Many royal watchers and fans dream of coming face-to-face with a member of the British Royal Family but there is likely a lot of uncertainty about how to act and what to do when and if that dream finally comes true.
If you’ve ever found yourself wondering whether or not to curtsey, what to say or what to do if something goes wrong, Lucy Hume, associate director at Debrett’s – an acknowledged authority on modern British etiquette – has come to your rescue. In an intriguing new investigation undertaken by Reuters, Ms Hume has outlined the dos and don’ts members of the public should follow when meeting members of the British Royal Family, arming you with everything you need for the perfect royal moment.
To begin, you should definitely give in to that instinct to curtsey or bow your head as a sign of respect. Hume says: “One of the key things to bear in mind is how to greet a member of the royal family when you meet them for the first time, and it’s customary in a formal situation for women to curtsy – a brief bob is sufficient – and for men to bow from the neck.” If the meeting occurs at a reception or a less formal event though: “it might be appropriate to shake their hand, but it’s best to wait for them to offer their hand first before you reach out yours.”
Once the initial greeting has been navigated, it’s important to remember how to address the various members of the royal family. “If you are introduced to the queen, you address her as ‘Your Majesty’. Any other members of the royal family are addressed as ‘Your Royal Highness’ and for women you thereafter would call them ‘Ma’am’ and, for men, you would call them ‘Sir’.”
When it comes to getting up close or personal with the royals Ms Hume firmly advises that you play it on the safe side. Selfies are a definite don’t: “It’s not usually appropriate to do so. So if you do want to take a photograph, ask their permission first, possibly get somebody else to take a photograph but it’s important to respect that person’s personal space.” Similarly, it’s “[b]est not to initiate personal physical contact with a member of the royal family. Again, it may be that they offered to give you a hug or to put their arm around you, but usually wait and see what’s expected or what’s appropriate for the event.”
And if something goes wrong? Don’t panic! Ms Hume says: “It would seem from what we’ve seen of members of the royal family in public that they are very accustomed to a variety of different situations. They meet people from different backgrounds all the time and they’re very accustomed to putting people at ease; it’s unlikely you would cause offense.” So, don’t worry if nerves get the best of you and you take a misstep. “You’re not going to be in trouble. There are no official legal rules in place. Apologize if you feel you may have caused offense, but try not to panic, and stay calm.”
Most importantly? Enjoy the moment and savour the experience!