Royal Protocol Briefing

Meeting royalty can be an exciting and daunting prospect at the same time. If you are fortunate to be afforded the opportunity, a little preparation will give you the confidence you need to enjoy the event. And, if you are ever in doubt about what to do or how to behave, watch the person who seems to know what he or she is doing, and follow their lead–especially if it is the Queen.

Do keep in mind that although the British have a sense of humor and very much like Americans, there is a proper way to act in most situations and the British are sticklers for adherence to protocol. The rules of etiquette and protocol are designed to make occasions flow smoothly and put everyone at ease.

General Facts and Guidelines

  • THE QUEEN:  Address her as “Your Majesty”, then Ma’am.

  • Do not touch the Queen.

  • Do not offer to shake the Queen’s hand unless she extends her hand first, and do not grip it tightly or pump it like we do here. Her Royal Push-Off means she is finished shaking hands.

  • Never wear gloves when you shake the Queen’s hand. In fact, you should never wear gloves in the presence of royalty,

  • It is okay to make light contact with royalty as you shake hands. And as you do, say “How do you do;” not “Pleased to meet you;’ or “It’s nice to meet you.”

  • Only British people are to curtsy and bow to the Queen. Americans not required to do so.

  • Always stand when the Queen enters the room; and never turn your back on her or walk in front of her.

  • When meeting any member of the Royal Family, do not touch or invade their personal space without a clear invitation. Hugs, kisses on the cheek and other forms or physical contact are strictly off limits.

  • Attire also plays an important part—better not to have bare arms. Hats are always an appropriate choice for special daytime occasions.

  • Don’t call royalty by their nicknames.

  • Guests start and stop eating when the queen does.

  • There is a proper way to act in most situations, and the British are sticklers for adherence to protocol.

  • Refrain from overt gestures. The British are more contained in their body language and hand gestures while speaking.

  • The term English and British do not mean the same thing, British denotes someone who is from England, Scotland and Wales or Northern Ireland. English refers to people from England.

  • Certain words not acceptable in England: The word “toilet” is considered vulgar. Instead use lavatory.

  • Instead of pardon, which sounds abrasive. A simple straightforward request to repeat what was said is more appropriate.

  • Instead of mirror, glass; settee, say sofa; say napkin and writing paper instead of note paper.

  • Class is no longer about wealth or where one lives in Great Britain.

  • Always refer to royalty by their titles, never names: “How is Your Royal Majesty;” not, “How is your father.”

Small Talk with the Royal Family

  • When speaking to the Royal Family, do not stand too close to them and never ask personal questions.

  • Prince Charles: He is an active environmentalist. He is building an eco-friendly model village for 15,000 poor people in India that will include shops, schools and 3,00 homes. “The Prince has such a passion and vision in providing leadership on this crucial climate issue that confronts the world.”

  • Prince Charles has a great sense of humor and likes to entertain his guests by telling stories.

  • Camilla, Prince Charles’s wife is addressed as Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cornwall. Literacy is a favorite topic of hers. She loves books and is a passionate reader. She is the Patron on the National Literacy Trust.

  • Never talk to Queen Elizabeth II unless she talks to you first.

  • Queen Elizabeth II: Animal lover–loves dogs and horses. Expert equestrian. Had 10 corgis at one time–most are descendants of Susan, an 18th birthday gift to the then Princess Elizabeth. Now only has two half corgis left: Candy and Vulcan, two dachshund and corgi mixes.

  • Prince William supports many causes: Many of his mother’s: Centrepoint: working to improve the lives of socially excluded homeless young people; Tusk Trust: Wildlife Trust aimed at conserving wildlife in many countries. Aimed at conserving wildlife, promoting education and supporting community development programs across Africa.

  • Prince William won’t become Prince of Wales until his father becomes King & then it is at his father’s discretion. It is customary for a royal man to receive a dukedom when they marry. His title is now Prince William, Duke of Cambridge.

  • Kate’s title is Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cambridge.

  • Kate Middleton: Her favorite charities support children’s causes. One is Art Room, which provides support to children with emotional difficulties through the medium of art therapy. (She has a degree in art history.) Another is Place2Be, which she is most passionate about, provides mental health support in schools.

  • Once William is crowned King, Kate would be Queen Catherine.

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