While each family is unique, every one has certain traditions they always follow. British royalty, however, takes their special customs to the next level. When the fate of an entire nation’s social order is at stake, everything — from clothing to household norms — has to be regimented to a tee.
Traditions can’t be followed forever, though. In fact, one of Queen Elizabeth’s cousins recently took a bold step; with one single, public move, he dared to smash a long-lasting royal norm.
Given their status as the leaders of a prominent nation, the British royal family has to follow countless traditions. Some make perfect sense, but others are admittedly a bit more… unusual.
Some of their rituals are obviously designed to show the reigning monarch the proper level of respect. Everyone must stand, for example, when the queen enters or exits the room.
Other guidelines, however, seem a bit more arbitrary. Like, when the Windsor family sits down to dinner, they’re all advised against eating one particular type of cuisine. It’s unconventional, but rules are rules.
The royal family isn’t supposed to eat any shellfish due to the high risk of food-borne illness. Given everyone’s duties running the country, it’s just too dangerous to stop at the raw bar.
Dock’s Oyster House
And while rules are obviously important, they’re also made to be broken. And every family, even a royal one, always has someone who’s willing to cause a stir and do things their own way.
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For the British royal family, that person was Lord Ivar Mountbatten. While his name might not be as recognizable as Prince Harry or Meghan Markle, he’s one of Queen Elizabeth’s distant cousins.
His public life, however, started traditionally enough. In 1994, Lord Ivar got married to Penelope Anne Vere Thompson; they formally tied the knot at an elegant ceremony in Clare, Suffolk.
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As a couple, the pair seemed to be a perfect match. Two years after the wedding, they had their first daughter; they would add two more girls to the family in the coming years.
But, behind the public smiles, things weren’t going as well as they appeared. The “happy” marriage was actually a prison for Lord Ivar. He knew that he needed to do something before things got any worse.
In 2010, Lord Ivar and Thompson officially separated; one year later, they were formally divorced. Neither party held any ill will towards the other, but they were eager to move on with their lives.
Mountbatten moved forward on his own, turning the couple’s former estate into an event venue. He also decided to take a vacation, hoping to finally relax after years of domestic stress.
One winter, he visited Verbier, a ski resort tucked high in the Swiss Alps. While the trip was planned as a chance to unwind, it turned into something much greater for Lord Ivar.
During the vacation, he met someone special. The pair struck up a close bond; once back in England, their relationship continued to blossom, and in September 2016, Lord Ivar finally made an announcement.
He announced to the British public that he had met someone and the pair would be getting married. He then introduced his partner, James Coyle, an airline cabin services director.
In that moment, Lord Ivar had done more than announce his wedding plans. Standing in front of the entire nation, he had shattered centuries of royal tradition and come out as a gay man.
Given British “stiff upper lip” culture and the country’s historically negative view towards homosexuality, it was a watershed moment. But there was no time to dwell on history; before long, Lord Ivar was preparing for the ceremony.
When the big day finally came, the wedding included one special touch. Rather than being escorted down the aisle by a parent, Lord Ivar walked to the altar with his ex-wife.
“It was [our daughters’] idea,” Thompson said. “It makes me feel quite emotional. I’m really very touched.” But how did the rest of the royal family react to the wedding?
No one made an official statement, but Queen Elizabeth announced that she would fight “discrimination against people on the basis of their race, faith, gender, disability, or sexual orientation,” when she opened Parliament. Was her cousin in the back of her mind?
Similarly, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have spent a good portion of their life together working to support LGBT youth. “This is a basic human rights issue, not one about sexuality,” Markle reportedly explained in 2018.
While the royal family welcomed Coyle into their fold without a second thought, not every connection comes naturally. In fact, there are two duchesses who have a much more complex relationship…
Though neither Kate Middleton nor Meghan Markle started out as royals, the two duchesses have possibly become the two most visible members of England’s most famous family. Reporters can’t help but speculate — are they friends, rivals, or something in between?
Meghan and Kate made their first official appearance together on Christmas Day in 2017. Of course, they had very different paths in ingratiating themselves into the Windsors. They were almost from two separate worlds.
Even though she wasn’t a noble, Kate came from a privileged background. Her parents ran a successful party supply company, and she attended the prestigious University of St. Andrews. There, she befriended classmate Prince William.
After years of dating, William and Kate decided to tie the knot in 2010. The following year, in what the press dubbed “The Wedding of the Century,” she became the Duchess of Cambridge. Similarly, Meghan got married in 2011.
However, she didn’t marry any prince! Then a Hollywood hopeful, the Los Angeles native got hitched with actor and producer Trevor Engelson. Their marriage dissolved two years later, as Meghan’s career really started to take off.
Meghan’s earlier career was defined by bit parts and a stint as a suitcase girl on Deal or No Deal. However, her name went up in lights when she nabbed the regular role of Rachel Zane on the USA legal drama Suits.
As Meghan’s work prospects took off to new heights, her personal life did the same. In 2016, a mutual friend did her a royal favor by setting her up on a blind date with Prince Harry. Their relationship started heating up before long.
Soon, she scored an invitation to Kate’s 35th birthday party. We can only assume she made a strong first impression on the royal family, but the details are hazy. All we know for sure was that she gifted Kate a dream journal.
And the two women would soon get to know each other even better. Not to be outdone by William and Kate, Harry and Meghan wed in lavish fashion in 2018. A foreigner — and a mixed-race one at that — had officially become a Windsor.
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With Kate and Meghan now firmly entrenched among the royals, there was the big question of how the sisters-in-law would get along. Insider accounts reported they got off to a bit of a bumpy start.
While pregnant with Prince Louis, Kate felt stress from both the physical toll and the public scrutiny. She didn’t necessarily have the time to properly welcome Meghan into the family, as she already had a ton on her plate.
However, Meghan reached out to Kate during this trying time. She shared some dietary advice that helped the Duchess through the rest of her pregnancy. In turn, Kate lent a hand in Meghan’s big dilemma.
Naturally, Meghan found herself in a big adjustment as she shifted from Hollywood to Buckingham Palace. Her experienced sister-in-law helped her learn royal protocol — everything from proper wardrobe to how to stand at official events.
From there, a close bond formed between them. When their busy schedules allowed, they spent time together one-on-one, such as a weekend visit to Wimbledon. They exchanged jokes and comments throughout the match.
The royal sisters-in-law grew closer on a personal level, but Kate also took Meghan under her wing on a professional level. She invited Meghan to join the Royal Foundation Forum, a charitable organization started by William and Harry.
This was a huge step forward for Meghan. “She really admires how Kate has carved out her own space when it comes to humanitarian work alongside being an amazing mother,” said a source close to the royal family.
When Meghan announced her pregnancy in late 2018, nobody celebrated more than Kate. She couldn’t wait for the two of them to experience motherhood together. But she didn’t foresee the other big change on the horizon.
Just months before the birth of their first child, Harry and Meghan decided to move out of Kensington Palace. They would take up residence at Frogmore Cottage, under a separate roof from the rest of the family for the first time.
Town & Country Magazine
The move would mean that Meghan and Kate would see each other on a less regular basis. Still, there was no doubt they’d still make time for each other, especially once their children became friends.
Though they may clash on occasion, the two women realize that they’re best off supporting each other. When it comes to marrying into the world’s most high-profile family, Kate and Meghan know they need to stick together.
After all, it’s no walk in the park being a royal, especially with the world scrutinizing your every relationship. Meghan found this out when she first met Prince Harry…
Most famous love stories have fairytale-like beginnings, but the story of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle actually began on a blind date. In fact, Meghan knew very little about Harry and his royal bloodline.
“I didn’t know much about him,” Meghan told BBC, “so the only thing I asked… was, ‘Well is he nice?'” Harry was even more ill-prepared — he had never even heard of Meghan before that night. Talk about awkward!
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But, as luck would have it, the pair hit it off, and just a few weeks later Harry invited Meghan to a charity trip to Africa. “[It] was crucial to me to make sure that we had a chance to get to know each other,” the prince recalled.
The couple managed to keep their relationship under wraps for several months, but in late October 2016, news of the courtship broke. Sources claimed that Harry had “been desperate to keep the relationship quiet.”
Then Meghan posted a photo to Instagram that featured two bananas spooning on the day that the news of the relationship leaked. Was this Meghan’s coy way of confirming the rumor?
The tabloids were quick to eat up every last bit of juicy gossip. Sure, Meghan was used to the spotlight, but the attention that came with being associated with the Royals proved to be an entirely different ballgame.
“There was a misconception that this would be something I would be familiar with,” the actress told BBC. “But I’ve never been part of tabloid culture. I’ve lived a relatively quiet life.”
The press grew relentless when it came to getting the scoop on the newest royal relationship, going as far as harassing Meghan’s mother to get the info they were after. Eventually, Harry had had enough.
Through the Royal House, Harry issued a statement that called for an end to the harassment: “Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle’s safety. It is not right that Ms. Markle should be subjected to such a storm.”
The statement worked to somewhat quell the media frenzy, though it wasn’t long before rumors began to circulate that Prince William was unhappy. This prompted the Duke of Cambridge to issue his own statement.
“The Duke of Cambridge absolutely understands the situation concerning privacy and supports the need for Prince Harry to support those closest to him,” read part of the statement.
Ultimately, it was made clear that while Harry’s call to the press was off-brand for a royal, the family had no issue with his defense of Meghan.
By the end of 2016, Harry’s press hiccup had all but been forgotten in the wake of the news that Queen Elizabeth herself had given Meghan her approval.
The Queen isn’t just the ruler of the United Kingdom, but she’s also one of Harry’s biggest fans. A source close to the family told Us Weekly: “[The Queen is] delighted to see Harry in a loving relationship.”
Meghan had similarly good things to say about her time spent with the Queen: “It’s incredible, to be able to meet her through [Harry’s] lens,” she shared with BBC.
“Not just with his honor and respect for her as the monarch, but the love that he has for her as his grandmother… She’s an incredible woman,” she added.
The couple spent Christmas apart in 2016, though they reunited for a romantic New Year’s holiday. Now that their secret was out, Harry and Meghan were free to travel to Norway without fear of spilling the beans.
Among the beautiful sights they took in during their excursion to the Arctic Circle were the Northern Lights, and by this time those close to the couple swore they could hear wedding bells on the horizon.
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Though Harry and Meghan were staying mum, their friends had things to say! “I can see them engaged by the spring,” a friend of Harry’s told Us Weekly. “He’s head over heels.”
Following their Norway trip, Harry began bringing Meghan around the family more often, introducing her to Kate Middleton and Princess Charlotte at Kensington in early 2017.
Meghan also began spending more time with William, with whom sources claimed she got along very well. “Naturally, William is very happy for his brother,” one source relayed.
When it came time for Harry to meet Meghan’s family, the actress flew her mother, Doria Ragland, out to London for a rendezvous with the prince himself. Serious stuff!
Harry was no-doubt nervous about this meeting, but, like Meghan and the royals, he and Doria immediately hit it off — more proof that this pair was meant to be!
Doria was subsequently spotted with the couple on numerous occasions. But Harry hadn’t yet gotten the chance to meet Meghan’s father: “He’s talked to my dad a few times, [but] hasn’t been able to meet him yet.”
Even though they were still living apart at this time, Harry and Meghan had grown closer than ever; when the actress wasn’t in Toronto filming Suits, she was “virtually living” with Harry at Kensington Palace.
Their next big outing took place when Harry brought Meghan to Jamaica as his plus one for a friend’s wedding. Many took this as the official next step in their relationship, and photos from the event seemed to confirm this.
The rumors about the couple only continued to grow after Meghan shut down her popular lifestyle website, The Tig. The actress insisted she did so to focus on her charity work, but by then the speculation had already begun.
Things got even more buzzworthy when Meghan flew to London just before Pippa Middleton’s wedding. Apparently, Meghan was taken straight to the royal palace upon arriving at Heathrow International Airport.
Meghan was present at Pippa’s wedding reception, which was the first time she’d been seen at a royal family event. She was also spotted at the Audi Polo Challenge in England cheering on Harry from the stands.
Then, the couple celebrated Meghan’s 36th birthday with another trip to Africa. The choice might’ve seemed strange, but many believe Harry and Meghan first bonded over their desire to help those in need.
In fact, they visited the founding site of his charity, Sentebale. In the language of the Lesotho people, “sentebale” means “forget me not,” which Harry used as an homage to his late mother, Princess Diana.
Meghan’s first major royal appearance came at the Invictus Games in September 2017. The event serves to honor wounded, injured, and sick military personnel through sports and other physical competitions.
The games were being held in Toronto, and more than once the couple was spotted holding hands. Doria was also in attendance, furthering the notion that the two families were soon to become one.
Finally, after over a year, Meghan finally came clean. Gracing the cover of the October issue of Vanity Fair, the actress gave a tell-all interview about the truth behind her relationship with Harry.
“We’re a couple. We’re in love,” Meghan revealed. “I’m sure there will be a time when we will have to come forward and present ourselves and have stories to tell.”
“But,” she continued. “I hope what people will understand is that this is our time. This is for us. It’s part of what makes it so special, that’s just ours. But we’re happy. Personally, I love a great love story,”
With the word finally out, there was only one thing left for Harry to do. So, in November 2017, the Prince of Wales popped the question that everyone was waiting for. And, wouldn’t you know it, she said yes!
News of the engagement traveled as Prince Charles issued his official statement: “His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince Harry to Ms. Meghan Markle.”
On the same day that Prince Charles announced the engagement, the couple’s BBC interview was released to the public. In the video, Harry and Meghan recounted the fateful night they’d spent in their Kensington cottage.
“It was just a standard typical night for us,” Harry said before Meghan chimed in: “Just a cozy night… trying to roast a chicken. It was just an amazing surprise, it was so sweet and natural and very romantic.”
Meghan was so excited about the proposal that she didn’t even let Harry finish the question before she said yes! “It was just the two of us and I think I managed to catch you by surprise as well,” Harry said to Meghan.
When asked when he realized that Meghan was “the one” during an engagement photo shoot, he didn’t hesitate in reply: “the very first time we met.”
At last, on May 19, 2018, Harry and Meghan tied the knot at Windsor Castle in front of a crowd of guests. Tens of millions around the world also tuned in from home, making it one of the most watched events of the year.
Meghan turned heads in a beautiful Givenchy gown and was given a diamond-platinum tiara from the Queen’s own collection. With Meghan’s father, Thomas, absent, it was Prince Charles who walked her down the aisle.
Now hailed as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, the couple announced on October 15th, 2018 that they were expecting their first child! The newest royal will join the family sometime in the spring of 2019.
The New York Times Post
When the next prince or princess does finally arrive, however, they’ll be disappointed to find that becoming the next King or Queen of England may not be in the cards.
Upon being born, the baby will be seventh in line for the throne, behind Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis.