyna. Think we're kidding? Look at the picture, carefully. It's all there.
3 NO PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION
This couldn't be more "anti-Hollywood" if it tried. While Hollywood couples are all about the public displays of affection, the royal family isn't allowed to show any of it. The sneaky paparazzi shots of Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively cozying up – or super sneaky ones of Kristen Stewart betraying Robert Pattison with her Snow White and The Huntsman director? Never going to happen. Kate Middleton and Prince William had a fairytale wedding, back in 2011. Their official kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace was watched by 23 million people, and guess what? The writer of this article is British and she watched it too.
Aside from the "Royal Wedding Kiss," royals aren't allowed to show any public displays of affection. Meghan and Harry can hold hands since they're not yet married according to Hello, but Kate and Will must hold back. See this picture? It's the happy couple landing on foreign soil. They definitely look happy. But look carefully... there isn't much about it that says "couple." They're not even holding hands. Alongside dressing modestly, the royals must behave "appropriately," both at home and abroad. That means no sneaky kisses during a vacation, and certainly no affectionate hugs, which is a pity, really. These two seem so in love.
2 MEET PRESIDENTS AT TWO YEARS OLD
You'd think that having every way you travel completely dictated would at least give you the freedom to relax once you've arrived. What do you do if you're lucky enough to get a vacation? You explore your surroundings, check out the restaurants, or just hang back and watch some TV. Now think back to your childhood. Whether you were running around a backyard with Nerf Guns or picking pepperoni off your brother's pizza, there's one thing you were not doing. Meeting presidents. This is by far the saddest rule if you think about it. Prince George and Princess Charlotte should be enjoying their childhood. Instead, they're waiting in line with mom and dad to meet some head of state they didn't even know existed.
Royal visits inevitably mean bringing the family. It's actually quite sad to see royal children who are still toddlers having to wear formal attire to shake hands with a string of presidents.
Here is Kate Middleton's son Prince George meeting former US President, Barack Obama. To be fair, George kind of lucked out, there. Barack Obama was a pretty chilled guy to be around, plus he's a dad. Meeting the entire state department from a country who doesn't speak English, though? Probably less fun.
1 LIMIT CONTACT WITH NON-ROYALS
Having read that, you're probably wondering, What is LeBron James doing touching Kate Middleton here? While royals make a lot of physical contact with the general public via handshakes, the travel protocol actually puts limits on physical contact. NY Daily News actually ran this story as LeBron "breaking royal protocol," back when he wrapped his arm around Kate in 2014. The British media were shocked. LeBron James may be NBA royalty, but that means nothing to British people. The Telegraph actually reported this as a "full breach of royal protocol", although they noted that Barack Obama had made a similar mistake by being too "touchy-feely" with the Queen during a 2009 meet.
LeBron was pretty chilled about the whole thing. The athlete offered up cupcakes from his hometown of Akron, Ohio to the royal couple. Good thing he wasn't offering seafood! Also, this is probably the only pic on the internet that makes Prince William look about two feet tall. Next time, don't pick an NBA player!
You've got less than a week to get your friends to know what a fellow American, Meghan Markle is getting herself into. Hit share on Facebook and get the secrets out. Leave us a comment on which rule you think is the most ridiculous. Our British writer will do her best to get it fast-tracked to the palace – promise!
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