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Royal Visit: The Do’s and Don’ts of the Monarch

Royal Protocol

There are no mandatory rules of conduct when meeting a member of the Royal Family, but a majority of people wish to observe the traditional norms and protocol.


According to the official website of the Royal Family, the official website of the UK Royal Family, the guideline for men is a neck bow (from the head only) whilst women do a small curtsy. This is a traditional gesture and an act of civility or respect by women to a superior. Other people prefer simply to shake hands in the usual way.

On presentation to the King, the correct formal address is ‘Your Majesty’ and subsequently ‘Sir’.

For other male members of the Royal Family, the same guidelines apply, with the title used in the first instance being ‘Your Royal Highness’ and subsequently ‘Sir’.

For female members of the Royal Family, the first address is conventional ‘Your Royal Highness’ and subsequently ‘Ma’am’.

Read Also: King Charles III Admits Painful Colonial Past, Fails to Formally Apologize

Royal Protocol
The Kenya and UK Delegation Toast During a State Banquet on Tuesday Night in Nairobi | William Ruto X

Here are 10 important protocols observed:

1. Dining Etiquette

  • When the King has finished eating, so have you. But His Majesty usually makes sure all his guests are finished eating before he lays down his knife and fork. Everyone else has to follow his lead, whether or not they’re full.
  • At dinner parties, the King will speak first to the person seated on his right during the first course, then switch to a conversation with the person on his left during the second course. Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton who once sat to the left of Queen Elizabeth II was gently reprimanded by Her Majesty when he tried to address her during starters. “I will come back to you,” she said.
  • Leave the table without a fuss. Simply say ‘Excuse me’. If they’re not done eating, they cross the utensils so wait staff know not to take the plate. When finished with the meal, they place utensils at an angle, putting the handles at the bottom right of the plate (like 4:20 on a clock). Speak of etiquette!
  • Fold napkins in half. This rule is for keeping the face, clean. When they wipe their face and hands at the table, they do so inside the fold so their clothes don’t get dirty.
  • Teacups are pinched between the thumb and forefinger, with the middle finger supporting the base of the cup. They also sip from the same spot of a teacup so the entire rim doesn’t have lipstick stains.
Royal Protocol
No physical contact with royalty. It makes headlines whenever a ‘commoner’ comes into contact with a member of the Royal Family. |GETTY IMAGES

2. No autographs and selfies, please.

The royals aren’t allowed to sign autographs because it would increase the risk of having their signatures forged. They also aren’t supposed to take selfies, though the royals have been known to break both rules on occasion. So keep your phone in your pocket.

3. Dressing Code

  • Diplomatic dressing is a skill that royal women are expected to master, with their outfits paying homage to whichever nation they happen to be visiting.
  • According to protocol, women in the Royal Family must wear hats to formal royal occasions and events. But are not required to wear hats to formal occasions after 6 p.m.! After 6 p.m., hats are out and tiaras are in. Which are exclusively reserved for married members of the royal family or royal brides.
  • No black outfits, only at funerals. It is not an official rule, but traditionally, royals only wear black during funerals. But when traveling abroad, they are required to pack an all-black outfit in case a sudden demise in the family means they must immediately enter a period of mourning.

In truth, Princess Diana caused quite a stir when she wore a black taffeta dress to a fundraising concert in 1981, her first royal engagement after being affianced to Prince Charles.

Royal Protocol
Diana spoke about the incident while being interviewed for her biography in 1991, claiming Charles saw her in the dress and exclaimed, “Only people in mourning wear black!” | GETTY IMAGES
  • Flashing cleavage is a big no-no. That’s why there are pictures of Princess Diana exiting cars with her handbag pressed to her chest so that nothing would be revealed to the waiting press.

4. Two heirs to the throne should not fly on the same plane.

This is incase of some unimaginable tragedy. When Prince George turns 12, he will also have to start flying solo, separately from his father William, Prince of Wales.

5. If a royal likes the smell of your perfume they won’t refer to it as such.

In royal circles, perfume is always referred to as “scent.” This is to make it seem as though that lovely smell is merely the natural “scent” of a person. Thus avoiding using words like “toilet” opting for “bathroom/restroom” instead.

6. They never play Monopoly.

Yes, the classic board game. As there is no law prohibiting the royals from playing Monopoly, they choose not to play it, as the entire family gets rather competitive at it. Imagine! Only that!

7. Non-verbal Communication

  • When the King stands up you must immediately stand as well. It’s a grave breach of protocol to remain sitting while the King stands.
  • At state and diplomatic events, royals enter a room in order of precedence. Thus the King goes first, followed by Queen Camila, followed by William, Prince of Wales and Catherine, Princess of Wales, etc.
  • As for us ‘commoners’, we should never initiate a handshake with a royal. Rather wait for them to come to us. Additionally, when you get an opportunity to converse with the royals, avoid talk of politics or religion.

8. Don’t vote.

While there’s nothing in the law stopping the royal family from casting a ballot, they’re supposed to remain politically neutral and that means no voting. Because King Charles is the reigning monarch, it would be unconstitutional (but not illegal) for him to vote, but for the rest of the royal family, skipping the election is just a tradition.

9. No sleeping while the King is awake

In other words, no one can retire for the night until His Majesty does so first. So save your sleep until he feels like it!

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10. And finally, No one can “turn their back” on the King

During the height of the British empire, subjects were not allowed to turn their back to the monarch.


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