Mere days after their grand wedding at Windsor Castle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex stepped out in public for the first time for a garden party at Buckingham Palace. On display? Their wedding bands—the duchess’s, made of Welsh gold, the Duke’s of platinum.
Their is an unusual pronoun in this instance. Because, for the royals, it is often just about her wedding ring.
While Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, and Queen Elizabeth wear wedding rings, their husbands, Prince William and Prince Philip, do not. Prince Charles wears one, but on his pinky finger, tucked behind his signet ring.
Back in 2011, the palace said the choice to wear a wedding ring is a “personal preference.” And perhaps there’s nothing else to it. But it’s worth noting the “no” option has roots in the traditions of a certain social strata: “It is code, like so many of these things . . . there is a group of upper-class people who think the less of that stuff you wear the better, less bling,” Peter York, coauthor of The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook, told The Telegraph.A 1996 version ofDebrett’s New Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners, the definitive English upper crust etiquette book, stated, “It is customary for the bride alone to sport a wedding ring, and although some brides have adopted the Continental habit of presenting the groom with his own band during the vows, this remains not quite comme il faut.”
So what does it mean that Harry has bucked the trend of his blue-blooded brethren?
“I think it shows, as if proof were needed, that Harry is the least conventional member of the Royal Family,” Penny Junor, author of The Duchess, tells Vogue. “Harry’s chosen to do what most married men do today. I like it.”
She’s right. Prince Harry and Meghan are certainly doing things their way—which is, often, a modern approach. Sometimes it’s small: like choosing lemon elderflower as their wedding cake, instead of the traditional fruitcake. Sometimes it’s larger: Harry eschewing the “stiff upper lip” mentality by opening up about his struggles with mental health, or Meghan Markle speaking out in support of the #MeToo movement.
Beyond a piece of jewelry, or even a confirmation of commitment, this wedding ring is another way of showing that Harry and Meghan won’t necessarily abide by the royal rulebook of generations past.