Ancient rules of “reverence” set by Queen Elizabeth I in 1595 dictated the hierarchy of Royal Family members. Royal expert Wendy Bosberry-Scott, of Debrett’s, explained what that means for the contemporary monarchy. The expert explained how Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle were expected to curtsy not only to the Queen but to royal princesses from birth, such as Princess Anne, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie. Ms Bosberry-Scott also revealed the exception to these rules and how Kate would technically “outrank” Meghan if she was still a working royal.
Debrett’s, established in 1769, catalogues aristocrat coat of arms, royal history and old etiquettes and behaviours.
The website made some of its content free online with Ms Bosberry-Scott explaining why Kate “ranks” lower than Beatrice and Eugenie.
She explained: “Women of the royal family who marry in like Kate and Meghan gain their titles by marriage and therefore are of a lower rank than those born into their titles.”
A Debrett spokesperson added: “Essentially, the hierarchy exists to ensure that the princesses who are born with royal blood, like Eugenie and Beatrice, aren’t kind of pushed to one side.
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“As far as the public is concerned, the most visible representation of this tends to be the order in which they might stand at a public event, or the order in which they might enter or leave a room, or who curtsies to whom.”
But the small print of the old royal rules and the Lord’s Precedent Act of 1539 means men are always given precedence over women, excluding the Queen.
The rules also say that, when Kate is in attendance with husband William, she shares his status, meaning she would “outrank” royal princesses if they were out together.
Ms Bosberry-Scott explained: “When the wives are with their husbands, their status is elevated to reflect the fact that the men are present.
“As the men have a higher rank than the princesses they have precedence, and this higher rank is reflected on their wives, so they are then moved ahead.”
Confusingly, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, is the exception to this rule as she is higher in the hierarchy than Kate or royal princesses because she is married to the next in line to the throne.
Ms Bosberry-Scott clarified: “Although she does not use the title, Camilla is Princess of Wales and has a higher status.
“This is being shown more and more as we move forward. The Queen has moved to place Camilla in precedence over her granddaughters in recent years, to reflect the fact that she is the wife of the next monarch.”
The rules also dictate that when Camilla or Kate become royal consort then all the other female Royal Family members will have to curtsy to them.
The Royals have several statutes and laws which dictate how they run – with one regarding how royal titles are given arising earlier this year.
According to the 1917 Letters Patent issued by King George V, great-grandchildren of the monarch would not be princes or princesses except for the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales.
This means, technically, Archie, son of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, would not become a prince until Prince Charles became king as he would no longer be a great-grandchild of the reigning monarch.
It also explains why Prince George and Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice have titles.
However, the Queen issued her own letters patent in 2012 which extended the titles to the rest of Prince William’s children.