Women in the Royal Family Collage

E! Illustration

In many classic fairy tales, 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. They connect to the masses, make every royal duty that much more interesting and they pull us in whenever they step out and don their crowns (or tiaras) in public.

In honor of International Women's Day, which is on Friday, March 8 this year, here's a closer look at the nine reasons why the women are the ones who really rule the royal family.

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. She's a fighter and she's always prepared to rally the troops...literally and figuratively.

Queen Elizabeth II

Julian Calder

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 and continued to connect to the people on a level their mother would be proud of.

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?" Middleton said to her husband and brother-in-law 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. The Duchess of Cambridge, 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.

Meghan Markle, the newest royal, has already made her mark as well championing causes like women's rights, the arts, access to education and animal welfare. In early 2019, it was announced that she is now the patron for four organizations including, The National Theatre and The Association of Commonwealth Universities, both handed down from Her Majesty. Plus, she has two of her own charity choices to support including Smart Works and Mayhew.

ESC: Princess Diana

Tim Graham/Getty Images

5. They tackle traditionally taboo topics

The Princess of Wales 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," Princess Diana told the BBC's Martin Bashir in her 1995 interview.

Middleton has also continued to learn about postpartum depression. In 2018, 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

The Ducess of Sussex has already broken a few traditional protocols and she hasn't even been a full royal for a year. For example, she spent Christmas with the royal family in 2017 while she was just engaged, while her sister-in-law had to wait until after she and Prince William were married to join in on the festivities. She's also shown a lot more public displays of affection towards her husband than other royal couples have.

Plus, the duo's wedding broke a lot of traditions like the fact that Markle gave a toast at the evening reception, they got married on a Saturday instead of a weekday, there was an American bishop during one part of the wedding, and she held her husband's hands throughout the ceremony.

7. They lean into love

Beginning with Queen Elizabeth, the women of the royal family have really fought for true love and forever love, which is something that wasn't traditionally associated with the Monarchy. According to The Telegraph, Her Majesty decided she wanted to marry Prince Phillip, no matter how young she was or what her parent's reservations were, without a fancy wedding by royal standards because of the country's state following WWI, and she did just that and 70 years later they're still together.

Princess Diana got divorced from Prince Charles, but by doing so she fought for real love. Her sons had a bit of better luck with their ladies with the Duchess of Cambridge going all-in on her romance with Prince William even though she was a commoner and it was a new type of relationship. The Duchess of Sussex fell for Prince Harry despite being in a completely different world and left behind her country to stay with the man who makes her happy.

8. They have an international presence and following

The royals have always been fascinating to people outside of the U.K. but when it comes to the fascination with the Queen and duchesses of England it is on a whole different level. For example, when Middleton or Markle wear a new outfit it sells out faster than we can ever imagine and according to The Hollywood Reporter, the "Meghan Markle Effect" has pumped $210 million into the British economy thus far.

Approximately 23 million Americans tuned in to see Middleton and Prince William tie the knot in 2011, while 29 million Americans watched Markle wed Prince Harry in 2018. That amount of star power is unique to the women of the British royal family, even if the men do intrigue the masses throughout the world. 

Princess Eugenie, Princess Eugenie Royal Wedding

PA Wire

9. 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. Case and point: Princess Eugenie, cousin to Prince William and Prince Harry, and granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth. Both Princess Eugenie and her sister Princess Beatrice have Twitter accounts that help promote their charities and duties, but on International Women's Day in 2018 Eugenie joined Instagram which makes her the only royal with a personal account.

"I can think of no better day than today, International Women's Day, to launch my personal Instagram," she captioned her initial Instagram video. "I hope to use this platform to share the causes, passions and people close to my heart. #scoliosis #iwd2018 #weday #firstpost."

As Queen Elizabeth once said, "Change has become a constant, managing it has become an expanding discipline," and clearly all of the women in her life are taking it to heart.

This article was originally published at 4 a.m. on March 8, 2018.

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