The British monarch stepped out in public a few weeks back doing something that is rare for her: wearing a pair of sunglasses. Shades are not normal for royalty due to the rules of etiquette. So when a member of the royal family is seen wearing them, the general public sits up and pays attention. Such was the case with Queen Elizabeth II.
So what was going on? Well, the Queen was spotted wearing a pair of elegant-looking sunglasses with round lenses at several public appearances in late May and early June. And no, Elizabeth II was not embracing the tiny sunglasses trend in order to look fashionable. She had a medical reason for wearing her shades.
It turns out that the Queen underwent a cataract procedure just a few weeks before the royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The Queen’s sunglasses were nothing more than a bit of cautionary eye protection while she recovers from the procedure.
The Rules of Royal Etiquette
Royal families in countries all around the globe follow a strict code of etiquette whenever in public. In the case of the British royal family, there is a list of nearly two-dozen rules covering dress. Although not a written rule, there is an unspoken rule of etiquette relating to wearing sunglasses in public.
Sunglasses can be worn by members of the royal family in extenuating circumstances when the sunshine is just too bright or, as in the case of Queen Elizabeth II, there is a medical reason for doing so. Otherwise, royals are expected to allow their eyes to be seen on every public occasion.
It has been said that the eyes are the window to the soul. As such, royals do not want the general public to look on them and not be able to see their eyes. If they were to don sunglasses while out in public, they could be perceived as cold and uncaring people – which is the last thing the royal family wants. They would rather suck it up and deal with the sun in their eyes than cover them and cause a disconnect between themselves and the public.
One thing royals can do – and they do it quite often, by the way – is wear wide-brimmed hats. The brims keep direct sunlight out of their eyes while still leaving their faces fully accessible to the public. It is a very good compromise, albeit not necessarily the best in terms of providing UV protection.
Even Royals Get Sick
Queen Elizabeth II’s cataracts may come as a surprise to some Britons who hold the royal family in such high esteem that it’s hard for them to believe individual members get sick. But they do. And let’s not forget that the Queen is in her early 90s. For her to need cataract surgery at her age is not at all abnormal.
Understandably, British society has cut Queen Elizabeth II some slack in light of her health. But rest assured that she probably won’t continue wearing sunglasses once her eyes heal completely. Unless, of course, her doctor orders her to continue. Such an order could change royal etiquette at some point in the future. That is a bridge to cross when we get to it.
For the rest of us, a good pair of sunglasses is an absolute necessity. That’s why companies like Utah-based Olympic Eyewear churn out so many pairs of designer sunglasses every year. The average American buys at least one pair per year, so Olympic and its competitors have plenty of work to keep them busy.