From regal to rebel: the story of tattooed royalty
Traditionally, the British Royal Family have long been associated with notions of style, glamour, elegance, and poise. Over the years however, many members of the modern royal family have challenged these ideas—and getting tattooed is one of those ways. While tattoos were once frowned upon within aristocratic circles, they are now increasingly embraced, even by royalty.
A growing number of young members of the royal family are embracing tattoos as part of their personal style. Let's take a look at some of the most famous examples and explore the meanings behind their ink.
Are the Royal Family Allowed to Have Tattoos?
The official stance of the royal family on tattoos has been murky at best. While there is no public statement from the monarchy, it is generally thought that they disapprove tattoos due to the abundance of strict rules and protocols members must follow.
These concerns about upholding public image are potentially why there have been few examples of royals sporting body art in the past. However, it does seem that the subject may not be as taboo as first thought and we have seen encouraging signs that royals and their tattoos are accepted as a form of personal expression.
Famous Examples of Tattooed Royals
Surprisingly, the first royal tattoo seems to date as far back as the nineteenth century: 1869, to be more precise with the writhing dragon tattoo Prince Alfred received in Tokyo. Since then, there have been a few examples of royal members expressing themselves through body art.
Further afield, we've seen some impressive pieces of ink being sported by royals abroad. For example, Prince Frederik of Denmark, the heir to the Danish throne, and Princess Sofia of Sweden have shown off their stunning designs more recently. But what about tattoos within the British monarchy?
King George V
King George V was the monarch of the United Kingdom from 1910 until his death in 1936. He is well-known for getting a tiger and blue and red dragons tattooed onto his arm while visiting Japan with the Navy. Pretty epic!
Princess Eugenie is one of the only royals with visible tattoos. She showed off her small tattoo, a delicately inked circle behind her left year, at the Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations in 2022. However, it is unclear when she first got the piece of body art.
Although Princess Eugenie has not explicitly stated the meaning of her tattoo, there are some speculations as to what it represents. One theory is that it could be a tribute to her grandmother, as the circular ring could be symbolic of the Sovereign's Orb, which is closely associated with the monarch's authority.
Lady Amelia Windsor
Lady Amelia Windsor (the Duke of Kent's granddaughter) is another member of the British Royal Family who has tattoos—several tattoos in fact. Given that she is not as high-profile a member of the royal family, she has been able to take more risks with her body art than other members of the family.
Unlike Princess Eugenie, who has to abide by numerous regulations due to her public status, Lady Amelia has more liberties when it comes to expressing her style through tattoos.
Her ink collection is therefore more varied and adventurous. She has an eye-catching tiger inked on her shoulder blade, as well as a delicate rib tattoo and further designs on her wrists and forearms.
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Temporarily Tattooed Royalty
Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, has previously embraced a more subtle approach to body art than permanent tattoos by experimenting with temporary ink. In 2018, while pregnant on a visit to Sunderland, she received a piece of body art from a young henna tattooist. The small henna tattoo was seen on her right hand during the visit and appeared to be a simple floral pattern.
Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, also got a henna tattoo during her royal tour of Morocco in 2019. Unlike Kate's subtle and delicate floral pattern, Meghan's henna tattoo was more elaborate and featured an intricate design. The Duchess was seen with the henna design on her left hand, and it was believed to be a symbol of good luck for the final trimester of her pregnancy.
Henna tattoos are only temporary and usually last around two weeks, before fading so it was a safe way to show appreciation and still adhere to the royal rules.
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Other Royals Who Have Tattoos... Well Nearly
From the Duke of Cambridge to Prince Harry, some of the most famous royals have come tantalizingly close to getting tattoos. While we may never know if they actually followed through with their ink-filled desires or not, there are plenty of stories circulating about these royal family members and their potential for body art. it seems like many royals have toyed with the idea of getting tattoos.
Has Prince William Got a Tattoo?
Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, is another member of the British Royal Family who is believed to have expressed an interest in tattoos. During his time in the Royal Navy, it is rumoured he nearly got a large back tattoo, inspired by the one David Beckham sports on his own back.
Apparently, it was only his now-wife the Duchess of Cambridge who managed to turn him against the idea. However, it is possible we won't ever know for sure whether he followed through!
Did Prince Harry Get a Tattoo?
Finally, let's not forget how Prince Harry almost got a tattoo of Botswana on the sole of his foot while drunk on holiday in Las Vegas (he was only prevented from doing so by his security team, who threatened to stop him in whatever way they could)!
What is the Impact of Seeing Royals with Tattoos?
While only Princess Eugenie and Lady Amelia Windsor appear to be the royals with visible tattoos currently, the visibility of their body art sends an important message. It shows that tattooing is becoming an increasingly accepted form of personal expression, even in circles where adhering to traditional conventions is highly valued.
While body art has traditionally been seen as a sign of rebellion and defiance, it's now becoming more accepted in mainstream culture. As attitudes continue to change, it's possible we'll see more royals proudly displaying ink in public in the future.
Perhaps some of the younger royals, like Prince George and Prince Louis, will follow in the footsteps of their relatives and get inked when they're old enough? Only time will tell!
While the monarchy has traditionally been more conservative in their stance on body art, the acceptance of tattoos among royal family members is a positive step for those who view them as a form of personal expression.
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- Sarah Crookes