What a happy ending. After all, these rules were mostly arbitrary in the first place. “Although there was no rule until both Princes Andrew and Harry stepped down from carrying out official duties on behalf of The Monarch, the decision was made by Buckingham Palace that only working members of the Royal Family could wear military dress uniform to the Queen’s funeral Elizabeth II,” William Hanson, a British etiquette coach, said via email.
But of course the drama didn’t end there. The military uniform returned to him, Harry found something wrong: a patch with the Queen’s initials, “ER,” was no longer where it typically was on the shoulder of his uniform. There were some gossip reporting that Harry felt “broken” and “left out” by removing the patch. At least this move is consistent with precedent: “This was a regulation that already existed,” Hanson said. “Only those who serve a monarch would wear the royal cipher.”
Harry’s new role, or lack thereof, in the royal family came into play again during Monday’s funeral. “The Duke of Sussex wore what is, confusingly, colloquially called ‘mourning gown,'” Hanson said. “It’s a funeral version of what we usually see at Royal Ascot [a horse race]chic British weddings and garden parties at the palace.”
Of course, “morning of mourning” is governed by even more unwritten rules. “The bow coat is usually always black with any kind of morning dress, and the trousers are always gray and striped,” Hanson shared. “However, the vest and tie switch to black for mourning. While different colored shirts can be worn for other events, a crisp white shirt is really the only option for mourning.”
Harry’s outfit was strikingly different from the military clothing worn by other senior royals, such as his brother William, Prince of Wales and his father, the newly crowned King Charles. The reason for this again came down to status: King Charles and Prince William wore their uniforms, and Harry wore a dressing gown, Hanson said, because they “serve members of the royal family and [Harry] The Duke of Sussex is not.
Still, Harry was allowed to wear the military medals he earned on active duty. “These were worn correctly on the left side of the jacket, as well as around his neck,” Hanson said. He also noted that medals are worn in order of importance, with the most critical pinned closest to the heart. He also affixed to the lower part of his coat a star, which he was awarded in 2015 in recognition of his service to the monarch, distinguishing him as a “Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.”
At the beginning of this saga, Prince Harry’s spokesperson issued a statement urging us to pay less attention to what he was wearing and more to why he was wearing it. “We respectfully ask that the focus remains on the life and legacy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.” statement read. But decoding the rules – both palace-decreed and unwritten – is useful for understanding the turmoil that currently surrounds the royal family.