Royal Rebel: Every time Princess Diana broke protocol

She was a trailblazer for future royals.
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Lovingly nicknamed the People’s Princess, this rebel was never one to be a stickler for the rules. Princess Diana was constantly breaking royal protocol and defying traditions, paving the way for the next generation of blue bloods. 

From writing her own wedding vows to her bold and iconic fashion choices, we’ve broken down every time Diana refused to bow to age-old royal traditions.


When it comes to the royals, marriage may be one of the most traditional and regulated rituals there is.

From royal couples being unable to get hitched without the Queen’s blessing, to brides being highly restricted when it comes to their wedding dress, jewellery and even bouquets, there seems to be a royal rule for every marital detail.

Not one to be trapped by tradition, Princess Diana broke the marriage mould in many ground-breaking ways. 

princess diana pink outfit
Diana wasn’t one to follow tradition. (Credit: Getty)

She had a job before she got married

Already a rebel before she even stepped foot down the aisle, Diana broke a coveted tradition by being the first royal to have a paying job prior to getting engaged. 

The then-Lady Diana Spencer worked part-time as a kindergarten teacher – that explains why she was so good with kids.

Before Diana came on the scene, royals stood up while talking to children in an attempt to remain deferential. However, the Princess of Wales broke royal protocol by constantly crouching down and speaking to little ones at eye-level – a trait that both her boys have inherited – so sweet! 

princess diana playing with kids and lego
The Princess of Wales previously worked in childcare before joining the royal family. (Credit: Getty)

She picked her own engagement ring from a catalogue

While a lot of royal brides and grooms would absolutely jump at the opportunity to be gifted a one-of-a-kind engagement ring, Diana’s unconventional ring once again proved she wasn’t your average princess.

During the wedding preparations, 20-year-old Diana chose a sapphire blue engagement ring from a selection a royal jewels.

While the crown jeweller, Garrard, made the ring for Diana, the gorgeous gem was also featured in the jeweller’s catalogue. This meant that – get ready to clutch your pearls – ‘commoners’ could access and buy the princess’ ring (gasp!). 

This reportedly rubbed a few royal noses the wrong way, but clearly Diana didn’t mind.

princess diana engagement ring
Diana’s now-iconic engagement ring was selected from a catalogue. (Credit: Getty)

She changed her wedding vows

Royal wedding vows involve a lot of ‘thys’, ‘thous’ and ‘thees’, not to mention plenty of names to remember. Prince Charles and his two sons, William and Harry, have nine middle names between them – c’mon lads, aren’t there enough royal titles to remember already?

Upon marrying Charles Philip Arthur George, young Lady Diana only had one update to make to her royal vows – as well as one, less-intentional, revision to her future husband’s name.

In front of a congregation of 3,500 people (not to mention the estimated 750 million royal fans watching from home), the People’s Princess made history by refusing to say that she would ‘obey’ Charles.

By omitting one small, yet powerful, word, Diana set a precedent for future royal brides; both Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle did not include the outdated word in their vows to William and Harry respectively. 

Another small revision the then-Lady made to her vows was not so premeditated.

In true Ross-saying-Rachel’s-name fashion, Diana let slip the wrong name at the altar. The princess called her fiancé: Philip Charles Arthur George, rather than Charles Philip Arthur George. With that many middle names, can you really blame her?

princess diana and prince charles wedding
Diana refused to say that she would obey Charles in her wedding vows. (Credit: Getty)


If you thought Diana was a rebel when it came to marriage, just you wait ’til you read about the princess as a mother.

From refusing to give birth at Kensington Palace, to sending her boys to public school, Diana broke ‘royal mum protocol’ in every way under the sun. 

She sent her boys to school

Until William was born, it was custom for royal children to be educated by a governess. But no amount of claim to the throne was going to stop Diana from sending the future king, and later his brother, to public school.

Adamant on providing her children with an ordinary upbringing, Diana sent both William and Harry to Eton College in Berkshire, England. 

Once again, the princess’ decision made history as William became the first ever future monarch to be educated this way. And clearly it was the right call in his eyes; the Duke of Cambridge has followed in his mother’s footsteps by sending his three children – Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis – to Lambrook School in the Berkshire countryside.

princess diana with prince william and prince harry in their school uniforms
William and Harry were both sent to school rather than having a governess. (Credit: Getty)

She exposed William and Harry to a non-royal childhood

Royal life involves a lot of not-very-kid-friendly things: waving, curtsying, sitting still for photo shoots.

Conscious of not subjecting her young boys to a surplus of suit-and-tie events, Diana reportedly would sneak out of the palace with William and Harry to indulge in some Maccas. 

That’s right, even with world-renowned chefs at her disposal, Diana would opt for her kids to enjoy some Happy Meals.

“I remember the princess came into the kitchen one day and said, ‘Cancel lunch for the boys, I’m taking them out, we’re going to McDonald’s’,” Diana’s former personal chef Darren McGrady told Marie Claire. “And I said, ‘Oh my God – your Royal Highness, I can do that, I can do burgers.’ And she said, ‘No, it’s the toy they want’.’”

And it wasn’t just fast food, Diana also allowed William and Harry to wear casual clothing like jeans and baseball caps, as well as taking them to theme- and water-parks.

But ensuring her boys experienced a non-royal childhood also meant reminding them of their privilege. This meant no personal drivers or fast-passes; Diana took William and Harry on the tube and bus and made them stand in line at parks.

princess diana, prince william and prince harry at a theme park
Diana took her boys to all sorts of average places like McDonalds, theme parks and on public transport. (Credit: Getty)


From her plunging necklines to her mini dresses, Diana broke royal fashion protocol in every which way.

But with a completely new generation discovering the princess’ rebellious style, courtesy of The Crown, it’s clear that Diana’s looks – while scandalous to the royal family – were merely ahead of their time.

She made BOLD fashion choices

Despite strict royal fashion guidelines, Diana constantly broke protocol by wearing form-fitting short dresses with plunging necklines and her shoulders exposed.

In fact, some of her necklines were so low-cut that the princess would often place a purse over her cleavage, prompting her handbag designer, Anya Hindmarch, to deem them, “cleavage bags”.

Diana also neglected to wear gloves at formal events, wore suits, donned black in public when not in mourning, and wore dramatic make-up and nail polish – all of which were fashion no-nos when it comes to the royals.

The princess was, once again, a fashion trailblazer; the women of the royal family are continuing Diana’s fashion legacy, particularly the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, who is often seen with her shoulders showing, wearing black dresses, and donning bold nail polish.

And we absolutely cannot forget the princess’ iconic, ‘revenge dress’. Black, tight, plunging and with a LOT of shoulder showing, this dress broke every royal rule in the best way possible.

The now-famous dress got its name as Diana donned the stunning number on the same night that Charles revealed he committed adultery with his now-wife Camilla.

Well, if the People’s Princess was trying to make a statement with that royally risqué number, it’s safe to say she succeeded – the dress remains one of the most culturally significant moments in modern royal history!

princess diana revenge dress
Who could forget that iconic revenge dress? (Credit: Getty)


Young Diana was a breath of fresh air for many who believed the monarchy to be stuffy and outdated.

When she wasn’t attending formal events, the People’s Princess was quite partial to a boogie – and even more partial to that boogie being kept secret from her in-laws, especially considering that any party with an absence of hor d’oeuvres definitely broke royal protocol.

She snuck out to dance

While all royals have friends in high places, Diana’s weren’t exactly to the fancy of the Crown. Among the rock-stars the princess would party with were Elton John and late Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury.

According to actress Cleo Rocos’ memoir, The Power of Positive Drinking, Diana, Freddie and comedian Kenny Everett snuck the princess into the Royal Vauxhall Tavern – an iconic London gay club – back in 1980.

While some of the friends were reportedly hesitant for the princess to tag along, pleading with her “what would be the headline if you were caught in a gay bar crawl?” the Queen singer was all for Diana to join the crew, saying “Go on, let the girl have some fun”.

princess Diana dancing in blue dress with prince charles
Diana loved a dance! (Credit: Getty)


For a royal family built on a stiff upper lip, Diana’s vulnerability when speaking with the press certainly broke royal protocol.

She spoke candidly to the press

The princess famously sat down with Martin Bashir from the BBC’s Panorama in 1995 to talk everything from her rocky marriage, mental health, and struggles with an eating disorder.

During the highly revealing chat, Diana confessed that she had also been unfaithful to Charles and that she had developed bulimia from the stress of trying to keep her marriage from falling apart.

Speaking about the eating disorder, the mum-of-two compared it to a “secret disease,” candidly stating, “you inflict it upon yourself because your self-esteem is at a low ebb, and you don’t think you’re worthy or valuable”.

Not only did the princess’ rawness humanise the royals, her candid nature has been adopted by William and Harry, both of whom have spoken out about mental health.

However, it is worth noting that the interview in question was obtained through unethical means, prompting both William and Harry to publicly condemn the BBC.

WATCH: Princess Diana discusses Camilla and Charles’ affair with the BBC

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Royals are renowned for their charity work, but young Princess Diana always seemed to go above and beyond when it came to causes close to her heart  – constantly breaking protocol in the process.

She shook hands with a HIV/AIDS patient

Back in the 1980s, it was falsely believed that HIV/AIDS could be transmitted through touch alone.

But in 1987, Princess Diana shook the hands of an AIDS patient in London’s Middlesex Hospital without wearing gloves and, in doing so, challenged the public’s irrational fear.

“If a royal was allowed to go in and shake a patient’s hands, somebody at the bus stop or the supermarket could do the same,” a nurse who witnessed Diana at the hospital told the BBC.

princess diana in a white and red outift and hat with a pearl necklance and earrings
Diana may have broken protocols, but perhaps they were protocols that needed breaking. (Credit: Getty)

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