The Royal Family's best reactions at sports events, from Queen Elizabeth's unimpressed face to Kate Middleton's Wimbledon excitement

The Royal Family's usually cool, calm demeanour tends to falter when they're watching one of their favourite sports

L-R: queen Elizabeth II, Princess Anne both showing hilarious reactions at sporting events
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The Royal Family are, arguably, among the most photographed people across the world. 

So naturally, the likes of Catherine, Princess of Wales, Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh and Meghan Markle are usually picture-perfect. From Kate Middleton's dazzling tiara moments to Meghan Markle's chic off-duty looks, they rarely put a foot wrong. 

But - and there's always a but - not even the royals are immune from an amusing reaction or wayward expression immortalised forever. And when these royals are caught in a sporting event, the odds of this happening increase dramatically, as these photos prove. 

The Royal Family's best reactions at sports events

Queen Elizabeth enjoys a day at the races

Queen Elizabeth II at the Epsom derby

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In this wonderful photo, we see the late Queen Elizabeth truly in her element, combining two of her greatest loves - bright fashion and horses. 

Dressed in one of her classic bold ensembles, the Queen looked truly excited to be cheering on horses at the 1988 Epsom Derby. 

Her love of horses lasted most of her life. As a child, she was given her first horse, a Shetland pony named Peggy. 

By age 18, she was an accomplished rider, and she also bred racehorses. 

Gilded Youth: An Intimate History of Growing Up in the Royal Family by Tom Quinn, £9.42 (was £20) | Amazon

Gilded Youth: An Intimate History of Growing Up in the Royal Family by Tom Quinn, £9.42 (was £20) | Amazon

Exploring what it's like to grow up in the Royal Family, Tom Quinn brings together historical sources with testimonies from palace staff. There are tales of royal mischievousness, including surprising anecdotes about Queen Elizabeth and Prince William, and it's shocking, funny and insightful all at once.

Kate and Charlotte's pure Wimbledon joy

Kate Middleton and Princess Charlotte cheering at Wimbledon

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The Princess of Wales has become a regular fixture in the royal box at Wimbledon, but in 2023, she had the pleasure of bringing Princess Charlotte. 

It clearly means a lot for Kate to share her love of tennis with her only daughter, and Charlotte proved herself to be a chip off the old block. 

Both mum and daughter weren't shy about showing off their uninhibited excitement, with Kate flashing a massive smile while Charlotte practically leapt out of her chair. 

Hijinks at the Highland Games, 2012

Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth and King Charles at the Braemar Highland Games

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The Braemar Highland Games have been a favourite sporting tradition for the Royal Family for years - and the evidence is in the family's beaming smiles.

Held on the first Saturday of September each year, the cherished Scottish tradition would regularly be attended by the likes of the late Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth and their family. 

The royals watch on with glee as some traditional activities take place, including Highland Dancing, tug of war competitions and piping.

Prince Harry joins in with some crowd fun

Prince Harry joining in with a Mexican wave

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For some people, the thought of being forced to take part in a Mexican wave is an absolute no. 

However, Prince Harry proved how game he was to join in the fun with the crowds during the 2014 Invictus Games.

Not only did the Duke of Sussex give his best enthusiastic wave, but he also genuinely looked happy to be doing so. A great candid shot of Harry that shows his goofy side

Matching family faces

Prince Harry, Prince William, Kate Middleton and Prince Edward

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Prince Edward enjoyed a rare outing with his nephews and Kate Middleton in 2014, and proved that the different generations had plenty in common. 

The royal group were quite the picture when they united to cheer on Team GB hockey players, showing off a near-identical reaction. 

The family were enjoying a day out for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Mixed reactions at the Commonwealth Games

Princess Anne, Timothy Laurence, Duchess Sophie and Prince Edward

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Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, her husband Sir Timothy Laurence, Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh and and Prince Edward, Duke of Edinburgh united to attend the Rugby Sevens during the 2022 Commonwealth Games. 

What we love about this little outing is each family member remains true to their character. 

Sophie is excitedly reacting to the sports, Edward is reserved, and Princess Anne remains completely unreadable with those iconic sunglasses. 

Harry and Meghan's twin expressions

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry at the Invictus Games

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have had quite the love story. A famous actress meets a real-life Prince, they get married in front of the world's stage and then sacrifice a lot for their own happily-ever-after. 

To assume they're on the same page about a lot of things would, therefore, be an understatement. 

This photograph of the couple at the 2022 Invictus Games is a snapshot of how in sync they are, pulling identical reactions.

A fun day at the horse trials

Queen Elizabeth, Prince Edward and Duchess Sophie

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The late Queen was joined by her youngest child, Prince Edward, and her daughter-in-law, Duchess Sophie as they cheered on Her Majesty's horse, Balmoral Leia, win the Horse & Hound Mountain & Moorland Supreme In Hand Championship at the Royal Windsor Horse Show. 

It's a cute, carefree moment for all three royals, and it was the first sign of Sophie and the Queen's famously close relationship which they formed by the end of the Queen's life in 2022.

Kate's stress at Wimbledon

Two photos of Kate Middleton's reactions at Wimbledon 2014

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These stress-inducing photos of a very anxious-looking Kate Middleton are enough to remind us to unclench our jaws and relax our shoulders.

The Princess of Wales's stressful-looking outing came as she caught the 2014 Wimbledon tournament - and it's easily one of her best candid reactions at a sporting event.

We know Kate loves the tennis but hopefully, she did something relaxing to unwind after such a fraught game!

The Queen is not impressed

Queen Elizabeth at the Epsom Derby 2011

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Queen Elizabeth was the longest-reigning monarch in British history, celebrating an unprecedented Platinum Jubilee in the summer of 2022. 

Despite being the head of state for seven decades and having the kind of life one cannot comprehend, it didn't always come up roses for Her Majesty. 

Case in point, this hilarious photo of a grumpy looking Queen when her horse came a disappointing third in the 2011 Epsom Derby. 

Her horse, Carlton House, had been an early frontrunner but ended up placing third on the podium.

Prince Harry gives his brother some side-eye

Prince Harry and Prince William

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Princes Harry and William united for a sibling day out to catch the England vs Wales rugby match in 2015, and this photo proves they might have had differing experiences.

William, looking frustrated as he cheered on his team, was most likely supporting Wales (he is the Prince of Wales, after all). 

Harry, however, served as the patron for England's Rugby Football Union and Rugby Football League. So it was a battle of the brothers, and based on Harry's smug side-eye, it's very possible he was having a far better time than William. An iconic William and Harry moment from when they were closer. 

Kate can't take any more

Prince William and Kate Middleton at the 2012 Olympics swimming

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The Prince and Princess of Wales - two individuals well-known for their sporting prowess - visited the London Olympics Aquatic Centre in 2012 to support Team GB. 

Kate's hilarious reactions ended up causing the bigger splash, though, as it all got too much for her and she had to hide her face in her hands. 

Harry and Meghan cheer on their local team

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle watch the Lakers basketball

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Meghan Markle tried life in Britain, getting to grips with customs familiar with her husband Prince Harry, so it's only fair she got to welcome Harry into her world once they relocated to Montecito. 

When the pair left the UK for America - quitting life as working royals in 2020 - they established a life in California. And for Harry, that meant joining his wife for sports less familiar to a Brit. 

The couple got into the spirit of the basketball game, but it's clear Meghan was the more invested of the pair, hollering and cheering away.

A young Queen Elizabeth cheers on Prince Philip

Queen Elizabeth II

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Not many people could say they had Queen Elizabeth as their personal cheerleader, but Her Majesty showed up at Highclere Castle in 1958 to root on Prince Philip as he played cricket. 

It was touching that the Queen - no doubt busy - would make the effort to come and cheer her husband on. Philip's love for cricket lasted most of his life. 

He once wrote about the sport in the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, "I enjoy everything about cricket. I suppose I must have played the game off and on from the age of eight until about forty eight, and I am sure I shall go on watching it as long as I can."

Prince George is not amused

Prince George at Wimbledon 2022

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Queen Victoria famously said "We are not amused" and that attitude has passed down the generations to her great-great-great-great-great grandson (yep, really, we checked!), Prince George. 

The young Prince and future King hadn't quite mastered his poker face when he joined his parents, Prince William and Kate Middleton, for a spot of tennis at Wimbledon 2022. 

Kate's look of genuine fear/horror

Kate Middleton at Wimbledon 2023

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Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. 

Kate Middleton's reaction at the 2023 Wimbledon Men's Final was one of the most dramatic reactions we've ever seen from the usually cool and collected Princess. 

Dressed elegantly in an emerald green dress by Roland Mouret, Kate was quite literally recoiling in horror as she got fully immersed in the action taking place on centre court. 

Despair at the rugby

Prince Harry, Prince William and Kate Middleton

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Like the most expressive of paintings, all three royals perfectly expressed a memorable reaction as they attended the Rugby World Cup in 2015. 

From left to right, we have Prince Harry looking the very picture of shock, close to catching flies with his mouth wide open. Next up, Prince William had the stony, still expression of someone trying to process something horrific. And, finally, Kate Middleton completed the hilarious image with a look of dismay.

Kate's awkward expression at Wimbledon

Kate Middleton

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Wearing a sunflower yellow dress with contrasting white panels, Kate Middleton brought the colour to the women's Wimbledon semi-final in 2016.

Everything was the picture of optimism and joy - except for the expression on the Princess's face. 

Looking utterly bewildered, it was a rare moment of unguarded candour from the usually poised Kate. 

Charles and Camilla have a giggle

Queen Camilla and King Charles at the Highland Games

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King Charles and Queen Camilla found the funny during the 2005 Royal British Legion Mey Highland Games. 

The royals like to attend the traditional Scottish games each year, usually nearing the end of their famous summer holidays spent at Balmoral. We wonder what was causing them such mirth!

Cheering on Team GB

Kate Middleton and Prince William

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Prince William and Kate Middleton run the gamut when it comes to sports. From swimming to hockey to water polo and tennis, the active pair are known to love breaking a sweat. 

However, as they proudly cheered on Team GB during the 2012 London Olympics, they broke out in massive cheers. 

They weren't too bothered about looking polite and reserved - this wasn't the usual round of applause from the royals, they went for it. 

The Queen literally crossing her fingers

Queen Elizabeth II crossing her fingers

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As Britain's longest-reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth also served as the Head of the Church of England for 70 years. Despite that holy appointment, even Her Majesty wasn't immune to relying on some silly superstitions to try and get a sly advantage. 

The Queen was caught crossing her fingers as she cheered on her horse, Ring of Truth,  during the Dubai Duty-Free Spring Trials Meeting at Newbury Racecourse in 2015. 

Harry looks defeated

Prince Harry, Prince William and Kate Middleton

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There's so much to love about this photo of Prince Harry, William and Kate Middleton hanging out at a rugby match in 2007. 

Not only are a fresh-faced William and Kate so caught up in their young-love that they've basically given up watching the sports, Prince Harry - who, as we learnt in 2023, has a complicated relationship with feeling like a Spare - is the very definition of a third wheel. 

Harry looks away, deflated and depressed. Is it because of the rugby match, or because he was stuck next to his loved up brother?

Zara Tindall cheers on her man

Zara Tindall watching Mike Tindall play rugby

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Considered something of a secret weapon for the Royal Family, Zara and Mike Tindall's unique blend of low-key humour and relatability has made them an enduringly popular pair with fans. 

The pair are also evenly matched in their personal accomplishments. Mike served as a professional rugby player, even representing his country, and Zara is the only member of the Royal Family to have won an Olympic Medal. 

In 2005, a couple of years into their courtship, Zara was dressed down and having a ball cheering on Mike as he did a spot of egg-chasing on the pitch. 

Will and Kate enjoy some PDA

Prince William and Kate Middleton

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The Prince and Princess of Wales are quite traditional when it comes to public displays of affection - meaning fans don't usually see the pair go overboard. 

However, the spirit of London during the 2012 Olympic Games combined with what appears to have been a victorious outing by Team GB made the pair do away with their reserved nature and embrace in a heart-warming moment. 

A very special moment for Princess Anne

Princess Anne presents Zara Tindall with her Olympic medal

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Princess Anne made history when she became the first member of the Royal Family to compete in the Olympics, riding the Queen's horse in the 1976 Games. 

But in 2012, history was made again. The Princess Royal got to watch her daughter, Zara Tindall, follow in her footsteps, as she competed in the 2012 Olympic Games. 

Not only did Anne get to cheer her daughter on, as President of the British Olympic Association, she had the rare honour of presenting her daughter with her Olympic Silver Medal.

A trio of shocked reactions

Kate Middleton, Prince William and Prince Harry at the rugby in 2015

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Long before bombshell memoirs and Montecito farmhouses, Prince William and Prince Harry had a close bond. So much so that Harry would often tag along with his brother and his partner, Kate Middleton for various outings. 

One such excursion was for the 2015 Rugby World Cup - and it must have been a memorable one. 

All three royals had a strong reaction to something taking place at the stadium. 

Prince Harry was up out of his seat, William looked sombre and Kate looked beyond stunned. 

Princess Anne loses her usual cool

Princess Anne at Royal Ascot, 2012

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The Princess Royal is known for a no-nonsense attitude and a relentless work ethic. It's quite rare to catch Princess Anne off her guard, with the usually cool, calm and collected royal exuding an unshakeable quiet confidence.

However, the sport-mad royal (she was the first ever royal to take part in the Olympic Games) completely lost it during Royal Ascot in 2012, with Anne either cheering on her horse's victory or holding her arms up in frustration. 

Queen Elizabeth's horse wins gold

Queen Elizabeth II at Royal Ascot, 2013

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The late Queen Elizabeth was riding horses well into her nineties, but she didn't just love riding them around Balmoral. Her Majesty was a prolific breeder and trainer of racehorses. 

Her horses over the years included one called Highclere, which won both the prestigious 1000 Guineas and the Prix de Diane in Paris.

In this touching photo, the Queen is caught beaming with joy after watching her horse, Estimate, claim the Gold Cup on Ladies Day at the 2013 Royal Ascot.

Prince George and Princess Charlotte steal the show at Wimbledon

Prince George and Princess Charlotte

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Over the years, royal fans have got used to seeing the likes of Prince William and Kate Middleton completely losing their cool as they hoot and holler in the Royal Box at Wimbledon.

But in 2023, fans were treated to the next generation of royals continuing the tradition for hilarious reactions at the iconic sporting event. 

William and Kate brought Prince George and Princess Charlotte with them, and the pair couldn't contain their glee as they watched on. The apples haven't fallen far from the tree! 

It all went a bit wrong for Charles and Camilla

King Charles and Queen Camilla at Royal Ascot 2023

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Sometimes it's nice to be reminded that, when you strip away the palaces and privileges, the royals are really just like us. 

Case in point: King Charles and Queen Camilla couldn't quite hide their disappointment when the racing at Royal Ascot 2023 didn't go their way. 

You win some, you lose some, Your Majesties. 

Dazzling smiles at the rugby

Prince Harry, Prince William and Kate Middleton

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If we were on the board for the Rugby Football Union, we'd probably use this photo of Prince Harry, Prince William and Kate Middleton to advertise the sport. 

Looking picture-perfect, the royal trio flashed some dazzling smiles as they attended the England versus Wales match in 2015. 

If you want to think of a modernised monarchy, what better message than three beaming, beautiful smiles?

A most unimpressed Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth II

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Queen Elizabeth II was an icon like no other. From her trademark outfits to her well-documented dry sense of humour, she was somehow both the nation's matriarch and an enigma at the same time. 

While she was often unreadable with her facial expressions, every now and then Her Majesty would treat us to pure gold, as was the case with the 1997 Windsor Horse Show. 

Jack Slater
Freelance writer

Jack Slater is not the Last Action Hero, but that's what comes up first when you Google him. Preferring a much more sedentary life, Jack gets his thrills by covering news, entertainment, celebrity, film and culture for woman&home, and other digital publications.

Having written for various print and online publications—ranging from national syndicates to niche magazines—Jack has written about nearly everything there is to write about, covering LGBTQ+ news, celebrity features, TV and film scoops, reviewing the latest theatre shows lighting up London’s West End and the most pressing of SEO based stories.