Perhaps you've heard there are a lot of strange royal traditions, and Meghan Markle is out there breaking them with abandon. We're getting near-weekly, if not daily, updates from the royal-obsessed corners of the press about every little thing Markle does that deviates ever so slightly from the noble norm. But at some point we should probably step back and ask why we're so into this narrative in the first place, and whether or not Markle is, you know, actually breaking tradition.
The first question seems rather easy to answer: Markle is a breath of fresh air for the royal family, and we're invested in this narrative that she's the people's princess fit for the times. Every instance of tradition flaunting, no matter how slight, is proof of that. (We imagine that there's probably an uglier crowd, particularly in Britain, that recoils at every instance of Markle supposedly laying waste to centuries of custom, but we should probably pay that set dust.) There's also the fact that a lot of us probably didn't even realize these traditions existed and all just click on the headlines out of curiosity.
Whether she's actually breaking tradition in all these cases, though—that gets a bit hazier. What is royal tradition, after all? Well, in colloquial terms it seems to be a mix of actual laws and protocol, safety measures, whims of the Queen, patterns that overeager royal watchers have picked up on, and family tradition not dissimilar to those found in any other close-knit family.
Even if we can established what truly is tradition, does that mean Markle is really breaking it?
Keep in mind, she's not actually a royal yet. There's that whole matter of a wedding to make it official. So, she's not actually subject to some of these customs for a few more weeks. Keep in mind, she's still in what is basically "princess training." We should also point out that she's not marrying directly into the line of succession either. Yes, it's a bummer to remind some that only an unspeakable tragedy or surprising abdication would lead to Markle one day being crowned queen. So it's not really fair to use Diana and Kate as a litmus test as to whether or not Markle is breaking tradition. The more direct comparisons are Sarah, Duchess of York and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, women who married Prince Harry's uncles.
So, with that in mind, let's take a look at some of the traditions Markle has supposedly broken, or reportedly has her eyes on breaking at the wedding, and try to figure out if the narrative is real.
The Case of the Uncustomary Cake
Supposedly broken tradition: Royals only have fruitcake at their weddings.
Markle's swerve: She's chosen, gasp, lemon elderflower cake.
While it's true that fruit cake appears to be the most popular choice among the English royal family (both Princess Di and Princess Kate chose the option), it's by no means some ironclad tradition. Prince Harry's uncles and their brides also opted for different flavors. Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones chose a devil's food cake for their 1999 nuptials, and Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson were even more daring with a rum cake. Compared to rum and devil, lemon elderflower actually seems like a rather safe choice.
The Unconventionally Colored Bouquet Flowers
Supposedly broken tradition: Royals only carry bouquets with white flowers at their wedding.
Markle's swerve: Reportedly, Markle may incorporate her favorite flower, the peony, which comes in a wide array of colors.
There is an actual royal wedding bouquet tradition that dates back centuries: A myrtle bush has to be included in the bouquet (mind you, many non-royals also practice the tradition due to the plant's symbolic status). However, many a British royal bride have incorporated other flowers, even if most do still opt for an all-white arrangement. So if Markle were to incorporate some pink peonies into her bouquet, would she be the first royal bride to add some color into things? Technically, no. Camilla Parker Bowles (whose wedding was, by definition, as royal as any of the rest) carried some blossoms in shades of yellow and lilacs in her bouquet.
A Weekend Wedding Is Apparently a Horror
Supposedly broken tradition: Royals only marry on weekdays, thank you very much.
Markle's swerve: She's chosen a Saturday.
While it's true that the weddings of Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana, and Duchess Kate all took place during the work week, Saturday weddings aren't unheard of. Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones also chose a Saturday. Princess Anne's second marriage also took place on a Saturday, as did Prince Charles and Camilla's ceremony. Turns out, a Saturday is actually a pretty common day for a royal wedding.
The Mystery of Meghan's Untraditional Style
Supposedly broken tradition: There's a royal dress code.
Markle's swerve: She's not following it.
Since news of the engagement, Markle has been spotted in ripped jeans, without panty hose, and wearing messy buns. Many of these styles are, indeed, uncommon for a royal, but here's where it serves to be reminded that Markle technically isn't a royal yet. It seems like fiancées do get something of a grace period while learning the rules. Princess Diana, after all, posed for a pre-wedding photo call with Prince Charles while wearing khakis and rubber rain boots. Other royal fiancées likewise have been spotted dressing like, gasp, relatively normal women. If anything, though, it seems that Markle's wardrobe is becoming more traditionally royal in the lead-up to the wedding. Let's starting tallying her supposed protocol breaks once she actually gets the title.
Supposedly broken tradition: Royal women only wear clutches.
Markle's swerve: She prefers purses and even in one case a cross-body bag.
There's a narrative out there that Windsor women only carry clutches. It's supposed to discourage people trying to shake hands with royals at events (royals are meant to initiate the handshake). This, though, is quite obviously contradicted by the fact that the Queen herself is almost always seen with a handbag. Markle has been seen with a few clutches, but she too seems to prefer handbags with short handles. She has also been seen wearing cross-body bags, but, again, this can be chalked up to her fiancée status. Again, we have to look to Sophie Rhys-Jones, who was spotted wearing all manner of different bags during her engagement period as well.
Hugging Is Supposedly Forbidden
Supposedly broken tradition: Royals don't hug members of the public.
Markle's swerve: She does.
But so did Princess Diana.
So, next time you read about Markle breaking tradition, keep in mind that it might be because she's not yet a royal, and that some other royal at some point also probably broke the same tradition.