8 times Prince Harry and Meghan Markle broke the royal rule book

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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are no strangers to breaking royal protocol.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle sent shockwaves through the nation when they announced they were stepping down as senior royals earlier this year.

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The couple made the decision to step back from their roles as “senior royals” in a bid to live a more “peaceful” life in America, before taking the plunge and moving across the pond in March.

At the time, Prince Harry said “there was no other option” other than standing down from royal duties for the sake of his wife and their son, Archie, following a difficult year at the hands of the “powerful force” of the media.

He said, “I also know you've come to know me well enough over all these years to trust that the woman I chose as my wife upholds the same values as I do. And she does, and she's the same woman I fell in love with.

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"We both do everything we can to fly the flag and carry out our roles for this country with pride. Once Meghan and I were married, we were excited, we were hopeful, and we were here to serve.

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"For those reasons, it brings me great sadness that it has come to this.

"The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back, is not one I made lightly. It was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges. And I know I haven't always gotten it right, but as far as this goes, there really was no other option.”

With their decision said to have ruffled feathers among the royal household, it’s not the first time the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have gone against royal protocol...

1. Meghan being an American actress

As well as not coming from royal roots, Meghan was formerly an American actress before marrying into the royal family.

Not only that but Meghan, 39, was previously married before meeting Harry. She tied the knot with Trevor Engelson back in 2011, before  the couple called it quits in 2013.

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While marrying a divorcee hasn’t been against royal rules since 2002, it certainly raised some eyebrows among fans of the royals.

Plus, having been a Hollywood actress before becoming royalty, Meghan’s fashion choices have often gone against royal protocol. Like when she wore a dress with a daring neckline at the Trooping of the Colour and wore bare legs, as opposed to tights - as preferred by the Queen.

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2. The way they pack on the PDA

While there are no bona fide rules against public displays of affection, royal family members tend to refrain for various reasons.

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According to royal etiquette expert, Myka Meier, it’s about remaining as professional as possible - as often demonstrated by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

“The likely reasoning is more that while traveling on a tour such as the India trip, technically the couple is working representatives of British Monarchy,” she told PEOPLE.

“The couple are likely to show very little PDA, if any, to remain professional during their designated roles abroad.”

But, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle can barely keep their hands off each other in public - preferring to be in close contact at all times.

From sweet whispers to hand holding and kisses, these two aren’t shy when it comes to showing affection in public.

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And it’s not just with each other. Meghan also likes to hug members of the public at royal engagements.

Usually, royals reserve their greetings to handshakes alone, preferring to keep things a bit formal.

But for Meghan, who was used to a warmer, more friendly California approach (she was brought up there), it quickly became clear that she wished to be a little closer to the supportive public, choosing to hug and put her arms round the Brits who came out to greet her and Harry at royal events.

3. Their Windsor wedding

While it’s unusual for royal brides to make a speech at their wedding, Meghan opted to do her own at their Windsor wedding back in 2018.

Given that the Duchess of Sussex underwent a huge life upheaval to marry Harry – moving from her home in Canada, leaving behind her acting career and friends and family – she was likely keen to thank her family and friends for their support, and share her excitement for her new chapter with her husband.

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The ceremony included hints of Meghan’s African American heritage, including a sermon delivered by American Bishop Michael Curry, who spoke passionately about the power of love, quoting Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

4. Harry’s decision to wear a wedding ring

Unlike his brother, Prince William, Prince Harry proudly wears a wedding band. While it’s a common tradition in British culture, it’s not tradition for men in the royal family to wear jewellery.

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5. They chose not to spend Christmas with the royals

Prince Harry, Meghan and Archie spent their first Christmas as a family-of-three in America with Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland - meaning they skipped Christmas at the Queen’s Sandringham estate with the other royals.

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Although a statement from the palace confirmed the Queen was supportive of their decision - saying, “This decision is in line with precedent set previously by other members of the Royal Family, and has the support of Her Majesty The Queen,” it later emerged that the 94-year-old Monarch was “disappointed” not to spend the festive period with her newest grandson.

6. The way they announced Archie’s birth

Traditionally, the birth of a royal child is announced by paper proclamation placed on an ornate golden easel on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace.

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While this was followed by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Sussexes decided against this royal tradition - instead announcing the birth in a social media post on Instagram.

The post read, “It’s a boy!” alongside details of the birth.

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Later, Prince Harry made an informal announcement outside the stables of Windsor Castle, dressed very simply in a jumper and chinos.

7. The first photos of baby Archie

Unlike Duchess Catherine who presented all three of her children - Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis - on the steps of the Lindo Wing just hours after giving birth, Duchess Meghan went about things very differently.

The couple invited a select number of journalists to Windsor Castle two days after Archie’s birth for a photocall.

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8. Vocalising their struggles

Members of the royal family famously abide by the ‘Never complain, never explain’ rule, which is the reason they seldom give interviews or comment on any family matters.

But the Duke and Duchess of Sussex chose not to follow this unspoken rule during an ITV documentary filmed late last year.

During their official visit to South Africa, they were followed by Tom Bradby, who was filming a documentary, Harry & Meghan: An African Journey.

In it, they vocalised the struggles they’d faced since first getting together.

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For the first time, Harry and Meghan publicly admitted to being unhappy with royal life, and in particular the media scrutiny.

When asked by Tom if she was okay, Meghan replied, “Thank you for asking because not many people have asked if I’m ok. But it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes.”

The Duchess went on to say she is “existing, not living”.

The Queen and other members of the royal family were said to be “concerned for the couple” following the emotional interview.

Royal author, Phil Dampier, told Mail Online, "I am told that the senior royals from the Queen down and courtiers are very worried about the direction Harry and Meghan are taking and it's very serious.”

Celebrity writer

Georgia is a Celebrity and Royal Writer working across GoodTo and Woman & Home, and the Director and Founder of communications company Farq Media. Prior to this she was Online Editor at New! Magazine – managing all of their digital content and social media accounts. Where she interviewed all of the hottest reality TV stars and spent far too much time commuting to London. She trained at Nottingham Trent University – where she achieved First Class Honours in Print Journalism whilst juggling copious amounts of work experience, freelance writing, blogging and having far too much fun with the dance society.