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A look at strict royal rules of etiquette and strange traditions

Members of the royal family are banned from using certain words and playing 1 board game

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Britain’s King Charles III and Queen Camilla stand on the Buckingham Palace balcony in London.

Britain’s King Charles III wearing the Imperial state Crown, and Britain’s Queen Camilla wearing a modified version of Queen Mary’s Crown stand on the Buckingham Palace balcony while viewing the Royal Air Force fly-past in London Saturday, May 6, 2023.

Adrian Dennis, Associated Press

The British royal family is known for their elegance and manners. Many of the respectable behaviors come from a list of strict behavior guidelines — from how they are expected to dress to how they talk. Banned words, games and colors are all part of the etiquette taught to members of the royal family.

Here are 10 strict rules members of the royal family are expected to follow.

1. The royal family is weighed before and after Christmas dinner

One of the most unusual royal family holiday traditions requires members of the family to get weighed before and after Christmas dinner. If they put on weight, it’s an indication that they really enjoyed their meal.

The bizarre royal tradition dates back to the early 1900s, because Edward VII (King Charles III’s great-great-grandfather) “wanted to ensure his guests ate well,” royal expert Ingrid Seward told Grazia in 2018. Guests who enjoyed the meal were expected to gain three to five pounds.

2. Monopoly is banned

Royals — they’re just like us! They get a little too competitive when playing Monopoly. Prince Andrew revealed that Monopoly was banned in royal homes.

“We’re not allowed to play Monopoly at home. It gets too vicious,” said Prince Andrew, per The Independent.

3. Direct heirs cannot fly together

To protect the line of succession, direct heirs to the throne are forbidden from traveling on the same flight. If direct heirs (such as William and his children) wish to take the same flight, they must first receive special permission from the king, reports Express.

When Prince George turns 12, he will be required to fly separately from his father. This is because, on the off chance of a tragic plane accident, only one heir will be harmed.

4. Never say ‘toilet’

Royals must remain proper in conversations. This means avoiding words like “toilet” and “pardon.” Replace “toilet” with “lavatory” and “pardon” with an apologetic “sorry,” per Harper’s Bazaar.

Apparently using the t-word “is as jarring to an upper-class English ear as the F-word. In fact, I get the impression that they would actually prefer the F-word. Never say ‘toilet.’ Ever. This rule is not optional. It is imperative,” Jerramy Fine, the author of “Regal Rules for Girls” told The Cut.

In addition to the t-word and the p-word, Royals are expected to say “sofa” rather than “couch” and they are placed in a “sitting room” or “drawing room” and never a “living room,” “den” or “lounge.” Also, a person’s perfume should be referred to as their “scent,” as it sounds more natural, reports Harper’s Bazaar.

5. Always travel with a black clothing ensemble

When traveling, members of the royal family are expected to pack an all-black outfit in case of an unexpected death in the family. This way they can be properly dressed to fit the somber occasion when they arrive back in the U.K., reports Harper’s Bazaar.

This rule was created after the unexpected death of Queen Elizabeth II’s father, King George VI. She was rushed home from Kenya and had to wait on the plane in London until someone brought her a change of clothes, according to Bustle. It would have been deemed inappropriate for Elizabeth to emerge in London in a normal dress after the death of the king.

6. And only wear black at funerals

It is not an official rule, but traditionally, royals only wear black during funerals.

“Generally it is thought that black is not usually worn unless in mourning, although Diana Princess of Wales did occasionally wear it for evening functions,” said Alexandra Messervy, founder of The English Manner (a London-based finishing school), per CBS News.

The National Geographic documentary “Diana: In Her Own Words” is narrated entirely by the late princess, using rare audio recordings made by Diana in 1991. During one scene, Diana recalls a time Charles rebuked her for wearing a black dress to a royal engagement, per Newsweek.

“I remember walking into my husband-to-be’s study, and he said, ‘You’re not going in that, are you?’” Diana recalled.

Charles reportedly said, “But it’s black. Only people in mourning wear black.”

Diana responded, “Yes, but I’m not part of your family yet.”

7. The king can drive without a license

The monarch is the only person in the U.K. who can drive without a license or plates on their car, reports Harper’s Bazaar. They don’t even need to take a driver’s test.

Queen Elizabeth drove without a license, but she was a trained driver. While serving in the Army in World War II, Elizabeth was trained as a military driver and mechanic, per Insider.

8. Gifts must be recorded

Members of the royal family must accept all gifts (save a list of people they cannot accept gifts from, such as gifts from businesses) — and keep a list of everything they are given.

“Official gifts should be acknowledged wherever possible, recorded and be traceable at all times,” according to the royal family’s gift policy.

The royal family has been given a fair share of unique presents, such as: 12 boxes of mangos, live animals, a Ph.D. thesis, an Arctic Monkeys CD and a miniature throne from “The Game of Thrones” series.

9. Avoid PDA

Public displays of affection are to be avoided, especially when traveling abroad. There is no official rule against PDA, but it is rare to see royal couples engaging in public affection.

“There is no actual etiquette or royal protocol that says the couple must refrain from PDA,” Myka Meier, a royal etiquette expert told People.

“The likely reasoning is more that while traveling on a tour such as the India trip, technically the couple are working representatives of British Monarchy,” Meier continued. “The couple are likely to show very little PDA, if any, to remain professional during their designated roles abroad.”

Depending on the occasion, such as a casual outing, royal couples might be more touchy with each other.

“Going to somewhere like the mausoleum is very much an official, straight-laced kind of event and you wouldn’t hold hands there if they’re there on an official visit,”  royals writer Judy Wade told People. “Different types of occasions call for different types of behavior.”

10. The proper way to shake hands

For members of the royal family, there is a proper way to shake hands. Always maintain eye contact and keep the number of shakes low.

“A royal handshake should consist of two to three pumps, with your palms open and thumbs down,” Grant Harrold, royal expert and director of the Royal School of Etiquette, told Insider.

As for commoners like ourselves, if you ever meet a royal, don’t initiate a handshake. This is because it is generally frowned upon for members of the public to touch royals.

“If you are a member of the public meeting a member of the royal family, you should never offer your hand to shake — wait for them to initiate the handshake,” Harrold added.