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

Rebecca Taylor
Royal Correspondent

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.

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

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.

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.”

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.”

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'

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

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.”

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

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

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.”

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.

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

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.”

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.”

Philip has always had to walk behind the Queen. (Getty Images)