Queen Eliazabeth II, from letting Meghan Markle come to Christmas to embracing Michelle Obama, has broken royal protocol several times
She thought it was ‘all rubbish’ anyway (Picture: Reuters)

Queen Elizabeth II throughout her decades-long reign wasn’t known for always playing by the rules.

As a royal head of state, she lived her life in accordance with strict royal protocol.

Yet the Queen – as much as she was regarded by many as a figure of grace and humility – often bucked these rules entirely.

After all, she was the Queen of Britain.

As the world remembers Elizabeth II after her death aged 96, here are 20 times she broke royal protocol.

  1. The Queen welcomed Meghan Markle at Christmas before she married Prince Harry
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Tim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock (9715996ck) Queen Elizabeth II, Meghan Duchess of Sussex open the new Mersey Gateway Bridge. Queen Elizabeth II and Meghan Duchess of Sussex visit Cheshire, UK - 14 Jun 2018
Meghan Markle and Queen Elizabeth II pictured together (Picture: Rex/Shutterstock)

Having your granddaughter-in-law over for Christmas doesn’t sound ground-breaking.

But the Queen welcoming Meghan Markle to her Sandringham Estate during the holidays in 2017 went against royal rules of Christmas being a Royal Family-only affair.

  1. …And doing it again the following year with Doria Ragland
Mandatory Credit: Photo by REX/Shutterstock (9682973ak) Meghan Markle and her mother, Doria Ragland, arriving at Cliveden House Hotel on the National Trust's Cliveden Estate to spend the night before her wedding to Prince Harry. Royal Wedding preparations, Windsor, UK - 18 May 2018
Meghan Markle and her mum, Doria Ragland, spent Christmas with the royals in 2018 (Picture: Rex/Shutterstock)

In 2018, Meghan was faced with either visiting her mother in Los Angeles, California, or spending it with her husband’s family.

So the Queen invited the Duchess of Sussex’s mum, Doria Ragland, to Christmas instead in yet another unprecedented move.

It’s an offer that hasn’t ever been extended to Kate Middleton’s family.

  1. She let Kate Middleton take photographs of Balmoral
Visit to Forest Kindergarten. Ballerup February 23, 2022 Kate Middleton. Photo: Martin Hoeien / Aller Foto & Video. 23 Feb 2022 Pictured: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. Kate Middleton. Photo credit: Martin Hoeien/Aller/MEGA TheMegaAgency.com +1 888 505 6342
Kate Middleton is a well-known shutterbug (Picture: Aller/Mega)

The Queen let Kate take photographs of Balmoral Castle in Scotland during her first trip to the Queen’s summer estate in 2009, something the royal code does not permit.

According to royal biographer Kate Nicholl: ‘Until now the Queen had met Kate only fleetingly at the wedding of Peter and Autumn Phillips but she went out of her way to make her feel welcome, giving her permission to take pictures at Balmoral — a true gift to a photographer, with its turreted and Gothic-inspired architecture.’

  1. Michelle Obama and the Queen shared a hug
Michelle Obama touches the Queen on the back (Picture: BBC News)
Michelle Obama and the Queen shared a sweet moment when they met in Buckingham Palace (Picture: BBC News)

Again, hugging someone might not sound like a big deal. But royal etiquette bans people (even US First Ladies) from touching a member of the Royal Family.

Michelle Obama in 2009, though, wrapped her arm around the monarch when they first met ⁠— only for the Queen to surprisingly hug her back.

‘If I hadn’t done the proper thing at Buckingham Palace, I had at least done the human thing,’ Obama wrote in her 2018 memoir, Becoming.

  1. She attended Princess Diana’s funeral
The Princess of Wales and the Queen attend the Opening of Parliament in London, November 1982. Diana is wearing a white fur coat and the Spencer tiara. (Photo by Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
The Queen bowed her head at Princess Diana’s funeral (Picture: Hulton Royals Collection)

The Queen shocked grief-stricken Brits when she attended the funeral of Princess Diana in 1997. She chose to bow her head as her former daughter-in-law’s coffin drove by.

England’s monarch is not expected to bow or curtsy to anyone, so not only was her nod a sign of respect to Diana, but her presence at the funeral itself was touching considering monarchs are advised not to attend such ceremonies.

It was also a funeral that never should have happened. The Queen authorised a ceremonial funeral for Diana even though she was no longer a royal, having divorced Prince Charles.

She also attended the funeral of her former housekeeper Annette Wilkin as well as former prime ministers Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.

  1. Addressing the ‘intense scrutiny’ against Harry and Meghan
FILE - In this Tuesday, June 26, 2018 file photo, Britain's Queen Elizabeth, Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex pose for a group photo at the Queen's Young Leaders Awards Ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London. Queen Elizabeth II, Britain???s longest-reigning monarch and a rock of stability across much of a turbulent century, has died. She was 96. Buckingham Palace made the announcement in a statement on Thursday Sept. 8, 2022.(John Stillwell/Pool Photo via AP, File)
The Queen came to Harry and Meghan’s aid (Picture: AP)

The Queen broke her mum’s golden rule ‘never complain, never explain’ for Prince Harry and Meghan.

Buckingham Palace issued a rare public statement from the Queen after the couple’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2021.

‘Harry, Meghan, and Archie will always be much-loved members of my family,’ the Queen said.

‘I recognise the challenges they have experienced as a result of intense scrutiny over the last two years and support their wish for a more independent life.’

  1. Speaking out once more about Brexit
Queen Elizabeth II made a veiled reference to Brexit (Picture: WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II made a veiled reference to Brexit (Picture: WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The Queen is legally obliged to stay unbiased at all times, but she spoke out about Brexit to the surprise of politicians, pundits and the public alike.

In 2019, ‘Elizabeth the Silent’ indirectly addressed the heated arguments about Brexit tearing apart Parliament — and people — as she pleaded for unity.

‘I for one prefer the tried and tested recipes, like speaking well of each other and respecting different points of view; coming together to seek out the common ground; and never losing sight of the bigger picture,’ she said.

  1. Criticising ‘uncaring’ Margaret Thatcher
Thatcher And Queen
Queen Elizabeth II wasn’t the biggest fan of Margaret Thatcher (Picture: Getty Images)

The Queen certainly had a few things to say about then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s policy approach to the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Meant to be a neutral political figure, the Queen’s former press secretary claimed in a 1986 article for The Sunday Times: ‘The Queen considers the prime minister’s approach often to be uncaring, confrontational and socially divisive.’

  1. She called on Scots to ‘think carefully about the independence vote
The 2017 Braemar Highland Gathering
Elizabeth II rarely made political interventions given that she had to remain apolitical as a monarch (Picture: Samir Hussein/Samir Hussein/WireImage)

Rather than stay mum on the subject, the Queen gave a thinly veiled comment about how Scotland should stay in the UK.

In the final days of the Scottish referendum campaign, she told a fan in Balmoral: ‘Well, I hope people will think very carefully about the future.’

  1. When she invented the royal walkabout
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Michael Brennan/Daily Mail/REX/Shutterstock (890474a) Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with John Profumo Queen Elizabeth II in Stepney, London, Britain - 18 Nov 1971 The Profumo Affair was laid to rest last night in of all places Stepney. Queen Elizabeth II, smiled as she shook the hand of John Profumo and said how nice it was to see him.
Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with John Profumo (Picture: Rex/Shutterstock)

Back when Queen Elizabeth inherited the throne, the way royals worked was a lot different to what it is today.

For a start, monarchs kept their distance from the public and didn’t interact with them all too much.

But the Queen sought to change that and began doing walkabouts in the 1970s, which took the form of the street-side meet and greets that so many looked forward to for decades to come.

  1. The Queen let Will and Kate invite whoever they want to their wedding
File photo dated 29/4/2011 of Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton, who has been given the title of The Duchess of Cambridge, wave to the crowd from the balcony of Buckingham Palace, London, following their wedding at Westminster Abbey. The Duke of Cambridge celebrates his 40th birthday on Tuesday. Issue date: Monday June 20, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story ROYAL William Photos. Photo credit should read: John Stillwell/PA Wire
William and Kate felt overwhelmed by the number of people they had to invite to their wedding (Picture: PA)

William and Kate were duty-bound to invite hundreds of people to their 2011 wedding, something which biographer Marcia Moody said made William’s ‘heart sink’.

But the Queen simply told her grandson to ‘tear up’ the mandatory guest list and invite only who they want to there instead – a novel concept in the high-pressure world of royal weddings.

  1. Casually autographing a fan’s football
The Queen signs a Manchester United football, held by Nicholas How,13, (the Duke Of Edinburgh signed the one held by Elianoor Munning, 13) for Malaysian Manchester United Football Club supporters in the Suria KLCC shopping centre, Kuala Lumpur on the penultimate day of her State visit to Malaysia. Former Manchester United and England soccer star, Sir Bobby Charlton, right, was also there to greet her. Photograph by Fiona Hanson/PA
Royals aren’t allowed to sign autographs, but the Queen did so anyway for one lucky boy (Picture: PA)

A royal giving out their autograph is a major no-no – just imagine the eBay forgeries that would pop up.

Yet the Queen broke the major tradition by signing the football of a young Manchester United fan in 1998.

  1. Doing the Conga with commoners after World War Two
Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) driving an ambulance during her wartime service in the A.T.S. (Auxiliary Territorial Service), 10th April 1945. (Photo by Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)
Then Princess Elizabeth served in the army as an Auxiliary Territorial Service member (Picture: Getty Images)

Just 13 when World War Two started in 1939, then Princess Elizabeth soon became the first female royal to ever join the military.

On 8 May 1945, the war came to an end. For Elizabeth — and the country she would soon rule — it was a moment of celebration.

She slipped out in her Auxiliary Territorial Service uniform to celebrate with the rest of London that evening, joining a conga dance through the Ritz Hotel.

‘I remember we were terrified of being recognised so I pulled my uniform cap well down over my eye,’ she recalled in a 1985 interview with the BBC.

‘I think it was one of the most memorable nights of my life.’

  1. The Queen stood on a separate balcony from the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Cornwall
Mandatory Credit: Photo by WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock (13375289h) (EDITOR'S NOTE: File image) The Queen has died aged 96, Buckingham Palace has announced. - In this file photo: (L-R) Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, attend the National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph on 10 November, 2019 in London, England, held annually to commemorate military personnel who died in the line of duty on the anniversary of the end of the First World War. UK's Queen Elizabeth II Dies Aged 96, London, United Kingdom - 08 Sep 2022
Camilla, then Duchess of Cornwall, Queen Elizabeth II and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (Picture: Rex/Shutterstock)

On a typical day, members of the Royal Family must stand in line according to rank. The Queen can usually be found with Kate Middleton and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, standing on either side of her.

But during the not exactly typical time of Covid-19, social distancing measures meant the three couldn’t stand together.

Instead, the Queen stood with her lady-in-waiting, Susan Rhodes.

  1. With a smile, the Queen accepted flowers from a well-wisher

Traditionally, there are only certain circumstances when a member of the Royal Family can accept a gift from someone they do not know.

But Belfast blogger Laura-Ann Barr did just that at one of the Queen’s Buckingham Palace garden parties in 2019.

Even as Elizabeth II’s security told Barr she couldn’t, she handed the Queen a bouquet of flowers anyway. The Queen, of course, accepted the flowers with a gracious smile.

‘The security staff congratulated me and said they were surprised she stopped and accepted the flowers,’ Laura-Ann told People. ‘They said that had not happened ever before.’

  1. Every Christmas, the Queen shared a drink with her royal chef
NPL: Queen Elizabeth II attends a state banquet in Nepal
The Queen wasn’t able to invite non-royals to the dining room — but she did anyway (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)

The Queen’s former personal chef, Darren McGrady, used to get an invite every year to a place only a select few can enter.

Each Christmas, Her Majesty would invite the royal chef into the Sandringham House dining room, a space only royals can enter.

‘Right before the Christmas buffet, the senior chef on duty goes into the dining room and carves the rib roast or turkey or ham and once he’s done, Her Majesty presents the chef with a glass of whiskey and they toast,’ McGrady told the Daily Mirror.

  1. The Queen went ahead with making Kate and William’s kids HRHs
File photo dated 02/06/22 of (left to right) Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Louis, the Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte, Prince George, and the Duke of Cambridge, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, to view the Platinum Jubilee flypast. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are to embark on the next major phase of their life by moving their family to Windsor, with Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis all starting at the same new school. Issue date: Monday August 22, 2022. PA Photo. William and Kate will set up home in Adelaide Cottage in Windsor's Home Park, and the children will join the co-educational private Lambrook School near Ascot in Berkshire in September. See PA story ROYAL Cambridge . Photo credit should read: Aaron Chown/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
Queen Elizabeth II pictured with Prince Louis, the Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte, Prince George, and the Duke of Cambridge (Picture: PA)

If royal traditionalists had their way, then only Prince George would actually be entitled to be a prince and called His Royal Highness.

The Queen, however, ignore that rule altogether and signed a 2013 Letters Patent, a type of decree, to make all children eligible — Prince Louis and Princes Charlotte included.

  1. The time she starred alongside James Bond just because
(FILES) A file television screen grab image taken on July 29, 2012, shows a footage featured during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games starring British actor Daniel Craig (L) playing James Bond escorting Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (2nd L), followed by a corgi, through the corridors of Buckingham Palace. - From Susan, received for her 18th birthday, to Fergus and Muick, acquired shortly before the death of her husband Philip, Elizabeth II owned around thirty corgis, small dogs that remain inseparable from her image. Elizabeth II, who died on September 8, 2022 at the age of 96, was a one-colour outfit, a pair of gloves, a black handbag... and a corgi trotting by her side. (Photo by LOCOG / AFP) (Photo by -/LOCOG/AFP via Getty Images)
Not every royal has their own IMDb page (Picture: AFP via Getty Images)

While the Queen has sometimes curved for the sake of her family, sometimes she does it purely for laughs.

For the London 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, the Queen teamed up with 007 actor Daniel Craig for a skit which ends with her jumping out of a helicopter and parachuting into the stadium (well, kind of).

‘The Queen never told her family she was doing it,’ production stage manager Sam Hunter revealed in April.

‘That was one of the stipulations when she agreed to be part of it but she didn’t want them to know.’

  1. Changing royal protocol altogether for her grandchildren
Princess Charlotte and Prince George during their visit to Cardiff Castle to meet performers and crew involved in the special Platinum Jubilee Celebration Concert taking place in the castle grounds later in the afternoon, as members of the Royal Family visit the nations of the UK to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee. Picture date: Saturday June 4, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story ROYAL Jubilee Cambridges. Photo credit should read: Ashley Crowden/PA Wire
Princess Charlotte was the first princess whose pace in the line of succession didn’t change (Picture: PA)

The Queen decided to one day upend centuries of royal custom that had long knocked women further and further down the line of succession.

Prince Louis should have leapfrogged over his older sister Princess Charlotte after he was born in 2018, simply because he was born a male.

At least, this would have happened if not for the Queen and Commonwealth leaders scrapping old succession laws to ensure sons and daughters have equal rights to the throne.

‘It encourages us to find ways to show girls and women to play their full part,’ she said at the time.

  1. Being honest by saying royal protocol is ‘rubbish’
Mandatory Credit: Photo by REX/Shutterstock (5659251c) Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip welcome Barack Obama and Michelle Obama as they land in Windsor US President Barack Obama State Visit to Britain - 22 Apr 2016
When the Obamas visited her at Windsor Castle, the Queen admitted royal protocol is ‘all rubbish’ (Picture: Rex/Shutterstock)

In 2016, when the Obamas returned to Britain for another visit, the pair were picked up by none other than the Queen herself.

‘So I had all this protocol buzzing in my head, and I was like “don’t trip down the stairs and don’t touch anybody, whatever you do,”‘ Michelle said in an interview.

‘And so the Queen says “just get in, sit wherever” and she’s telling you one thing and you’re remembering protocol and she says: “Oh it’s all rubbish, just get in.”‘

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