The United Kingdom has officially had some form of a royal family for over 1,000 years. While we don’t have the time to explain 1,000 years of history, we can summarize with the help of Reference.com’s answer to the question “How did the Royal Family Start?”
Centralized systems of government came into existence in England sometime between 700 and 900 A.D. Offa and Alfred the Great had begun to organize tribes under a single ruler, and Anglo-Saxon and Scottish kingdoms had monarchs by the time of the Norman invasion of 1066. William the Conqueror then became the English king, and his descendants ruled in the centuries that followed.
After the death of Queen [Elizabeth I], the Virgin Queen, in 1603, the kingdoms of England and Scotland were united. In 1801, Ireland was also included in the union to form the United Kingdom.
In 1917, King George V issued a royal proclamation that established the House of Windsor, giving family members an official last name. Previously, Royal Family members were only known by the kingdom or dynasty of their origin. The current Royal Family members all hail from the House of Windsor.
So there you have it, over a thousand years summarized into just three paragraphs. But what about the present Royal family? Of course, there’s Queen Elizabeth II. Her son, Charles, is the Prince of Wales. His older son, Prince William, is Duke of Cambridge; William’s son, George, and daughter, Charlotte, are Prince and Princess, respectively. Harry is technically called Prince Henry of Wales. Most of us are familiar with their names, but what of their lives?
With the paparazzi following them so intently since the tragic death of William and Harry’s mother, Diana, it’s as if we have been watching them grow up all of their lives (and ours). Though the concept of British monarchy is centuries-old, the Royal family has managed to stay relevant in an increasingly modern world; they even have a Twitter account.
But despite the greater-than-ever level of access we have to the family, there are some things we may not know about them—things that we’ve only seen in The Princess Diaries.
How They Sit
Since the Royal family has to be separated from the common folk, they can’t sit like we do. Seriously. That means women can’t sit with their legs crossed at the knee. They must have their legs and knees together, and can be slanted; if they want, they can cross at the ankle. This is called the duchess slant.
Physical Contact is Restricted
The rule states that no one is supposed to touch members of the Royal family, even if they’re LeBron James or the first lady of the United States. This was a rule most likely established centuries ago when it sanitation wasn’t as good as it is now.
However, in 2009, Michelle Obama and the Queen half-hugged and people went a little nuts. The response was so strong that Buckingham Palace had to issue a statement saying it was okay and that the embrace was mutual. They went on to explain they do not give directions to touch or not touch the Queen.
Later, HuffPost reported that a witness said of the event, “No-one – including the ladies-in-waiting standing nearby – could believe their eyes. In 57 years, the Queen has never been seen to make that kind of gesture and it is certainly against all protocol to touch her. But she didn’t seem to mind a bit and was smiling and joking throughout.”
To Bow Or Not To Bow
Bowing is an ancient tradition but it is still mandatory when meeting the Queen to bow or curtsy. However, you don’t have to be dramatic and take a knee; a simple look down and nod will suffice. If you want to impress, then the longer the curtsy and further down you go, the bigger the sign of respect.
There are also strict rules that govern which members of royalty must curtsy to whom, based on rank. For instance, when Kate Middleton is not with Prince William, she must curtsy to the “blood princesses,” Alexandra, Beatrice, and Eugenie. When William is with her, she does need need to curtsy.
The Tower of London Must Keep Ravens
While this sounds like something from Game of Thrones, the show may have actually gotten the inspiration to use ravens from Tower of London tradition. The Historic Royal Palaces website shares a legend that says, “the kingdom and the Tower will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the fortress. According to the stories, it was Charles II who first insisted that the ravens of the Tower should be protected.” In fact, the Tower keeps seven ravens on hand in case one goes missing or falls ill. Whatever it takes to protect the realm.
They Can’t Vote or Hold Office
This actually makes sense because their vote could easily sway public opinion. Instead, they must focus on what is best for their country and they work to maintain good relationships with all members of the UK’s various political parties.
Monopoly is Forbidden
When Prince Andrew, Duke of York (Prince Charles’s brother and Queen Elizabeth’s third child), was making a public appearance in 2008 visiting the Leeds Building Society’s newly refurbished Albion Street headquarters, someone gave him the Monopoly board game for fun. Prince Andrew replied, “We’re not allowed to play Monopoly at home. It gets too vicious.”
Rumor is, no one is allowed to bring a Monopoly board game anywhere near the Royal family anymore, even if it began as joke.
They Can’t Use Nicknames
When Kate Middleton married into the Royal family in 2011, she stopped shortening her name from Catherine to Kate. She now must officially be referred to as Catherine, “ma’am,” or her official title “Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge.”
The Shellfish Rule
The Royal family doesn’t eat shellfish due to a fear of food poisoning, which makes sense. However, it’s also known the Queen doesn’t like it, which means the rest of the family won’t be having it.
Royal Women In The Workplace
The women of the Royal family typically do not work for financial gain. Instead, they have historically focused on charitable causes and events to improve the lives of their subjects and people around the world.
That being said, Queen Elizabeth served in the British Army as a truck mechanic during and after World War II. One of her granddaughters, Princess Beatrice, works “in the business world,” while another, Princess Eugenie, is an associate director at an art gallery.
The men of the Royal family have a longer history of entering the workforce, though. Prince William, for instance, was a Royal Air Force pilot from 2009 to 2013. He began service as an air ambulance pilot in Norfolk in 2014, but in January 2017, he said he would not be renewing his two-year contract with the East Anglian Air Ambulance service so that he could begin focusing on more Royal duties beginning in summer 2017.
Walking In Rank
There are very strict rules concerning the Order of Precedence at processions. The Royal family must enter a space according to the order of their rank, with the Queen (or the reigning monarch) in the forefront.
Their Religion Has Historically Been Important
Up until 2011, they could not marry anyone who was Roman Catholic. Thanks to Henry VIII back in the 16th century, the Royal family are members of the Church of England; for centuries, this meant they could not marry anyone who was Roman Catholic. But that was changed by the Queen in 2011.