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International Women's Day: The Royal Family's most feminist moments

·Royal Correspondent
·9 min read
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Member of the Royal Family don’t regularly voice political opinions, but as arguably the world’s most famous matriarchy, it shouldn’t be a surprise that it is full of feminists.

Whether explicitly or subtly, many of its members have shown how they back women and champion gender equality.

Here’s some of the times they fought for women.

When the Queen changed the line of succession to make sure women were equal to men

Historically, men have had precedence in the line of succession, even over older sisters. For example, Princess Anne is further down the line to the throne than her two younger brothers, Andrew and Edward, and their children.

But in 2011, Commonwealth leaders voted to change this, meaning in future, there would be no bumping out of line by brothers to older sisters.

While it’s not officially just the Queen’s decision, the BBC’s royal correspondent Nicolas Witchell said the comment by Her Majesty in the speech at the opening of parliament that same year - that women should have a greater role in society - indicated she backed it this time.

There were 11 previous attempts by MPs and peers to change the succession laws.

Members of the royal family, including Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge holding Princess Charlotte, Prince George, Prince William, Queen Elizabeth, and Prince Philip stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony on Horseguards Parade in central London, Britain June 11, 2016. Trooping the Colour is a ceremony to honour Queen Elizabeth's official birthday. The Queen celebrates her 90th birthday this year.   REUTERS/Toby Melville
The change means Charlotte retains her place in line to the throne. (Reuters)

The Queen is the only female member of the Royal Family to serve in the army

During the Second World War, the Queen served in the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service.

Then Princess Elizabeth, the royal drove trucks and learnt how to repair cars. She’s the only living head of state to have served in the Second World War.

Read more: Royal Family share Queen's childhood handwriting for World Book Day

UNITED KINGDOM - CIRCA 1945:  Princess Elizabeth (born in 1926), future queen Elizabeth II of England, learning how to change a car wheel as an auxiliary-officer of the English Army, 1945.  (Photo by Roger Viollet via Getty Images)
Princess Elizabeth learning how to change a car wheel as an auxiliary-officer of the English Army, 1945. (Getty Images)

The Queen once drove the Saudi King

The Queen is regularly seen driving around her country estates including Sandringham and Balmoral, but perhaps the most iconic drive she took was one where the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz joined her in the passenger seat in Scotland.

It was particularly significant because women were banned from driving in Saudi Arabia at the time.

Apparently, the King was a nervous passenger - and asked his interpreter to ask the Queen to slow down on the winding Scottish roads.

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Queen Elizabeth II drives a Range Rover as she attends the Royal Windsor Horse Show 2019 on May 10, 2019 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/Samir Hussein/WireImage)
The Queen regularly drives herself to the Windsor Horse Show - even here in 2019. (Getty Images)

Prince Charles urged people to tackle gender-based violence

In a speech in 2019, in the Solomon Islands Parliament, he challenged the nation’s MPs to make gender equality a priority.

He said: “It also means tackling the appalling scourge of gender-based violence, as I know so many of you are determined to do, and empowering women to play a full and equal role in your society.

“In the Solomon Islands, as elsewhere, as long as women face the despicable threat of physical and sexual violence, or discrimination on the basis of their gender, your economy and your society will simply never be able to achieve their full and extraordinary potential.”

HONIARA, GUADALCANAL ISLAND, SOLOMON ISLANDS - NOVEMBER 25:  Prince Charles, Prince of Wales address the National Parliament of the Solomon Islands at Parliament House during day three of the royal visit to the Solomon Islands on November 25, 2019 in Honiara, Guadalcanal Island, Solomon Islands. The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall just finished a tour of New Zealand. It was their third joint visit to New Zealand and first in four years. The Prince is currently on a solo three day tour of The Solomon Islands. (Photo by  Victoria Jones - Pool/Getty Images)
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales address the National Parliament of the Solomon Islands at Parliament House. (Getty Images)

The Duchess of Cornwall works with domestic violence victims

Camilla has been working alongside victims of domestic violence for years, a crime which mostly affects women.

In 2016, at a reception hosted by the duchess in Clarence House, the author Kathy Lette praised Camilla as a “feminist” who “takes no prisoners”.

Lette said the choice of charities and causes the duchess supported showed she was a feminist, adding: “She surrounds herself with strong women, strong female friends. She’s earthy, she’s witty, she’s wise and deliciously self-deprecating.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 12: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (2nd L) talks to CEO of SafeLives Suzanne Jacob (L), Ambassador Women's Trust Teresa Falcone and SafeLives Pioneers Celia Peachey and Rachel Williams during a reception to acknowledge the 15th anniversary of domestic abuse charity SafeLives at Clarence House on February 12, 2020 in London, England.  (Photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images)
Camilla with representatives of domestic violence charities at Clarence House. (Getty Images)

The Duchess of Cornwall is the president of a festival about women

The duchess is president of the Women of the World festival (WOW) which is held at the Southbank centre in London every year.

Speaking at an event for WOW in 2019, she quoted her friend, who founded the festival and said: “Women need to say, I’ve got one life, I’ve been given life, it has been breathed into me and here I am and I should use it for the best possible purpose—whatever each women herself defines that to be.”

Read more: Duchess of Cornwall challenges society as she declares domestic violence 'everyone's problem'

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 19:  Jude Kelly, (R), Artistic Director of London's Southbank Centre, speaksÊat a reception of well known women leaders from around the USA while Camilla, Duchess of CornwallÊlooks on at the National Museum of Women in the Arts for the US launch of WOW - Women of the World Festival, a global festival founded by London's Southbank Centre celebrating women and girls on March 19, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Prince and Duchess are in Washington as part of a four day tour of the United States.  (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Jude Kelly and Camilla speak about the WOW festival. (Getty Images)

Prince William proposed to Kate without asking her father first

A subtle one, but William defied usual tradition by going straight to his bride-to-be and not to her father first.

He said in an interview after they got engaged that he was concerned her dad might say no, adding: “I thought if I ask Kate first then he can't really say no.”

Read more: Prince William pledges Royal Family will support friendship of UK and Ireland

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 16:  Prince William and Kate Middletonarrive to pose for photographs in the State Apartments of St James Palace on November 16, 2010 in London, England. After much speculation, Clarence House today announced the engagement of Prince William to Kate Middleton. The couple will get married in either the Spring or Summer of next year and continue to live in North Wales while Prince William works as an air sea rescue pilot for the RAF. The couple became engaged during a recent holiday in Kenya having been together for eight years.  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
William and Kate announcing their engagement. (Getty Images)

Prince William encourages his children to be equals

At the Diana Awards at Kensington Palace in November 2019, William told Olivia Hancock, 14, who was there because of her work promoting equality of the sexes in football, about his children playing football together.

The teenager recalled: “Prince William he said to me, when he plays football with George and Charlotte, when Charlotte's in goal George says to her that ‘Charlotte I'm better than you’.”

But he tells George: “Charlotte could be as good as you.”

Britain’s Prince William, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince George and Princess Charlotte leave the St Mary Magdalene's church after the Royal Family's Christmas Day service on the Sandringham estate in eastern England, Britain, December 25, 2019. REUTERS/Phil Noble
William is raising his children as equals. (Reuters)

The Duchess of Cambridge admitted she gets mum guilt

Many mothers confess to feeling guilty about being at work when they could be with their children, and feeling guilty about being with their children when they could be at work.

Kate opened up about sharing this guilt when she appeared on a podcast with Giovanna Fletcher in February 2020.

She also opened up about the sickness she was treated for in all her pregnancies, as well as trying hypno birthing during labour.

Read more: Royal tour 2020: The best pictures of the Duke and Duchess in Ireland

Britain's Princess Charlotte arrives for her first day at school accompanied by her mother Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, father Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and brother Prince George, at Thomas's Battersea in London, Britain September 5, 2019. Aaron Chown/Pool via REUTERS
Kate admitted she gets mum guilt. (Reuters)

Duchess of Cambridge has championed mothers and carers

Since she married Prince William, Kate has worked on projects relating to Early Years, and in particular, the role of mothers and other carers in the first five years of a child’s life.

In March 2017, she opened up about her own experience in a way which suggested she too could see the gaps in the system.

She said: “Personally, becoming a mother has been such a rewarding and wonderful experience. However, at times it has also been a huge challenge, even for me who has support at home that most mothers do not.

“It's so hard. You get a lot of support with the baby as a mother particularly in the early days but after the age of one it falls away. After that there isn't a huge amount - lots of books to read. Everybody experiences the same struggle.”

Read more: Giovanna Fletcher admits she didn't sleep the night before interviewing the Duchess of Cambridge

BALLYMENA, NORTHERN IRELAND - FEBRUARY 28: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge meets service users during a visit St Joseph’s SureStart Facility on February 28, 2019 in Ballymena, Northern Ireland. Prince William last visited Belfast in October 2017 without his wife, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, who was then pregnant with the couple's third child. This time they concentrate on the young people of Northern Ireland. Their engagements include a visit to Windsor Park Stadium, home of the Irish Football Association, activities at the Roscor Youth Village in Fermanagh, a party at the Belfast Empire Hall, Cinemagic -a charity that uses film, television and digital technologies to inspire young people and finally dropping in on a SureStart early years programme (Photo by Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage)
The duchess works on projects related to Early Years. (Getty Images)

Prince Harry said girls education is vital

In a speech in Nepal in March 2016, Prince Harry addressed the challenges facing young women, particularly those who end up marrying and having children young, and stay at home.

He named Michelle Obama and Malala Yousefzei as inspirational role models as he said that education was the key to breaking the cycle that keeps women down.

He said: “Improved access to education can transform lives, families, communities and ultimately entire countries. When girls finish their schooling, they gain skills, knowledge and confidence - in short; they are empowered to improve their lives and the lives of everyone around them.”

Britain's Prince Harry (L) arrives for a ceremony at the Embassy of Nepal in London on March 20, 2017.   Prince Harry attended a ceremony marking the conclusion of celebrations for the bicentenary of bilateral relations between the United Kingdom and Nepal, by the Nepali calendar.  / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Philip Coburn        (Photo credit should read PHILIP COBURN/AFP via Getty Images)
Prince Harry urged people in Nepal to educate girls. (Getty Images)

Prince Harry said ‘I’m a feminist’

According to the chief executive of Tomorrow’s Women Wirral, Harry told her “I’m a feminist” while he and Meghan were visiting the charity in January 2019.

He apparently talked about how it is important for men to support women’s equality too.

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - JANUARY 14: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex visit 'Tomorrow's Women Wirral' Charity on January 14, 2019 in Birkenhead, United Kingdom. (Photo by Charlotte Graham - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The duke said he is a feminist. (Getty Images)

The Duchess of Sussex said feminism is about fairness

Meghan was a campaigner on women’s rights long before she met Harry, and was a UN Women’s Ambassador, but her marriage hasn’t stopped her activism.

In a speech in New Zealand shortly before they were married, she praised the women’s suffrage movement and said feminism is about fairness.

She also said: “Women’s suffrage is not simply about the right to vote for women, but also about what that represents: the basic and fundamental human right of all people, including those members of society who have been marginalized whether for reasons of race, gender, ethnicity or orientation, to be able to participate in the choices for their future and their community.”

Read more: Meghan says it's 'nice' to be back as she joins Harry at Endeavour Fund awards

ROTORUA, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 31:  Meghan, Duchess of Sussex  visits Te Papaiouru Marae for a formal powhiri and luncheon on October 31, 2018 in Rotorua, New Zealand. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are on their official 16-day Autumn tour visiting cities in Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand.  (Photo by Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage)
Meghan said feminism is about fairness in a speech in New Zealand. (Getty Images)

The Duchess of Sussex spoke about gender stereotype shifting

In a panel debate after she was given her commonwealth role, which marked International Women’s Day in 2019, she spoke about how feminists can be feminine - and masculine too.

She added: “So I hope that men are part of the conversation. My husband certainly is.”

Britain's Meghan, Duchess of Sussex takes part in a panel discussion convened by the Queen's Commonwealth Trust to mark International Women's Day in London on March 8, 2019. (Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / various sources / AFP)        (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex takes part in a panel discussion for International Women's Day in 2019. (Getty Images)

Prince Philip has been the Queen’s strength and stay

Perhaps the least likely of all, there’s a good case to make that Prince Philip is a feminist.

He was forced to give up his blossoming naval career when his wife suddenly became Queen much sooner than they both expected.

And he’s had to walk behind her for the rest of his life, letting her higher rank go in front of him.

But he has carried out some 22,000 engagements before he retired, and has been credited as the Queen’s “strength and stay”.

On Yahoo UK’s ‘The Royal Box’, Roya Nikkah said: “A man who has supported his wife in a way, to a very successful reign, I think is an amazing achievement for him, and he has supported, probably the most famous woman in the world for seven decades. If that's not being a feminist role model, I don't know what is.”

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 12: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh look on after the wedding of Princess Eugenie of York and Mr. Jack Brooksbank at St. George's Chapel on October 12, 2018 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Alastair Grant - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Philip has always had to walk behind the Queen. (Getty Images)
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