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The real reason royals didn't shake hands at Commonwealth service - and it wasn't to do with royal protocol

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were among the royal attendees at the annual service at Westminster Abbey

prince harry meghan markle commonwealth
Hanna Fillingham
US Managing Editor
9 March 2020
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On Monday, the royal family stepped out to attend the annual Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey. But unlike other years, this time there was no handshaking between guests. This was down to protocol that had been put in place by Westminster Abbey, who were concerned about any possible risk of the coronavirus. A spokesperson for the Abbey said: "Westminster Abbey is acutely aware of the risks posed by the spread of novel coronavirus. In recent weeks we have advised members of our congregation to avoid shaking hands." The royals still found other ways to greet other attendees though. Prince Harry was seen bumping elbows with Craig David when they met at the end of service, while the Duchess of Sussex went over to hug a performer.

VIDEO: Watch royals arrive at the Commonwealth Day service

meghan markle prince harry westminster abbey© Photo: Getty Images

The royals, including Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, were told not to shake hands

The protocol was also mentioned by Prince William, who joked with Lord Howell, chairman of the council of Commonwealth Societies, about the protocol, admitting it was odd not shaking hands. He said: "It's very odd not shaking hands, I try my best to hold my hands like that," laughing as he clasped them together and held them against his waist. The Duke had previously made reference to the coronavirus during a reception hosted by Britain's Ambassador to Ireland, Robin Barnett, during his recent visit to Dublin. He told a paramedic at the event that both he and the Duchess of Cambridge were keeping an eye on the coronavirus. A royal source said during their tour of Ireland that the couple were taking guidance from Public Health England and the Department of Health, and that it was currently still business as usual for the time being.

MORE: Watch the moment Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle greeted each other at Commonwealth service

kate middleton prince william© Photo: Getty Images

Prince William and Kate Middleton also followed Westminster Abbey's protocol

READ: The real reason Meghan Markle sat behind Kate Middleton at Commonwealth service

Despite not being able to shake hands, the Commonwealth Day service on Monday followed a similar format to other years. As with tradition, the Queen sat in the front row by the altar with Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, and Prince William and Kate. Behind them were Prince Harry and Meghan, and Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex. Noticeably absent was Prince Andrew, who stepped down from royal duties at the end of 2019, following his TV interview with BBC Newsnight, which focused on his connections to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Prince Philip was also missing from the service, having retired from royal duties in 2017.

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