Thursday, May 26, 2011

Meeting the Queen - how does one conduct oneself?

Fresh from consulting Debretts on how to act if ever invited to a royal event or wedding, which as it happens I didn't have to worry about, anyway, since my invitation appears to have been lost in the mail, seems that we regular people have to be aware of social faux-pas or no-no's when meeting the Queen of England. Realistically speaking, few of us will have the opportunity to even be in the company of royalty, other than taking photos outside Buckingham Palace along with other visitors, but it's still good to know these things.

No less than President Obama, leader of the U.S. of A, breached royal protocol recently, when he inadvertantly made a toast to the Queen and then continued with a short speech. According to royal protocol, he should have stopped. The band, taking a cue from the Queen, started playing the national anthem, while Pres. Obama continued talking. Somehow, envisioning the scene, reminds me of a Monty Python sketch, but I digress. As I recall, the Obamas didn't receive an invitation to the recent royal nuptials, either.

So right now like me, you're probably wondering just what in the heck is royal protocol, anyway? Does it cover things like how to bow or curtsy (this has always been a stumper for me - I like to be prepared for these things), and etiquette that would cover issues like is it proper to spit or dip one's dinner napkin in one's water glass to wipe away sticky food from one's face. Stuff like that.

This mysterious - at least to me - issue of royal protocol goes back to a time when monarchs were accorded an almost divine status.

According to Dr. Kate Williams, historian at London's Holloway University, "From medieval times, monarchs were divinely appointed to rule by God, so they were kind of seen as gods, so they demanded to be treated as gods," says Dr Kate Williams, a historian at London's Royal Holloway university. "They are treated as people set apart from the rest of us, so primarily what it is creating is distance and grandeur."

This means one does not make any moves until a royal person moves first. For example, you wouldn't greet the Queen and her ilk like a long, lost relative by kissing her on both cheeks. Or speaking first by telling her that you love (or hate as the case may be) her hats. No hugs are allowed, either. Or using a cell phone to pick up messages and definitely no tweeting would be allowed. Bowing, according to Dr. Williams, is allowed and in fact, encouraged.

Presumably, there have to be rules in regard to bowing and/or curtsying. According to Debretts, my new "bible" for any royal "how-to" issues, have got this issue covered under the "Recommended Etiquette Upon being introduced to The Queen, and on leaving, a bow or curtsy is made" section. Take notes people!

- The bow is an inclination of the head, not from the waist.
- The curtsy should be a discreet but dignified bob.
- In conversation, address The Queen as 'Your Majesty', and subsequently 'Ma'am' (to rhyme with Pam).
- When conversing with The Queen, substitute 'Your Majesty' for 'you'.
- When introducing another person to The Queen, simply state the name of the person to be introduced:'May I present Mr John Smith, Your Majesty?'

However, not mentioned is how one measures a "dignified bob." Should the chin touch the chest area? Are winks allowable?

Royal protocol can be viewed as an expression of respect for the Queen.

This leads one (me) to wonder what the royal etiquette would be, say, if the Queen would visit the U.S. and attend say, a hockey game for example. Just thinking... Perhaps Debretts has this issue covered as well. Also found a section on Debretts covering seating arrangements, for future commentary. Meanwhile, I'll go practice my curtsies - just in case. You never know.

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