Thanks to TV shows like The Crown, more people are learning about royal life than ever before. And that includes learning about all of the rules and protocols that royalty demands.
Of course, not every royal cared that much about the rules. Princess Diana has gone down in history as one of the most rebellious royals of all. And here are the top times where she showed us how much fun breaking the rules can be!
Picking out her own ring
Controversially, Diana picked out her own wedding ring. That might seem bold in the here and now, and it raised quite a few eyebrows back in the early ’80s.
However, a major part of the controversy is that the ring she picked had also been featured in a magazine previously. Some members of the royal family felt (via Vogue) that the ring “wasn’t considered unique and also wasn’t bespoke.”
This put many royal noses out of joint. But it was also the first of many instances where Diana channeled the tastes and preferences of common citizens rather than royalty.
Changing up her wedding vows
Picking out her own wedding ring was one thing. But would you believe Diana also changed up the traditional wedding vows?
The original vows came from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. And these old vows (they date back to 1662) included a line that the woman being married must “obey” her husband.
When the big day came, Diana said of Prince Charles that she would “love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health.” She ditched tradition by leaving out the word “obey,” all while striking a major blow for equality.
However, her next move towards equality was completely shocking at the time!
No home birth for her
Here’s an unexpected royal tradition: for generations of royals before Diana, it was common to give birth in the home. This ritual helped ensure the safety and privacy of the royal family during a delicate time.
However, Diana was not one for superstitions and rituals. Instead of giving birth at home, she went to the Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital. She received top-notch medical care there while breaking yet another rule governing royal life.
Was not formal with her children
One stereotype about the royal family is that everyone is emotionless. While that is certainly not true, royals before Diana were very formal around their children.
In fact, body language expert Patti Wood told Marie Claire that with Queen Elizabeth and her children, “There’s an instant barrier between them.” Diana, by contrast, was an extremely “hands-on” mother.
She would play with her boys and cuddle them. And as they got older, she took them biking and white water rafting. At one point, she even participated in a Sports Day race at her sons’ school!
This was just one more rule she broke, and her children are quite happy she did so. But the British press and royal family were not exactly excited about the next rule she broke.
Sometimes, Diana broke the rules without knowing it. And this was the case when she got herself a job as a part-time kindergarten teacher before getting engaged.
Remember, Diana was born into nobility, and it was a rule that royals like herself shouldn’t have a “day job.” By securing such a job before getting engaged and then married, Diana permanently changed our ideas about what royalty could do with their own lives.
Back in black
Diana was famous (some would say infamous) for her many wild outfits. But the one that caused the most trouble was actually a simple black dress!
At the time, royal protocol was simple: if a member of the royal family wore black, it must be to a funeral. So when she rocked this black taffeta dress to an evening affair, she redefined royal fashion.
That influence is felt to this day. As English Manner Chief Executive Alexandra Messervy puts it (via InStyle), “Generally it is thought that black is not usually worn unless in mourning, although Diana Princess of Wales did occasionally wear it for evening functions.”
Next time you see a royal “back in black,” know you have Diana to thank for it! But another major color she is known for, red, has an even weirder story.
At times, you may not know Diana is being a rebel unless you really understand royal protocol. And the best example of this is all of the times she wore bright red nail polish.
The official rules for royal family members are clear to this day. When it comes to nails, the rule to follow is (via Woman’s World), “No bright, flashy nail colors.” This is why so many royal ladies rock light pink or nude nails. By rocking red, Diana showed us what being a rebel was all about
Double-sided media relationship
Diana had a very unique relationship with the press. It would ultimately be zealous paparazzi that got the “people’s princess” killed. But this might never have happened if Diana and journalists didn’t have such a double-sided relationship over the years.
Traditionally, royals stayed far away from the press. But as the BBC reports, Diana “sometimes fed information to journalists,” especially as her divorce drew near.
However, a relationship with the press like this was also draining. As Diana describes it (via the BBC), “I seemed to be on the front of a newspaper every single day, which is an isolating experience, and the higher the media put you… the bigger the drop. And I was very aware of that.”
Ditching the gloves
Think back to royal interactions with other people. Most of the time, the royal is wearing a hat and gloves at the time. This was actually a major part of royal protocol when dealing with other people.
However, Diana famously ditched this protocol because she liked to make direct contact with the people she visited. And this included visiting sick people in hospitals, where her refusal to wear gloves was also seen as a sign of bravery.
And when it came to hats, Diana was a pragmatist. As good as she looked in a stylish hat, she knew it could get in the way. Kensington Palace clothing coordinator Eleri Lynn recalls (via People), “She also stopped wearing hats because she said, ‘You can’t cuddle a child in a hat.’”
Sneaking from the house
Still not convinced Diana is “the people’s princess?” Here’s a rebellious thing she had in common with countless young people: she loved to sneak out of the house!
When you are a rich and famous member of the royal family, there are security protocols anytime you wish to leave the house. But Diana would often ditch those protocols and wear various wigs and disguises to help her sneak out and move about town.
This particular bit of rebellion was also very influential. Her sons used to sneak out with the help of motorcycles, and Meghan Markle has inherited a love of sneaking around with special wigs and costumes!