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Queen Sofia of Spain, exercising the privilège du blanc in a meeting with Pope John Paul II.

Privilège du blanc is a privilege held by female Catholic Monarchs, also by female Catholic Consorts of Monarchs, wherein they are allowed to wear white when in an audience with the Pope. Its literal translation to English is "privilege of the white".

Formal Vatican protocol for papal audiences used to require long-sleeved, formal black garments and a black mantilla for women. However, since the 1980s, papal dress codes (men wearing white tie, women wearing black and covering their heads) have been optional, not obligatory, with many diplomatic guests and heads of state opting to wear suits rather than formal wear when attending the inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. Many female leaders no longer wear the traditional outfits when meeting popes; neither of Ireland's two female presidentsMary Robinson nor Mary McAleese — wore the traditional outfits when meeting Pope John Paul II. Robinson wore dark green while McAleese wore black and white. Then Soviet Union First Lady Raisa Gorbachyova wore red.

Cherie Blair, wife of the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, sparked controversy when she wore white to meet the Pope in 2006. [1]

Currently, should they choose to wear the traditional style of clothing, the privilège du blanc is held only by the Queens of Spain and Belgium, and the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, all of whose monarchies were awarded the Catholic Monarch designation in the past. As of January 2010, those to whom the privilège du blanc extends are Queen Sofia of Spain, Queen Paola of Belgium, Queen Fabiola of Belgium, and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg.

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