Kate Middleton can’t vote, and other everyday things she’s not allowed to do

The Duchess of Cambridge has a dress code, is not allowed a social media account and may find it difficult to eat pasta for dinner at the palace

Jade Bremner@jadebremner
Tuesday 01 June 2021 13:27
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In the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan Markle described how her mental health suffered while living in the palace.

“There was very little that I was allowed to do,” she claimed, saying that she was suffering from loneliness but was advised not to go to lunch with her friends because she was “oversaturated” in the media despite not having “left the house in months”.

The pandemic is one way people can relate, explained Meghan: “I think the easiest way that now people can understand it is what we’ve all gone through in lockdown.”

As part of life as a royal, there are clear instructions on what you can and cannot do elaborated Markle. “The Firm would say, ‘Well, you can’t do this because it’ll look like that’.”

This prompts the question: what else a Duchess cannot do? What can’t Kate Middleton and other royals do that we do as part of everyday life?

She cannot vote

Kate Middleton is forbidden from going to the ballot box. After Kate entered the royal family, she could no longer express her political views in public, and must always remain politically impartial in interviews and at events.

According to the official royal website this is “convention” rather than law. “By convention, The Queen does not vote or stand for election, however, Her Majesty does have important ceremonial and formal roles in relation to the government of the UK.”

This rule applies to the whole royal family. Members of the royal family are not allowed to run for office. Prince Harry said after moving to the US, of the presidential elections: “But many of you may not know that I haven’t been able to vote in the UK my entire life.”

She cannot dress inappropriately

All members of the royal family are supposed to dress modestly, and smartly. Historically, female members of the royal family receive more scrutiny in the press over what they wear than their male counterparts.

It’s very unlikely they would ever wear joggers and trainers in public, for example, unless it is a specific occasion – a charity tennis match perhaps.

In addition, according to 12th-century monarch King Edward III, all royals are banned from wearing fur, however, this rule has broken over the years. The Queen prefers faux-fur.

Other guidelines reported are that Kate must also wear a hat to every formal event, unless it’s after 6pm and then it’s a tiara (at the correct 45-degree angle). She must also keep her coat on in public, and at engagements, and it must stay on. Bright nail polish is forbidden, and female royals must wear tights, and skirts should hit the knees.

She is required to take a black outfit abroad

An extension of dressing conservatively, the Duchess of Cambridge is reportedly also required to take a black outfit with her when travelling overseas, this funeral-appropriate wear is in case of a death. This goes for the whole family.

On the topic of travelling, it’s an unwritten rule that two heirs are not allowed to travel together. When Prince George becomes 12, he and his father William will have to fly separately.

She is not allowed to take selfies

You won’t see members of the royal family snapping pics of themselves on their phones, they are also not allowed to have personal social media accounts. Meghan confirmed this in the past, to a crowd in Nottingham in 2017, “We’re not allowed to do selfies,” she said. While, royal commentator Victoria Arbiter told Insider; “Royals would always rather have a personal interaction than have people clamoring for selfies”.

They are also not supposed to sign autographs, despite being frequently asked for them by crowds. The Express notes that it’s due to the risk of royal signatures being copied or forged. Kate Middleton and other members of the royal family must also accept gifts graciously.

She cannot eat shellfish, foie gras or pasta for dinner

Although many members of the royal family have enjoyed shellfish, the Queen notably abides by the guideline of not eating shellfish, due to its food-poisoning risk. 

Butler Grant Harold told Woman & Home magazine: “It is a very sensible move to abandon having seafood when out and about on public duties. We don’t want a member of the Royal family having a serious reaction to food poisoning, especially if she is on an overseas tour.” 

William, however, is rumoured to enjoy sushi and Charles has tried seafood in the past. Royal staff have commented on how the Queen dislikes garlic, so it’s unlikely to be served at Buckingham Palace. Former royal chef Darren McGrady told RecipesPlus: “We can never serve anything with garlic or too much onions.”John Higgins, another former chef for the Queen previously said to the National Post “at Buckingham Palace you don’t cook with garlic. I suppose, in case you get the royal burp.”Meanwhile, potatoes, rice, and pasta are also off the menu for supper. “No potatoes, rice, or pasta for dinner,” former palace chef Darren McGrady told The Telegraph

According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ website, Prince Charles has banned French dish foie gras since 2008, over concerns for animal welfare.

She can no longer be casually touched by strangers

Casual greetings, like someone putting their hand over you for a photo or touching your arm when directing you the right way, are big taboos to senior royals, in a custom that’s believed to date back to the Middle Ages. “Best not to initiate personal physical contact with a member of the royal family,” said Lucy Hume, from etiquette Debrett’s to Reuters.

This rule has been broken on occasion. A formal handshake is an absolutely fine way to greet a royal, in pre and post-Covid times, of course.

She must curtsy

Although there are “no obligatory codes of behaviour when meeting the queen or a member of the Royal Family,” according to the British Monarchy website, Kate is expected to curtsy for people in the royal family who are higher in rank, for example, the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, and the Duchess of Cornwall.

This requires her bowing her head and bending her knees with one foot in front of the other.

In her current place in society, that’s a lot of curtsying. However, she won’t have to curtsy forever, William is in line for the throne, after Charles, Prince of Wales. When William becomes king, Middleton will be Queen consort (wife of the reigning king) and, unless William insists she curtsies every time she sees him, there will be a lot less curtsying going on.

She may be told when to stop talking

It’s been claimed that if Queen wants someone to stop talking, Her Majesty will move her handbag from left arm to right. Royal historian Hugo Vickers told People: “It would be very worrying if you were talking to the Queen and saw the handbag move from one hand to the other.”

This applies to everyone, but is mainly something for the Queen's staff to be aware of, so they can usher whoever it is away. “It would be done very nicely,” Vickers added. “Someone would come along and say, ‘Sir, the Archbishop of Canterbury would very much like to meet you.” In addition, people must never turn their back on the Queen.

She cannot go to bed before the Queen

It is considered very bad etiquette to go to bed before Her Majesty, “Nobody felt it right to go to bed before the Queen did,” said former private secretary to the Queen, Sir William Heseltine, in his book The Royals in Australia. “For Diana the long royal evenings were agony. There’d be an hour or so in the sitting room of everyone sitting around making conversation,” he said. “And Diana was driven to such extremes that she’d excuse herself and go to bed, which was thought to be rather bad form, going to bed before the Queen.”

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