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Look back at the changes King Charles and Queen Elizabeth II have made to modernise the monarchy© Getty

10 ways King Charles and Queen Elizabeth II modernised the monarchy

The British royals have banned ivory, foie gras and fur in recent years

Danielle Stacey
Online Royal CorrespondentLondon
June 27, 2024
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The British royal family's history goes back centuries and each King or Queen has been responsible for moving with the times and modernising the monarchy.

King Charles is a committed environmentalist and has made significant changes to the management of royal residences.

In line with his stance on conservation, the King's Royal Family Order (as debuted by Queen Camilla at the Japan State Banquet) is made from polymin, a synthetic translucent treated plastic sheet, instead of the traditional ivory.

The change first began in Queen Elizabeth II's reign when the then Duchess of Cambridge became the first royal to have a Royal Family Order not made from ivory.

During her 70 years on the throne, the late Queen witnessed significant changes and evolution within society, technology and transport.

While the King will continue to put his own stamp on modernising monarchy, look back at the changes that have been made throughout the years, including controversial practices and rules that have been overturned.

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The King raises a toast at the South Korea state banquet

Foie gras banned

One of the first changes that Charles made shortly after becoming King was to ban foie gras.

Animal rights group Peta revealed in November 2022 that it had received confirmation that the King had put a stop to foie gras being served in all royal residences.

The King previously removed the controversial pate from his royal residences while still the Prince of Wales.

Foie Gras can be imported and sold in the UK, but its production is banned. A delicacy of French cuisine, the pâté is produced from the livers of force-fed ducks or geese.

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Queen Camilla wearing fur in Canada in 2009© Getty

No more fur

In May 2024, it was confirmed by Peta that the Queen had pledged to buy no new fur products for her wardrobe.

Camilla is following in the footsteps of the late Queen, who switched to faux fur for new outfits from 2019.

But both the King and Queen wore fur at the coronation, with ermine capes on their robes and historic crowns trimmed in ermine.

Charles opted for his grandfather George VI’s robes, while Camilla wore Elizabeth II’s Robe of State and a newly made Robe of Estate with ermine believed to have been reused from a past robe.

Camilla was criticised by the group in 2009 after she was spotted wearing a rabbit fur stole during a tour to Canada.

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General view of Buckingham Palace© Getty

Working towards a more diverse workforce

Last year's Sovereign Grant report on royal finances showed that a new Inclusion and Diversity strategy and action plan has been implemented by the palace after it previously admitted it "must do more" to improve ethnic diversity among staff.

Figures last year showed that it had missed its goal of 10 per cent, with the number of staff from ethnic minority backgrounds remaining at 9.7 per cent.

It has since introduced a new target of 14 per cent of all employees by 2025.

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Princess Charlotte visiting baby brother Louis at Lindo Wing in 2018© Getty

Changes in Succession Act

Ahead of the birth of the Prince and Princess of Wales's first child, Prince George, The Succession to the Crown Act (2013) was changed to end the system of male primogeniture, under which a younger son can displace an elder daughter in the line of succession.

It was Princess Charlotte who made history at the age of two when her little brother, Prince Louis, was born in 2018. The change in law meant that Charlotte kept her place in the line of succession and was overtaken by Louis.

The Act only applies to those born after 28 October 2011, so the Princess Royal and Lady Louise Windsor remain lower down the line of succession than their younger brothers.

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Prince William and Kate wave to crowds following their wedding© Getty

Marriages

The Royal Marriages Act 1772 imposed conditions on who British royals could marry, with the Act stating that no descendent of George II can marry within the consent of the reigning monarch.

While this law is still in place today and royals have to receive formal consent from the King, they typically marry for love and the likes of Prince William and Prince Harry have married "commoners" – someone not of royal or aristocratic blood.

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Princess Margaret wearing the Poltimore tiara on her wedding day to Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1960© Getty

Attitudes to divorce

The late Queen's uncle King Edward VIII famously abdicated in 1936 in order to marry American divorcee, Wallis Simpson. The Church of England and government ministers were strongly opposed divorce at the time, and therefore it meant that Princess Margaret was unable to marry Peter Townsend, who had split from his first wife.

Similarly, Margaret caused outcry when she separated from photographer and husband, Antony Armstrong-Jones, in 1976. Two years later, they officially ended their marriage – making it the first divorce of a senior member of the British royal family since Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1901. 

Attitudes towards divorce have moved with the times and since then three of Queen Elizabeth II's children's marriages have ended in divorce.

After splitting from Captain Mark Phillips, Princess Anne married Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence in 1992 and then Prince Charles wed Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005 after his marriage breakdown to Princess Diana.

Prince Harry was also able to marry Meghan Markle in 2018, who was previously married to film producer Trevor Engelson.

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The Queen cradling her newborn Prince Charles© Getty

Royal birth legitimacy

From 1894, there was a rule that the home secretary was required to attend royal births to ensure that the baby was indeed a descendent of the monarch and not an imposter. But this practice was fazed out by King George VI shortly before the birth of his grandson, Prince Charles, in 1948.

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Debutantes at the Queen Charlotte's Ball at Grosvenor House in 1950© Getty

Presentation of debutantes

As depicted in Bridgerton, Queen Charlotte's Ball were high society events that evolved around London's social season in the 17th and 18th centuries. Young women from noble and gentry families were presented as debutantes to the royal court as their introduction to society and to prepare them for marriage. 

However, in 1958, Queen Elizabeth II announced she would no longer have debutantes presented at the palace, reportedly at Prince Philip's insistence. Eventually, participation in debutante balls around the UK dropped and the event folded in 1976.  

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The Queen during a royal walkabout in Australia, 1970© Getty

Introduction of the royal walkabout

For today's royal, the walkabout is essential to be in touch with the public. The late Queen introduced the idea in 1970 when she wanted to say hello to the crowds in person, and now it is a common fixture at public engagements and royal tours. The modern royals often take selfies and share hugs with fans they meet.  

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Kate and william taking kids to school© Shutterstock

Royal education

The likes of Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis now go to public school, but it was common in Queen Elizabeth II's childhood for young royals to be educated at home by a governess or a private tutor. King Charles was the first royal to be educated at a school when he enrolled at Hill House School in west London.  

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