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Prince George's sartorial 'breach of protocol' during state visit

The young royal met with former President of the United States Barack Obama in 2016, wearing his dressing gown

Kate Thomas
Lifestyle Managing Editor
May 18, 2024
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Royal children are privy to a number of strict rules they must follow, from the length of their trousers to the way they travel. But our favourite rule break of all time has to be when Prince George flouted the strict dress code to meet heads of state… by wearing his dressing gown.

Cast your mind back to 2016. The young royal, now aged ten, was pictured bleary-eyed with sleep as he shook then President of the United States Barack Obama's hand during a state visit at Buckingham Palace. His outfit of choice? A monogrammed robe, teamed with gingham pyjamas and the sweetest aeroplane slippers.  

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The Prince and Princess of Wales were hosting a dinner for Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, allowing little George to stay up past his bedtime to meet them. 

Rule-breaking royal protocol

It has been widely reported that royal children aren't allowed to meet with heads of state.

Prince George white bathrobe meeting President Barack Obama © Instagram

However, this simply isn't the case since the Wales children have previously met Canada's Justin Trudeauand Boris Johnson when he was Prime Minister of the UK.

What was a breach of protocol, however, was little George's outfit. Obama amusingly commented on the adorable moment at the time, joking that it was a "slap in the face".

"It's not just Congress. Even some foreign leaders they have been looking ahead, anticipating my departure," he said.

Kate Middleton playing with young Prince George on rocking horse while Barack Obama speaks to Prince William© Instagram

"Last week Prince George showed up to our meeting in his bathrobe. That was a slap in the face. A clear breach of protocol."

Poor George was up well past his bedtime so his unusual attire was allowed!

Royal dress codes

Etiquette expert Lucy Hume from Debrett's previously detailed the royal dress code in detail in a video on The Royal Family Channel on YouTube.

Prince George of Cambridge, Prince Louis of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte of Cambridge ride in a carriage during Trooping The Colour© Getty
Prince George of Cambridge, Prince Louis of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte of Cambridge ride in a carriage during Trooping The Colour

She explained the difference between the three levels of formality, explaining that guests meeting the royals should err on the side of caution.

The first dress code is white tie, expected for state banquets or a royal event. This is similar to black tie, with the addition of a white bowtie with a wing collar for men, while women would traditionally wear a long, formal evening gown.

The next level of formality is black tie events, including a "shorter dinner jacket for men and a black bowtie". Women have more freedom for this style of dressing and can choose between a trouser suit or a cocktail dress.

Prince William, Prince George and Prince Louis all share the same name© Getty
Prince William, Prince George and Prince Louis all share the same name

Finally, the smart casual dress code would allow the royals to dress in more comfortable clothes, such as a jumper with a collared shirt.

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While comfort is always key, it's important to play it safe. "A royal event is not necessarily a time to go too unconventional or too alternative. It’s just one of those occasions where it makes sense to stick with tradition," the style expert said.

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