While there are plenty of things that prove the British royal family is just like us plebs, there are also a few traditions that show the royals' norm is not exactly like ours. Meghan Markle, who's set to marry Prince Harry and become a duchess, is making headlines for ducking a major part of royal tradition and hugging a member of the public — but this isn't the first time she's done so, and she's not the first royal woman to break this particular tradition.
Markle and Prince Harry were visiting the café Social Bite, which works to end homelessness, in Edinburgh on Feb. 13 as part of their tour of Scotland when Markle paused to hug Alice Thompson, one of the café's founders, TODAY reported. "Thompson told the future royal how inspired she had been by a UN Women's conference speech Markle gave in 2015. The conversation between the two women concluded with a hug outside the café," said Eun Kyung Kim, writing for TODAY.
Ending heartfelt conversations with hugs is normal for many folks, but totally unusual for the royals. According to a quick guide for the rules of touching royals, put together by The Atlantic, members of the public aren't supposed to touch royals at all beyond a cordial handshake. According to The Atlantic, this is one of the most-broken rules about royals. LeBron James put an arm around Kate Middleton while posing for a photo in 2014, and one comment about James's "oops" from etiquette expert William Hanson, made to the Daily Mail, may explain part of why Markle was willing to hand out a hug: "Americans are much more tactile than we Brits and this is another example of an American being too touchy feely with British royalty."
Now that an American is about to become British royalty, though, it seems like she may be embracing more American traditions when it comes to showing affection. Her much-talked-about hug at Social Bite is actually the second in as many months; back in January, she was group-hugged by a bunch of schoolkiddos after Prince Harry encouraged them, reported Express.
And though the Queen also made waves when she appeared to share a mutual side-hug with Michelle Obama in 2009, Markle's willingness to hand out hugs is reminding folks of another royal tradition-shaker: Princess Diana.
Diana was often hailed as a revolutionary in the house of royals, and according to TODAY, she was "known for hugging many of the people she met with, particularly patients and workers at hospitals, charities, and organizations she visited." Diana also shook hands in 1987 with a man who had AIDS, and she wasn't wearing gloves, which meant "publicly challenging the notion that HIV/Aids [sic] was passed from person to person by touch," reported the BBC. She did so at an exclusive HIV/AIDS treatment unit she opened at London Middlesex Hospital, another sign of her advocacy for folks dealing with an illness that, at the time, was largely misunderstood and demonized.
Markle and Prince Harry seem to be following in Diana's footsteps in some other areas of royal life, including appearing to be bucking the trend Prince William and Duchess Kate set when it comes to public displays of affection. While William and Kate are often very restrained with PDA, Prince Harry and Markle have been a bit more demonstrative, People reported.
Their tendency toward hand-holding and linking arms is "atypical for royal engagements," royal etiquette expert Myka Meier told People. However, like Markle's hug, the couple's open affection is netting some positive responses. "[Their affection] is a seemingly welcomed gesture to show unity and celebration of their engagement period," Meier explained.
If Markle's current willingness to embrace commoners is setting the stage for her future interactions with non-royals, folks could be in for a very Diana-like reign when Markle becomes a duchess this May.