Kate Middleton’s rank within the British royal family changes depending on whether her husband, Prince William, is present or not around other members of the monarch. The Duchess of Cambridge has more rules to abide by in Queen Elizabeth’s newest modification to the Order of Precedence in the Royal Household.
The queen has ordered Middleton to curtsy in front of born Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice when William isn’t present. When William is absent, she’s also ordered to curtsy to other high-ranking princesses, such as Princess Anne and Princess Alexandra (the Queen’s cousin).
When William is present with Kate, she assumes his rank. According to the Order, the princesses must curtsy to her.
Even when her husband is present, Kate must curtsy to the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles (Prince of Wales), and Camilla (Duchess of Cornwall). This modification to the Order of Precedence is the first one since 2005 when Princess Anne and Alexandra requested the Queen update the rules after Prince Charles married Camilla. By old standards, they were required to curtsy to Camilla when Charles wasn’t present.
The rules set forth in the new Order of Precedence might seem petty and fussy to the real world, but tradition is key in the royal family. Some might think Kate’s “commoner” background plays a role in the new ranking system of curtsying, but it comes down to blood in the monarchy and who was actually “born” royal.