7 Obscure Royal Traditions You've Probably Never Heard Of

by Megan Grant
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We've all got the royal fever right now, and the only cure is more royal talk. The impending nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have got us obsessing over wedding cake traditions, other delicious eats they might serve, the history behind the flowers they carry, and how we can steal all of it for our own weddings. But did you know that aside from all of the old-fashioned wedding rules, there are other royal traditions you've never heard of?

The United Kingdom is undoubtedly a region steeped in history; and in some ways, it seems time has stood still as the British monarchy has steadfastly held on to some of its oldest traditions. We could see changes in the future, as Prince Harry once told Newsweek in an exclusive interview, "We are involved in modernizing the British monarchy." Until then, it might be safe to say tradition reigns supreme. In fact, an Ipsos MORI Global Trends report shared by Independent revealed 80 percent of UK citizens say they value their traditions, coming third after China (90 percent) and Russia (82 percent).

Aside from wedding fruitcake and sprigs of myrtle in the bridal bouquet, what other longstanding rules does the monarchy follow? Here's a look at some other royal traditions you maybe haven't heard of yet.


Trooping The Colour

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According to, Trooping the Colour goes all the way back to the 17th century. In battle, soldiers needed to be able to recognize the other men on their side; so the colors of their regiment were "trooped" in front of them each day. Trooping was also something foot guards used to do every day in London as they mounted their horses.

Fast forward to today, and Trooping the Colour is part of the Queen's birthday celebration ever year. Until 1987, she would arrive by horse, dressed in the uniform of whatever regiment was being trooped, since the celebration rotates between them, says the website. These days, she arrives by carriage — an equally beautiful entrance. The parade is made up of more than 1,000 officers, 200 horses, 200 musicians, and drummers; afterward, the royal family meets on the balcony at Buckingham palace and watches the Royal Air Force fly through the sky.


Swan Upping

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According to, since the 12th century (if not earlier), the Crown declared ownership of all mute swans, which is a species of swan, in the country, due to their value as a fancy dish. Although they're not eaten anymore, the Queen has a Swan Warden which helps in the conservation of the species, explains Since younger swans (called cygnets) are so fragile, the Warden serves to examine assess the health of them and make sure they're in good condition. Royal Swan Uppers wear the uniform of the Queen and row together with Uppers from other livery companies. Aside from swan upping for more practical purposes, it's also an event schools are invited to, encouraging children to be active in wildlife.


Avoiding Shellfish

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The royal family is very cognizant of tummy troubles, and thus avoids anything overly spicy or exotic, rare meat, foreign water, and perhaps most notably, shellfish, according to the BBC. This includes shrimp, crab, lobster, clams, oysters, and squid. While some people might have an allergy or sensitivity to shellfish, it's also possible to get shellfish poisoning — more commonly in the summer months, according to MedlinePlus. Symptoms include stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and headaches. While shellfish poisoning typically isn't very serious, the royal family knows you can never be too careful!


Keeping Your Hands To Yourself

WPA Pool/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images explains there aren't technically any rules when meeting a royal, but a lot of people like to take the traditional route anyway. Before you throw your arms around the Queen or another member of the family for a big bear hug, you might want to stick with a neck bow (for the gents) or a small curtsy (for the ladies). While the media have lambasted people for breaking tradition and touching royals in more "intimate" matters — like when LeBron James put his arm around Kate Middleton, The Atlantic reminds us — this is one of those traditions where there's a bit more leeway, particularly because we Americans tend to be the touchy-feely bunch, and sometimes, well, you can't help but high-five a royal. Amirite? Even Meghan Markle has broken royal protocol and handed out hugs.


Getting Permission To Wed

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While we're all obsessing over Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's May wedding, there's one detail some people don't know: they had to get permission to get married first, due to the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, explains BBC America. The Queen reserves the right to declare any marriage a no-go, should she not like the person (obvi not a problem with M.Mark). According to the BBC, it's never happened; and supposedly, rules have softened. People says as of 2015, only the first six people in line to the thrown have to get permission from the Queen to wed. (For reference, Prince Harry is fifth in line.)


A Holly Jolly Christmas

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Instead of celebrating Christmas at Buckingham Palace, the royal fam heads to Sandringham House in Norfolk, says Gifts are exchanged on Christmas Eve during teatime, as opposed to Christmas Day. Oh, and as for sending out Christmas cards? If you thought your list was lengthy, you ain't seen nothing yet. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh mail out about 750, plus another 200 from the Duke specifically.


The Royal Dress Code And Traditional Beauty Standards

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Tradition touches many aspects of the royal family, and that even includes their wardrobe choices. Have you ever noticed how the Queen is always wearing bright colors? This isn't on accident, or just because she likes to jazz things up. It's a habit she's gotten into so that when she's in large public gatherings, people can easily spot her, Sophie, Countess of Wessex explains in the documentary The Queen at 90, via PopSugar. Let's be honest: she looks pretty darn good, too. Then there are her gloves, which she's not often seen without. The BBC explains it's not just a fashion statement; it's also to protect her from germs as she shakes countless hands.

While the Queen might wear colors that pop, don't expect to see the same on her nails. Royals must stick to muted and natural colors, Bustle reported in a previous article. In fact, the Queen has been using the same colors for nearly 30 years. (This one.)

Even the little ones have to follow traditional fashion. Look at the adorable Prince George, who's always dressed in a stylish pair of shorts and knee-highs — a tradition dating back to the 16th century. While he does indeed look 50 shades of precious, he's dressed this way because royals can't wear trousers until about the age of eight, which signals manhood approaching. They also symbolize his aristocratic status, says etiquette expert William Hanson to Harper's Bazaar.