In an explosive interview by the American TV host Oprah Winfrey of Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle revealed that the first time she met the Queen she didn’t know how to curtsy, or if it was even required for the family members.
Those of us, who’ve watched the fourth season of the Netflix series The Crown, are aware that Princess Diana also faced somewhat of a similar predicament when she first visited Buckingham Palace.
In the recent interview, Meghan said, “There wasn’t actually a huge formality the first time I met Her Majesty, The Queen… I remember Harry and I are in the car and he says, ‘Okay well my grandmother is there, so you’re going to meet her.’ I go, ‘Oh great!’ Then he goes, ‘Right do you know how to curtsy?’” To which the beloved American actress exclaimed, “What?”.
Meghan went on to explain her reaction to Harry that she “thought, genuinely, that was what happens outside. I thought that was the part of the fanfare. I didn’t think that’s what happens inside.” And then Meghan continued with her astonishment as she asked Harry, “But it’s your grandmother?” to which he replied, “It’s the Queen.”
In 2018, BBC published an article on its online portal called, ‘Theresa May and the art of the curtsy’. Now we know that it’s very, very important even though the Royal Family’s official website mentions, "There are no obligatory codes of behaviour when meeting The Queen or a member of the Royal Family, but many people wish to observe the traditional forms."
So how exactly is one meant to curtsy (you know if we ever meet a Royal)?
The dictionary definition of ‘curtsy’ mentions that the act of respect mainly by women. The mentioned article on BBC takes advice from Adam Partridge from etiquette guide Debrett's. He says that the curtsy should be a "brief, discreet movement" lasting "a matter of seconds". His step-by-step guide goes like this:
1. From standing, transfer your weight onto one foot, usually the left
2. Place the ball of your other foot behind and slightly outside the standing ankle
3. Bend your front knee, always maintaining eye contact
Well, let’s get the rules from the horse’s mouth, we mean The Royal Family's official website. The page titled ‘Greeting a Member of The Royal Family’ mentions, “There are no obligatory codes of behaviour when meeting The Queen or a member of the Royal Family, but many people wish to observe the traditional forms.”
The page, however, goes on to give direction to those who seek it and mentions, "For men this is a neck bow (from the head only) whilst women do a small curtsy. Other people prefer simply to shake hands in the usual way."
How to address the Royal Family?
The page on curtsy also answers this question for us. It says, “On presentation to The Queen, the correct formal address is 'Your Majesty' and subsequently 'Ma'am,' pronounced with a short 'a,' as in 'jam'. For male members of the Royal Family, the same rules apply, with the title used in the first instance being 'Your Royal Highness' and subsequently 'Sir'. For other female members of the Royal Family, the first address is conventionally 'Your Royal Highness' and subsequently 'Ma'am'.”
Seems pretty clear, now!