Royal etiquette: The dos and don’ts of meeting the Queen

By Gemma Strong

The chance to meet the Queen is a hugely exciting event. But with it comes a great deal of pressure – what is the correct etiquette when meeting the monarch? Should one bow or curtsey? Are there any subjects off-limits? And what exactly should one call her? To avoid any potential future mishaps, HELLO! Online presents the do's and don'ts of meeting a member of the royal family.

According to the British Monarchy website, there are "no obligatory codes of behaviour when meeting the Queen", but it notes that many people prefer to "observe the traditional forms". For ladies, that includes a small curtsy when meeting the monarch, while for the men it is a 'neck bow', from the head only. Alternatively, it notes, some opt to shake her hand.


Guests meeting the Queen
Many people prefer to observe 'the traditional forms' of etiquette when meeting the Queen

On presentation to the Queen, the correct address is 'Your Majesty', followed subsequently by 'Ma'am', which should be pronounced with a short 'a', as in 'jam'. The same rules apply for male members of the royal family, with the title 'Your Royal Highness' used in the first instance, followed by 'Sir'. For other female royals, the first address is 'Your Royal Highness', later followed by 'Ma'am'.

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Other 'do's' that should be noted include always taking the Queen's lead; only speak when you are spoken to, and do not sit or begin to start eating until she has done so. One should also be early for an appointment with a royal – guests should always arrive first.

The Obamas with the Queen
Michelle Obama famously breached protocol in 2009 when she put her arm around the monarch

Of course there are also some things you should never do when meeting royalty. Arguably the most important thing to remember is that one should never touch the monarch, and only shake her hand if she offers it. Michelle Obama famously breached traditional protocol back in 2009, when she was spotted with her arm around the Queen.

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If one is invited to dine with the Queen, it is important to note which side of the monarch you are sitting on. It is customary for the guest of honour to sit to the right of the Queen, and it follows that she will speak to that person during the first course of the dinner. She will then switch her attention to the person on her left for the following course. Formula One star Lewis Hamiltonfell foul of this rule at one function, and was politely told: "No, you speak that way first and I'll speak this way, and then I'll come back to you."

Lewis Hamilton with Queen Elizabeth II
Lewis Hamilton was unaware of the etiquette surrounding dining table conversation

Other faux pas include turning your back on the Queen – it is considered rude – and taking photographs while visiting her at home. Guests should also never leave an event before a royal, unless special permission has been granted, and one should avoid any personal question – polite small talk will suffice.

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