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Meeting a member of the British royal family is nerve-racking enough, but then there are dozens of strict royal traditions and rules, such as no turning your back and the proper way to greet a royal (you need to call them “Your Royal Highness” first before you can call them by their name) to remember. Even royals such as Meghan Markle have a hard time remembering all the rules, so there’s really no hope for the rest of us.
Ahead, a roundup of the non-royal celebrities who broke major royal traditions. From the American basketball player who—gasp!—touched Kate Middleton’s shoulder to the British singer who shook Prince Charles’s hand (double gasp!), these stars weren’t exiled from Kensington Palace, but they sure did annoy some royal traditionalists. Check out all of the broken traditions ahead.
Before meeting Prince William earlier this year, Clarke was given the rundown on how to meet a royal. Specifically, she could not turn her back to him, and she had to address him as “Your Royal Highness” before calling him Prince William. She was calm, cool and relaxed, until she came face to face with the Duke of Cambridge, which is when all of her royal lessons went out the window.
“For whatever reason, maybe because I was so scared, I couldn’t manage to get out ‘Your Royal Highness,’ so it was kind of like ‘ra… ra…’ It was pretty much all I managed,” Clarke said in an interview on Late Night with Seth Meyers.
Janney broke not one but two royal traditions when she met Kate Middleton at the BAFTA Films Awards in February. For one, the actress was barefoot and suggested that Middleton also take off her shoes because she was pregnant. The moment was awkward, as expected, and became even more awkward when Janney called Middleton “honey” soon after. (We’re pretty sure “honey” isn’t in the list of approved royal titles.)
“I just told her that I was in bare feet and I told her she should take her shoes off cause she’s pregnant,” Janney said on The Late Late Show with James Corden. “It was an awkward moment. As I did, I called her ‘honey’ and that might not have been royal etiquette.”
Wintour and Queen Elizabeth II looked like fast friends when they sat front-row together at London Fashion Week in 2018. However, Wintour’s buddy-buddy relationship with the Queen didn’t protect her from the heat of royal traditionalists who criticized her for keeping her sunglasses on when talking to a royal.
“Ms. Wintour should know that to wear sunglasses when talking to another person, with no medical reason, is unacceptable,” royal expert Grant Harrold told the Press Association. “She should have removed them before being in the presence of the Queen, let alone in discussion.”
Margot Robbie and Cara Delevingne
Prank-calling your friend is low-key rude no matter who they are. But when that friend is Prince Harry, it’s a definite break in royal tradition. In an interview with The Sun, Robbie revealed her Suicide Squad costar Delevingne, who somehow has Prince Harry’s number in her contacts list, pressured her to prank-call him. Unsurprisingly, Harry was pretty cool with the gag.
“Cara knows Harry, and while we were filming Suicide Squad, she was like, ‘Let’s prank-call him,'” Robbie said. “I said, ‘We can’t prank-call royalty’, but anyway, we did, and he was so cool with it. Prince Harry is so nice. England literally has the coolest royalty in the world.”
For many, Sheeran is considered an honorary sir (his official knighting should come any day now), but that hasn’t stopped him from flubbing royal tradition every now and then. While receiving an award at Buckingham Palace in 2017, the singer broke royal protocol by grabbing Prince Charles’s arm. Though shaking a royal’s hand isn’t against tradition (they need to reach out to you first, however), grabbing their wrist is. Judging from the picture, Charles looks fine.
“Apparently, I did a big faux pas, though,” Sheeran told NBC. “I shook his hand and then grabbed it and you’re not meant to do that.”
It’s common in America to reach your arm over your buddy when taking a selfie with them. However, in Buckingham Palace, that’s a strict no-no. James committed that royal sin when he took a picture with Middleton and Prince William a few years ago and draped his arm over the Duchess of Cambridge’s shoulder. He also had huge sweat stains, which could’ve been from royal nerves. Who can blame the guy?
The Obamas are often regarded as the American royals, but that doesn’t mean that they’re completely brushed up on British royal protocol. Michelle Obama was criticized in 2009 when she took a picture with Queen Elizabeth II and reached her arm around her shoulder. (You can see the incriminating picture here.) Though the half-hug went against royal protocol, it looks like the Queen doesn’t mind, as her hand is right on Obama’s lower back.
The Spice Girls
Whether it’s to a royal or non-royal, an unasked-for pat on the butt is wrong. Geri Halliwell of the Spice Girls broke a huge royal (and societal) rule when she took a selfie with Prince Charles at the premiere of Spice World and briefly touched his ass. You can see the uncomfortable moment above.
“I didn’t pinch Prince Charles’s bum, as was reported. I patted it,” Halliwell told The Times. “Patting him on the bottom was against royal protocol, but we’re all human. It was the premiere of our film, Spice World, in the late nineties. There was a lot of nervous energy—young women, happy antics.”