What Can We Learn From Prince Harry’s Funeral Outfits?

What a happy ending. After all, these rules were mostly arbitrary in the first place. “Although there was no rule before both Princes Andrew and Harry stepped down from carrying out official duties on behalf of The Monarch, the decision was taken by Buckingham Palace that only working members of the Royal Family were to wear military dress uniform for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II,” William Hanson, a British etiquette coach said via email.

But, of course, the drama did not end there. Military uniform freshly returned to him, Harry found something amiss: A patch with the Queen’s initials, “ER,” was no longer where it typically was on the shoulder of his uniform. There was some gossipy reporting that Harry felt “heartbroken” and “excluded” by the removal of the patch. This move at least aligned with precedent, though: “This was a regulation that already existed,” Hanson said. “Only those who serve a Monarch would wear the royal cipher.”

Harry’s new role, or lack thereof, in the royal family came into play again during Monday’s funeral. “The Duke of Sussex wore what is, confusingly, colloquially called ‘mourning morning dress,’” Hanson said. “It is a funereal version of what we usually see at Royal Ascot [a horse race], smart British weddings and garden parties at the Palace.”

Naturally, “mourning morning” is governed by even more unwritten rules. “The curve-fronted tailcoat is usually always black for any form of morning dress, and the trousers are always grey and striped,” Hanson relayed. “The waistcoat and tie change to black for mourning, however. While different color shirts may be worn for other events, a crisp white shirt is really the only option for mourning.”

Prince William and Harry at Monday’s funeral

Bloomberg/Getty Images

Harry’s outfit was strikingly different from what the military getups that other high-ranking royals, like his brother William, the Prince of Wales, and his father the newly crowned King Charles wore. The reason for this once again came down to status: King Charles and Prince William wore their uniforms and Harry wore morning dress, Hanson said, because they are “serving members of the Royal Family and [Harry] The Duke of Sussex is not.”

Still, Harry was allowed to wear the military medals he earned during active service. “These were correctly worn on the left side of the jacket, as well as round his neck,” Hanson said. He also noted that medals are worn in order of importance, with the most critical pinned closest to the heart. He also affixed to the lower portion of his tailcoat a star that he was awarded in 2015 in recognition for his service to the Monarch, and which distinguishes him as a “Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.”

At the beginning of this saga, Prince Harry’s spokesperson issued a statement urging us to pay less attention to what he was wearing and more to why he was wearing it. “We respectfully ask that focus remain on the life and legacy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II,” the statement read. But decoding the rules—both palace-decreed and unwritten—is helpful in understanding the turmoil currently surrounding the royal family.