Kate Middleton’s life sounds amazing, right? She has access to power and wealth the likes of which most people can only dream of. She has a healthy, growing family. And of course, when her husband Prince William is eventually crowned king, she’ll become his queen consort. But there are in fact some downsides to being a member of the royal family. And a strict set of rules – which Kate has to stick rigidly to – is one of them.
Marrying the heir to the throne is something that needs a lot of consideration. And Kate may have given her relationship with William several years’ worth of thought before she agreed to be his wife. After all, while the couple first started dating in 2003, it wasn’t until 2010 that they got engaged. To commemorate the occasion, William presented Kate with a ring that had once belonged to his mother, Princess Diana.
And the pair got married in April 2011 at Westminster Abbey in London. Their lavish wedding was the royal event of the year and was watched by more than 300 million people worldwide. Moreover, Kate received her title on the morning of the ceremony, being made a duchess to William’s duke. That meant that she would formally be referred to as “Her Royal Highness” from then on.
After that, Kate quickly seemed to become an icon for how royals should behave. She has three children with William, and she appeared to handle her pregnancy complications amazingly well. The duchess is also fashionable, friendly – and perhaps most importantly – scandal-free. And when it comes to royal rules, she always looks to follow them to the letter.
However, there’s protocol that every royal family member is urged to follow, and to the average person these rules might seem downright stifling. But to the royals – especially those who were born into the family and have never known anything else – they’re probably just another part of life. The royal family is, in its own way, almost a business, and many businesses have codes of conduct for employees.
A lot of the rules are regarding appropriate dress. Specifically, royals need to dress modestly and be careful not to show too much skin – especially if the paparazzi are about. As a result, Kate’s skirts are always knee-length or longer. And if it ever looks like she has bare legs, she’s actually probably wearing nude pantyhose. You see, pantyhose are an absolute must in front of the Queen.
The monarch also dictates a few more royal fashion rules, some of them harsher-sounding than others. None of the female royals – or the male ones for that matter – are ever likely to be snapped wearing colored nail polish, as the Queen reportedly considers it vulgar. Apparently, she also hates wedge shoes, so Kate can’t wear them in front of her, either.
And then there’s the clutch! Kate always seems to be pictured with a small handbag, and there are some very good reasons for this. Royals can only shake so many hands a day, and if they don’t want to shake any more they can simply hold their bag with both hands, therefore rendering themselves unavailable to anyone approaching them.
What’s more, there’s another more risqué reason why so many royal women carry clutches everywhere. And that is, if they do choose to wear a low-cut dress at any point, they can use the bag to hide their cleavage if needs must. Princess Diana was famous for this. “We used to laugh when we designed what she called her ‘cleavage bags,’ little satin clutches which she would cover her cleavage with when she stepped out of cars,” her bag designer Anya Hindmarch told The Daily Telegraph in 2009.
Kate also usually wears a hat whenever she’s attending events, and the reason for that stretches back decades. In the 1950s it wasn’t thought seemly for upper-class ladies to display their hair in public. Of course, times have changed, but the hats remain. And the duchess is also required to wear a tiara at royal dining events. In royal circles, you see, the headdress demonstrates that you are married.
Interestingly, there’s one particularly morbid rule concerning royal clothing that has been in place ever since the Queen took the throne. Whenever a royal goes abroad, they have to take an all-black outfit with them. Why? You guessed it: in case any other royal happens to pass away during the period of the overseas trip! Therefore, if they have black clothes with them already, they’ll be dressed fittingly for their return to Britain.
It sounds almost ridiculous that someone needs to worry about what they’re wearing when a member of their family dies, but this was the problem that faced the Queen in 1952. While she was in Kenya, her father passed away, making her the new monarch. But reportedly she felt she couldn’t face her public without wearing mourning clothes, and so she had to wait for some to be delivered to her.
Having to adhere to such a dress code sounds difficult enough. But there are other rules that govern Kate’s life, too. For instance, she’s not supposed to show affection to her husband in public – even holding hands is more or less taboo. Why? Simply because the royal family consider themselves to be working when they’re out and about, and public displays of affection aren’t very businesslike.
Selfies too are a long way from being businesslike, so you’re unlikely to catch Kate taking one. It does happen every now and again, but rather than her holding the camera, it’s usually an over-zealous fan. And autographed photos are most definitely out, albeit for a more serious reason: the royals aren’t allowed to sign anything for fear someone could forge any of their signatures.
And even that’s not all! Royal family etiquette is vital. Kate is expected to curtsy to the Queen whenever the situation calls for it and to Prince Charles and his wife as well. And officially, she also has to curtsy to the princesses who were born to that title, like Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, but only if William isn’t with her. If he is with her, the princesses should bow to William and Kate. Confusing? You bet.
Having a nice sit-down dinner with the family is also complicated. Allegedly, the royal family generally don’t eat shellfish, as there’s the possibility it could cause allergic reactions. And the Queen reportedly hates garlic, so that’s out too. Moreover, drinking from a teacup ought to be done in a particular way – hold the top of the cup handle with your index finger and thumb, and put your middle finger on the bottom of it.
And finally there’s one of the most vital monarchical rules: royals don’t get involved in politics. They’re not allowed to state political opinions to the media; indeed, Kate may not even vote. According to Newsweek, although there are no strict rules governing whether a royal can vote, some or all choose not to.
Moreover, regardless of what Kate may think about a situation, she’s required to remain neutral. At no point was this clearer than when she attended the BAFTAs in February 2018. On the night, most actresses wore black in order to make a stand against sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry, which put the duchess in a difficult position. She ended up wearing a green dress – but accessorized with a black ribbon belt and a black clutch. It was probably the best compromise she could have made.
And yet royal rules actually seem to have been relaxed over the years. For example, it used to be the case that fathers couldn’t be present in royal birthing rooms; however, William was on hand for the arrival of his children. Plus, Harry will be breaking royal tradition when he weds Meghan Markle. She’s divorced, and Harry’s ancestor King Edward had to give up the crown when he married a divorcee.
Kate will certainly be present for Harry and Meghan’s wedding. And rumor has it that she’ll wear something conservative for the service, in keeping with her position as a queen-consort-in-waiting. But she may not always stick with the same traditions. Who knows, when Kate actually becomes Queen, perhaps she’ll abolish some of the rules! We may see her with colored nail polish yet.
Kate isn’t the only one in the royal family who must follow rules, however. In fact, she even has her very own set of rules for George, Charlotte and Louis. And there’s apparently one very specific household item that the children aren’t allowed to use.
Prince William’s family, his wife Kate Middleton and his children George and Charlotte, could in no way be said to be a normal family. For a start, William is second in line to the throne of Great Britain and little George is third. They have wealth and power far beyond that of most people, and are often governed by royal protocols which, to the outside world, seem crazy. But in ways that might surprise you, they’re actually not unlike us mere mortals when it comes to parenting. Indeed, it turns out they too have rules for their kids.
Healthy and loving royal families are not, unfortunately, a common thing. Or at least they weren’t until recently. The history books are packed full of stories of neglected royal offspring. Queen Victoria, for example, had terrible relationships with both her mother and her children. For a long time, the duty of young royals was to be seen but not heard.
Luckily, times have changed. Though Prince Charles had a somewhat distant rapport with his own parents, the Queen and Prince Philip, his relationship with his sons William and Harry seems to be stable and loving. And, of course, their mother Princess Diana practically reformed modern royal childhood by insisting on raising her kids herself.
After Prince William married Kate Middleton in 2011, the world waited with baited breath to see what sort of parents they would be to a new generation of royal children. We didn’t have to wait long. Just a couple of years after the couple’s wedding, their first child Prince George came along. Two years after that, his sister, Princess Charlotte, was born.
And it soon turned out that Kate and William were much more open about the pressures of parenthood than previous royals had been. Best of all, they were open about the difficulties as well as the joys. “I’ve struggled at times,” Prince William told Vietnamese show Talk Vietnam in 2016. “The alteration from being a single, independent man to going into marriage and then having children is life-changing.”
Likewise, Kate spoke about the impact parenthood can have on mental health at an event in March 2017. “Personally, becoming a mother has been such a rewarding and wonderful experience,” she said to the crowd. “However, at times it has also been a huge challenge. Even for me, who has support at home that most mothers do not.” She said that at times she felt a “lack of confidence.”
It’s refreshing to see the couple speak out like this. After all, if such privileged folk are adamant that parenting isn’t always easy, that bodes well for the confidence of the rest of us. Plus, the royals now grant glances inside their family life that they never would have given a few decades ago. This allows the world to see both their successes and their more trying times.
Significantly, the royals have recently become a lot more open about mental health. In 2017 Prince Harry revealed he’d sought counseling to help him come to terms with the death of his mother. As a result of that painful period in his life, he, his brother and Kate formed the Heads Together charity. It’s aim is to reduce the stigma around mental health and discussing it.
“Catherine and I are clear that we want both George and Charlotte to grow up feeling able to talk about their emotions and feelings,” Prince William told CALMzine in April 2017. “Over the past year we have visited a number of schools together where we have been amazed listening to children talk about some quite difficult subjects in a clear and emotionally articulate way, something most adults would struggle with.”
“Seeing this has really given me hope things are changing,” Prince William went on. “And there is a generation coming up who find it normal to talk openly about emotions.” It’s clear then that William and Kate have gotten off to an excellent start when it comes to raising their children to be healthy. But not too long after that interview, another article came along that highlighted a different aspect of their parenting.
In July 2017 Us Weekly ran a story about life inside the Palace home for Kate, William, George and Charlotte. They revealed some cute details about the children, including that two-year Charlotte adores Disney Princesses (and hasn’t quite realized that she actually is one.) And they also revealed that the Duke and Duchess had taken the step of banning iPads and other social media gadgets from their kids.
“They’re very much seen as Mummy and Daddy’s toys, not for children. As two people who grew up without gadgets for entertainment themselves, William and Kate are firm believers in toys, outdoor play, and encouraging an active imagination,” an anonymous source told the magazine. “They’re very much a normal family.”
In fact, it isn’t that unusual for parents to prevent their younger children from getting their hands on such household gadgets. As social media use has increased among children, and as the dangers presented by unchecked internet use has become clearer, many adults have opted to not allow their children online access until they’re in their teens at least.
Not only that, but studies have been done which show it’s unhealthy for a child to be “babysat” by an iPad or other gadget. A study published in 2015 in the journal Pediatrics noted that “the instant accessibility and portability of mobile devices make them potentially more likely to displace human interactions and other enriching activities… Parents’ use of interactive media also has the potential to distract from parent-child interactions.”
There’s also been discussion about whether unfiltered access to the internet can affect a child’s mental health and body image. Viewing other people’s successes on social media could potentially lead adolescents to suffer low self-esteem. That’s because they could think they’ll never be as popular or attractive as those they see online.
Furthermore, there have been studies which show links between depression and social media use. The internet may be overstimulating our brains, causing us to feel unhappy and withdrawn when we can’t access it. Overuse of screens – cell phones, iPads and the such – may even cause sleep disorders, moody behavior and addiction.
Kate and William aren’t the only famous parents who’ve banned their kids from using gadgets. In 2014 it was reported that Steve Jobs, the late founder of Apple, prevented his own children from using the iPad or other online technology too much. People were shocked, but as the man who helped pioneer creations like the iPad, Jobs was surely more aware than most people about its potential dangers.
And William and Kate are certainly also aware. In fact, as royals, they are likely more aware about the dangers of the internet than most. The royal family values privacy to a great extent, but the internet makes it a hard thing to attain for those who really engage with it. Though the Palace does have its own social media accounts, you won’t find Kate or William posting selfies there.
And you certainly won’t see casual snaps of George or Charlotte playing. Indeed, Kate Middleton protects the privacy of her children very fiercely. While some celebrities are happy to share uncontrolled photos of their kids, Kate is not. In fact, she and William have actually taken legal action before against paparazzi pictures of George taken without her knowledge.
At first glance, not allowing George or Charlotte to use iPads almost seems like a callback to the times when the royal family was behind-the-times and stuffy. But, once you think about it, it’s certainly not. With the world only just really starting to understand the implications of allowing children internet access, Kate and William may actually be well ahead of the curve on this one.