Kate Middleton — Duchess of Cambridge, Princess of Wales, future queen of England — broke royal protocol over the Easter long weekend and royal watchers across the globe are clutching their pearls. Her crime? Red nail polish.
If this seems overly dramatic… you’re absolutely right. It most definitely is — at least to us plebs. But when it comes to the royal family, IYKYK.
So, what’s the (royal) tea on all of Kate Middleton’s red nail polish drama? We break down possible reasons why Kate chose to move away from tradition.
Why is Kate Middleton’s red nail polish a break from royal protocol?
First, a bit of backstory: the late Queen Elizabeth II exclusively wore Essie’s “Ballet Slippers” polish on her nails (like, literally since 1989). The soft blush hue matched all of her bold outfits and was deemed a subtle way to dress up ones nails without drawing too much attention. As a result, it was expected (although not necessarily put in writing) that all royal women wear soft nudes, pinks or blushes on their nails. To deviate from that would be seen as incredibly disrespectful.
And so, back in 2018, when a pregnant Meghan Markle attended a royal function with “vulgar” black nail polish, the world collectively lost its mind. And by “world” I mean those royal watchers who expect the House of Windsor to adhere to all of the queen’s wishes. Predictably (given the anti-Meghan and Prince Harry sentiment out there), the Duchess of Sussex was roasted in the tabloids for her decision.
Fast forward nearly five years and Middleton was spotted in a bold red polish while attending the royals’ annual Easter Sunday church service at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor.
So, cue the tabloid outrage, right? Wrong. In gentler tones than Markle was ever granted when she wore bold nails, various outlets suggested Kate broke from protocol… albeit without the sinister undertones. As The Mirror casually observed, “Kate Middleton breaks with tradition,” while the Daily Mail wrote, “Princess of Wales surprises royal fans with red nail polish on Easter Sunday,” before quietly asking, “but did she break ‘royal protocol’?” (By contrast, Meghan was literally called “vulgar.”)
So, did Kate technically break protocol and, if so, why did the perennial rule-follower take the risk? We suss out the possible reasons.
King Charles isn’t as strict when it comes to royal fashion
We don’t actually know if this is true or not, but it’s a very real possibility that the newly-minted king doesn’t give a toss about Kate Middleton’s red nail polish or fashion etiquette, overall. It’s entirely believable that, as a new monarch, he’d want some of the rules from the old guard to be tossed out in favour of modernizing the royal family in the eyes of the world.
Considering his son, Prince William, and daughter-in-law, Kate, are next in line to the throne, why not let them have a little more fun with fashion in an attempt to appeal to younger generations?
Red nails could be a step towards modernizing the royals
This sounds ridiculous, we know, but think about: there’s a new king (who isn’t exactly a fan favourite) and a queen-in-waiting (Kate — whom many adore). One way to give the royal family a bit of a glow-up would be by taking more sartorial risks and appearing more in tune with today’s trends.
Nail trends are everywhere and, whether Kate is aware of its prominent presence on TikTok or not, there’s no doubt that she’s well-aware of the statement a nice set of nails can make.
The Easter Sunday service was also the first without the late queen and only a few short weeks before King Charles’ coronation, therefore making it the perfect time to subtly hint at the changes to come within the family. As The Kit observed, “opting for a red manicure could be her way of signalling a subtle, but still respectful, break with the old way things were done.”
No one knew the red nails were going to happen and Kate is rebelling
This seems highly, highly unlikely given how closely Kate has adhered to royal rules and etiquette since marrying into the family in 2011. Even if the rumours that William cheated on her with a longtime family friend are true, it’s unlikely Kate would start acting out and jeopardize her future role as queen.
So, are Kate Middleton’s red nails really a big deal?
Obviously, in the grand scheme of things, no. It’s just another minor royal scandal that will blow over in a few days (although that wasn’t the case for Meghan, but that’s a whole other conversation).
In all likelihood, this is a small, subtle nod to the modernization of the House of Windsor, something many royal followers have been calling for for decades, well before the queen’s passing. It’s unlikely that King Charles didn’t approve (and possibly encourage) the decision beforehand.
Why not just let a millennial future queen enjoy some of life’s simpler pleasures like us regular folks, right?
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