Meghan Markle officially became a member of the British royal family when she married Prince Harry in May 2018 — and she has already broken a number of unspoken rules.
The American actress, 37, who gave up her role on USA Network’s legal drama “Suits” – as well as her life in Hollywood – has been keeping busy adapting to her new role as Duchess of Sussex. But along the way, the star has been redefining what it means to be a royal and challenging its standards. And while there are certain traditions the royals must abide by, the fresh-faced newcomer has quietly been putting those guidelines to the test — both to the delight of fans and horror of critics.
Here are 10 ways Markle broke royal protocol in 2018:
Being a divorcee
When Kensington Palace announced the engagement of Markle and Harry in November 2017, many pointed out the star had been married before. Markle tied the knot with Hollywood producer Trevor Engelson in 2011 but the couple called it quits two years later. Previously, royal family members weren’t allowed to marry divorcees. Not only did Princess Margaret had to allegedly end her relationship with Peter Townsend because he was divorced, but Edward VIII famously abdicated from the throne just so he could marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. However, the royals have since given the rule a rest. Prince Charles married divorcee Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, in 2005.
Ditching the pantyhose
The British royal family is known for having an unspoken rule about wearing pantyhose in public, a tradition that has been upheld by Queen Elizabeth II, Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton and other ruling ladies. However, when Markle and Harry stepped out for their official engagement photocall, she made royal watchers gawk when she noticeably ditched the pantyhose and opted to go bare instead.
Wearing an ‘inappropriate’ dress
In April, Meghan and Harry made an appearance at a somber event in London. At St. Martin-in-the-Fields church, the then-engaged pair stepped out hand in hand for the memorial service of Stephen Lawrence, an 18-year-old British black man murdered in a racially charged attack 25 years ago, People reported. The future royal sported a sleeveless black printed V-neck dress from Hugo Boss, which was cinched with a belt and paired with nude pumps. Some style critics denounced Markle as being less than dressed for such an occasion, calling the outfit "inappropriate." Others were more forgiving and pointed out Markle was still learning how to dress for her new life as a member of the royal family.
In June, Markle was slammed by some critics after she attended her first Trooping the Colour ceremony in an off-the-shoulder, sleeveless powder pink dress. Many felt the look was apparently too risqué for Elizabeth’s annual birthday parade, an official engagement widely covered by the press.
Crossing her legs
Back in June, Markle came under fire when she attended the Queen’s Young Leaders reception at Buckingham Palace. Some claimed the former actress was being disrespectful by crossing her legs and sitting slanted to one side. The crossing of the legs is reportedly a sitting position that is rarely used by royals. Middleton's own uncrossed position, which was also previously used by Diana, has earned the nickname “The Duchess slant.”
Markle seemingly broke royal protocol in July when she and Harry were on their first overseas trip as a married couple. Markle was busy meeting and greeting several guests at the British Ambassador to Ireland’s residence when she allegedly broke a major rule. According to Irish senator Catherine Noone, who was one of the leaders of the recent referendum to legalize abortion in Ireland, Markle expressed her support for Noone’s efforts. In a since-deleted tweet captured by the Irish Sun, Noone said: “A pleasure to meet Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex at the British Ambassador’s residence this evening. The Duchess and I had a chat about the recent referendum — she watched with interest and was pleased with the result.” Noone was quick to backtrack on her tweet as many pointed out members of the royal family are required to refrain from making political statements.
Meghan and Harry aren’t shy when it comes to public displays of affection — rarely seen among royal couples, including Prince William and his wife Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, as well as Elizabeth and Philip. However, Richard Kay, a friend of Harry’s late mother, Princess Diana, told U.K.’s Daily Mail she was determined to show her sons the importance of expressing love. However, Kay noticed that William, who is second in line to the throne, may feel more pressure to follow the example set by his grandmother, who never holds hands in public with husband Prince Philip.
Doing things on her own
Back in September, Markle shocked onlookers when she closed her own car door after arriving at the Royal Academy of Art in London. However, William Hanson, an etiquette and protocol coach, tweeted that closing the door was not technically a protocol breach. “Usually royalty and dignitaries have someone to open/close car doors for security reasons: nothing to do with ‘princess behavior,’” he shared. “Meghan clearly just shut the door out of force of habit." Within that same week, Markle stunned commuters when she was spotted catching the train from an event at Loughborough University with Harry.
Going too sheer (by accident)
While on the final leg of their royal tour in October, Meghan and Harry took a minute to greet fans during a walkabout in New Zealand. The pregnant royal paired a royal blue Givenchy short-sleeved sweater with a knit skirt and suede, navy heels for one of her final tour ensembles. But the pleated skirt revealed a little bit more than was probably intended. In photos captured of the Duchess greeting fans, it is easy to see through the pleated design what the royal was wearing underneath. While this surprising moment was clearly a wardrobe malfunction and not a bold fashion move made on purpose, some have wondered why Markle wasn’t more careful about preventing a fashion misstep in public. Still, the Duchess kept her cool and focused on being gracious with her fans instead.
Wearing dark nail polish
Meghan Markle made a surprise appearance in early December at the British Fashion Awards wearing a sleek one-shoulder black Givenchy dress that proudly showed off her growing baby bump. However, it was her nail color that made headlines. U.K.’s OK! Magazine reported Markle’s dark polish caught many people’s attention because, although it’s not an official protocol, it’s widely known Queen Elizabeth does not approve of colorful nail polish on members of the royal family. Fake or colored nails are reportedly seen as “vulgar” in the royal family and wearing a more neutral shade is part of the royal etiquette.