Gaining an audience with the Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church is an incredible honor. It’s only natural that those who do get to meet the pope treat the occasion with the proper reverence and respect that it deserves.

For centuries, the Catholic Tradition has been that women wear all black garments when meeting with the pope, as these colors historically signify piety and humility. The protocol for papal audiences required that women wear a long black dress with a high collar and long sleeves with a black mantilla worn over the head and shoulders. Even non-catholic women of nobility, like the Queen of England, adhere to this dress code.

So why are seven women in the world allowed to wear white?

Le privilège du blanc, or “the privilege of the white,” is a term describing the custom where certain designated women are allowed to wear a white dress and veil during audiences with the pope, rather than the traditional black dress. A reigning Catholic queen or princess is given this privilege at the behest of the pope.

The requirements for the privilege are being a Catholic in good standing and being married to another Catholic monarch. They may also gain the privilege through a simple dispensation by the pope. However, a catholic monarch does not have to always adhere to the Le privilège du blanc, called “declining the privilege.” If they decline to wear white clothing it does not disallow them from wearing white clothing in the future, as long they still retain the privilege.

Today, only seven catholic monarchs have the privilege. Although Queen Maxima of the Netherlands is Catholic, her husband King Willem-Alexander is protestant and thus she is not afforded the privilege. The seven who do have it are:

  • Queen Sofía of Spain – Accession of husband to the Spanish throne in 1975
  • Queen Paola of the Belgians – Accession of husband to the Belgian throne in 1993
  • Maria Teresa, The Grand Duchess of Luxembourg – Accession of husband to the Luxembourgish throne in 2000
  • The Princess of Monaco – Dispensation from Pope Benedict XVI to the House of Grimaldi in 2013
  • Queen Mathilde of Belgium – Accession of husband to the Belgian throne in 2013
  • Queen Letizia of Spain – Accession of husband to the Spanish throne in 2014
  • The Princess of Naples – Dispensation from Pope Pius XI to the House of Savoy in 1929
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  1. Jesus I trust in YOU, thank you for many blessing and graces- O sacred Heart of Jesus be Thou my salvation

  2. I love and worship Lord Jesus and your Holy Mother. Please look after my son Kristoffer as he starts his new life in Australia. Keep him safe and wise in your image Amen

    • May God almighty guide and protect your son,today and always. May our mother Mary interceded on his behalf always. May no evil come near his dwelling place. He will encounter Gods divine favor,mercy and grace as he starts a new life in Australia. It is well with your son,ma’am.

      • we dont worship Mary, we respect/honor her as the mother of GOD, He was the one who chose her as His mother, dont worry none catholic will ever love her more than Jesus does.

      • I’m sorry that you do not understand Catholicism. Talk to your local priest or Bishop. Ask to speak to him privately. He will be glad to answer all your questions.

  3. Missed the nuptial blessing. New brides can wear white (their wedding dress) if they have the honor, with their spouse, to receive the nuptial blessing. God bless our Pope!

  4. Totally disagree with the wearing of white. I am surprised that Pope Francis would go for it. He uplifts the poor and feeds our spirits with Christ. He does not afford perceived privilege to the monarchy or anyone for their birth status.

  5. Very interesting! Also, side note, change title to read “7 women” instead of “7 woman.” And correct grammar mistake in article.

  6. I find this to be ridiculous, as are many ‘customs’ in my church. I overlook them! Thank you for this article,it is something to add to the package of not bearing meaning, with the exception of the ‘Divine Right’ of monarchies!

  7. Well, as I’m never likely to have an audience with the pope I’m not too worried about the dress code, but it’s still fun to learn all the little traditions and quirks of our church. I also didn’t know who were the world’s Catholic monarchs.

  8. Its sad that we put our faith in human beings,The Sovereign God gave us his only begotten son Jesus as amediator in all things that we do or ask or worship.this is human and the things of this world will pass and has no spiritual importance.

  9. Since when did Jesus become a member of the “Fashion Police?” I don’t believe this is a reflection of Jesus’s teachings but rather a very odd tradition. I think I need to go back to basics, what are the Ten Commandments again?

    • Maybe you should just be protestant. Then you can do whatever you want and make rules to fit how you feel.

    • I agree, Carrie. I didn’t know that we have women in the Catholic faith who rank higher than the rest of us just because they have a title assigned to them by politics and not by God

  10. It seems a harmless formality probably dating back centuries, and obviously of European design. Americans don’t have much use for monarchies, so to us it smacks of privileging wealth and status over the common folk. Funny, but even here we unthinkingly privilege wealth and status over the common folk, in politics, in celebrity, in academics, etc. I doubt I’ll ever stand in the presence of a pope this side of heaven. (Maybe there we will all be dressed in white.) In the meantime, I cannot get too exercised over things like this. Shrug and let it go. This pope didn’t make the rules, and he’s aware he will not be the last pope. He washes and kisses the feet of prisoners. Give him a break.

  11. Joan I totally agree. Shrug this off. The Church is perfect but the Christians who participated in it are only human with human failings. I don’t believe royalty should be more respected than anyone else. However possibility these individual women are beacons of their faith who serve the church faithfully while the politicians and media attack every aspect of the Church. They do not hide their faith to avoid media scrutiny ? Who knows? I think satan plays mind games with us. He picks up the foibles of the church, adds a lot of lies and mischief to cause unrest . If in doubt about faith. Ask Jesus or his Mother to help you understand and believe me, you will read or speak to someone who will enlighten you with the truth. Do not let little irritations trouble your heart or your faith.

  12. I agree with both of you Joan and Maureen.
    Maureen you are absolutely correct. May God bless and increase your unalloyed wisdom and God given Faith, amen.
    This I ask daily, ‘Lord that I may See’.

  13. I’m not sure why everyone seems to be so upset about this tradition. I’ve been Catholic my whole life and had never heard of this tradition. So, I read the article, thought to my self “How interesting” and then decided to scan the comments to see what everyone else thought. If you are Catholic then I’m not sure why this upsets you so much unless you are concerned that your meeting with the pope won’t go as well unless you are wearing white, and if you are not Catholic then I’m not sure why you care at all, it has nothing to do with you.

  14. Think about at home first, you give good privileges for your kids when they behave good, or follow household rules. The same applied at school, in communities, in state, etc. for people to follow rules. In school if you follow rules, you get free dress, if you are smart you belong to a group of smart kids.

  15. Structure, rules, and continuity are WONDERFUL when you use them LOVINGLY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    When dressed properly, your mind can focus on what you can LEARN, HEAR, and PROCESS!!!!!!!!!!
    Thanks be to GOD !!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. Yes I agree with Joan and Maureen too. As someone has already said, the church has rules and women wearing white (or not) is one of them. Let it go. Does it matter? Does it alter your faith? I hear many complaints from fellow catholics who continually criticise rules of the church as being useless, unnecessary and archaic. Rules and traditions have been part of our catholic faith for centuries. You may not like all of them but they are part of what makes us catholics and different.

  17. What do we learn? They said it signify peity and humility. And who is protesting against it? James said it has no spiritual impartation. But mind you, you do fasting, what spiritual impartation is fasting. When you want to pray, you physically kneel down, what spiritual impartation is that?
    My dear, learn from the Catholic and stop protesting because what goes around comes around. No organization without tradition. Protestant church has.
    Spiritual impartation? Dear you need to do physically good to be connected to holy spirituality.


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