Kate Middleton, Queen Elizabeth, Meghan Markle

Getty Images

In many classic fairytales, the princess is portrayed as a damsel in distress, waiting to be rescued by her handsome prince. However, the women of the British royal family hardly fit this mold. In fact, they are arguably the true leaders of the British monarchy.

Now, this isn't just because the current and longest reigning ruler, Queen Elizabeth II, happens to be a woman. It also isn't simply because women are the ones who give birth to the future heirs to the throne.

No, these women are powerful royals because they embody true leadership qualities and carry them out to promote progressive change. 

In honor of International Women's Day, here's a closer look at the seven reasons why the women are the ones who rule the royal family.

Queen Elizabeth II

Julian Calder

1. They're not afraid to get their hands dirty

Even before her reign, Queen Elizabeth knew the importance of serving her country. According to the Imperial War Museum, 14-year-old Princess Elizabeth broadcasted a message to evacuees during the Children's Hour radio program back in 1940 and called for them to have courage during World War II.

This wasn't her only involvement with the war. Per the museum, Her Royal Highness joined the Auxiliary Territorial Services at age 19 and became a trained driver and mechanic with the rank of Second Subaltern. Just a few months later, the royal moved up to Junior Commander—a position that was the equivalent of captain. 

What's more, the BBC reported the Queen used ration coupons to pay for her wedding dress material before she married Prince Phillip in 1947.

2. They give a voice to the people

Princess Diana wasn't called the People's Princess for nothing. During her life, the Princess of Wales supported several causes. As the BBC recalled, Diana opened the U.K.'s first HIV/AIDS unit exclusively for patients suffering from the virus at the London Middlesex Hospital. It was there, the news outlet reported, that Diana shook hands with a patient suffering from the illness without gloves—proving to the world that HIV/AIDS could not be transmitted through touch.

As TIME noted, she also walked through a minefield in Angola to advocate against landmines and took her children Prince William and Prince Harry to visit homeless shelters.

Harry and William have carried on a lot of their late mother's humanitarian work.

Kate Middleton

Samir Hussein/Samir Hussein/WireImage

3. They come up with new ideas 

While William, Harry and Kate Middleton have all championed their Heads Together initiative, it was the Duchess of Cambridge who came up with the idea to create a campaign centered on promoting mental health and fighting stigmas. 

"It's a common thread, wasn't it?" Kate said to William and Harry in a video for the campaign. "Mental health sort of seemed to run between all the different areas we were working in. So whether it's homelessness and the military with yourself [Harry] or addiction and bereavement with me, there was this, sort of an underlying thread, wasn't there, of mental health and this idea that I suppose all of us coming together to find a common theme."

4. They have their own passions and interests

Every woman in the royal family has her unique interests and passions. In fact, many of the royals have tapped into these areas to help drive a greater good. Kate, for instance, studied art history at the University of St. Andrews and is now the patron of the National Portrait Gallery. She also has an affinity for sports and is the patron of SportsAid, an organization that helps support young athletes.

While Meghan Markle isn't officially a member of the royal family just yet, she also has devoted time to causes she cares about, including women's rights. It will be interesting to see which areas she chooses to focus on once she and Harry say "I do."

ESC: Princess Diana

Tim Graham/Getty Images

5. They tackle traditionally taboo topics

Diana wasn't afraid to speak about traditionally taboo topics. She tackled stigmas surrounding HIV/AIDS and leprosy and spoke openly about her own experiences with postnatal depression—a subject she said "no one ever discusses."

"By the time William arrived, it was great relief because it was all peaceful again. I was well for a time. Then I was unwell with postnatal depression, which no one ever discusses postnatal depression. You have to read about it afterwards. And that in itself was a bit of a difficult time," she told the BBC's Martin Bashir in her 1995 interview.

Kate has also continued to learn about postpartum depression. In January, she visited the Mother and Baby Unit at the Bethlem Royal Hospital to speak with mothers who've experienced it firsthand. She also visited the Maurice Wohl Clinical Neuroscience Institute at King's College to hear about maternal mental health challenges.

Meghan Markle, Nottingham

Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard/PA Wire

6. They're not afraid to break tradition

Meghan has already broken a few traditional protocols. For instance, she already spent Christmas with the royal family while Kate had to wait until after she and William were married to join in on the festivities. She's also shown a lot more public displays of affection towards her husband-to-be than other royal couples have.

It will be interesting to see what other royal rules Meghan bends once she becomes an official member of the family.

7. They adjust to change

Whether it's adjusting to a new political environment or simply learning how to better communicate with the public in the digital age, the women of the royal family know how to adjust with the times.

As Queen Elizabeth once said, "Change has become a constant, managing it has become an expanding discipline."

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Share