Protocol v Preference
One thing that any long time royal watcher knows is as inevitable as death and taxes is articles about "Protocol". The press loves it and they obsesses over it as if protocol is their ex that they can't get over. It can be anything from the colour of royals nails to their type of footwear to how they walk. If the royals do even one miniscule thing differently than previous times, there will be dozens of articles about this or that breach of protocol within the hour.
But the funniest part about their obsession with protocol? Nothing they are talking about is protocol.
Protocol is defined as the official procedure or system of rules governing affairs of state or diplomatic occasions.
You know what is not included in the official rules about governing affairs or diplomatic occasions? What eyeliner colour someone can wear.
What the press is actually writing about it preference, typically, the preferences of her late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. But even these preferences aren't necessarily something the Queen shared or enforced or were even something Her Majesty discussed. Most of it is just random patterns some press picked up on over the years and started passing off as "rules" or "protocols". That is to say, none of these preferences are even necessarily what Queen Elizabeth cared about.
Essentially, before going on, I want to establish that all of these examples all arbitrary and there's no proof that these rules or preferences even existed beyond how the press forced them into existence. Are we all on the same page still? Wonderful.
In some regards it makes sense that after seventy years, the preferences that Queen Elizabeth had would be passed off as protocol given most royals followed her example more often than not. But these preferences weren't strict rules that had to be followed or risk a meeting with HR. It was suggestions that royals followed a vast majority of the time out of respect for the Queen or because they simply didn't want to deal with the inevitable onslaught of articles about it.
To give a more relatable comparison for everyday people, it would be like a boss, professor or teacher requesting you begin every email with "Hello, NAME". It's a suggestion they are free to make but you won't fail a class or be fired for failing to adhere to the suggestion. Most of us would just follow it because it's an easy enough change to make and it's not drastically changing your day to day life. However, you might every so often begin with "Hey" or "Good Morning" and nobody (except the press) is getting too worked up about it.
That is essentially what is happening here. Any "protocol" the press writes about outside of what is widely acknowledged & obvious (curtsies, bows, titles or cultural practices) have never been hard & fast rules. It's always been preferences from the monarch that royals typically follow out of respect. It's just that the Queen was monarch for 7 decades so a lot of her rumoured preferences (nail colours, natural makeup, wedges, what colours someone wears etc.) had been in practice for so long that they became widely accepted as protocol even though they never were any official rules about it.
If there were official rules, then nobody ever would have done blue eyeliner or worn wedges or used anything other than pink nails or worn the same colour as more senior members of the family. But they did because none of these were strict rules, they were suggestions from their boss.
The only things that are "protocol" involve who you curtsy or bow to, following predetermined dress codes, where someone is in a procession (also decided in advance) and following cultural practices when appropriate.
- Women wearing modest black clothing to meet the Pope
- Using a Maori greeting when meeting members of the community
- Bowing to the King the first time you see him is protocol
- Walking behind the monarch or more senior members of the family at official events is protocol
The rest of it is just clickbait headlines that the press makes up to make money.
But now there is a new monarch and I can pretty much promise you that Charles is going to be more concerned about picking sustainable fashion or cutting unnecessary costs than what shoes, makeup, nails or colour someone is wearing. It will be interesting to see what new "protocol" rules we start seeing based on vague patterns the press picks up on over the next couple of years but I just feel like this reminder needed to be thrown out there.