Etiquette Advice Abounds Amid Queen's Visit

Meeting the Queen

Should you have the opportunity to meet Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to the U.S., don't panic. Here are some etiquette tips that will see you through the encounter in fine form.

WHAT DO I DO WHEN THE QUEEN ENTERS THE ROOM?

Rise and remain standing. If you make eye contact, it's okay to smile. But don't just stroll over and introduce yourself. A host will do that.

DO I NEED TO BOW OR CURTSEY?

No. Americans are not expected to show such courtesy but are free to do so. Should you choose to, men bow their head only, dropping from the neck. Women perform a slight curtsy, placing the right foot behind the left heel and slightly bending the knees.

MAY I SHAKE THE QUEEN'S HAND?

Yes, but wait for the queen to offer her hand first. And, suggests Britain's Guardian newspaper, "Try to refrain from vigorously pumping the royal arm; a brief touch is preferred."

HOW DO I REFER TO THE QUEEN?

As "Your Majesty" on first being introduced and subsequently as "Ma'am." Lower nobility, such as her husband, The Duke of Edinburgh, are referred to as "Your Highness" at first and subsequently "Sir." Refrain from using cute nicknames for members of the royal family.

WHAT SHOULD I TALK ABOUT WITH THE QUEEN?

Feel free to make small talk or discuss topics in the news, but let the queen steer the conversation. And keep your comments brief.

HOW SHOULD I EAT IN THE PRESENCE OF THE QUEEN?

Gracefully. Don't eat too quickly. Don't swig water directly from plastic bottles. When the queen stops eating, so should you. But do enjoy your meal.

Though Americans fought a war to expel the British monarchy some 230 years ago, keen U.S. interest in the Royal Family's dealings continue.

Nothing excites the American imagination more than a royal visit, especially one from the chief royal: Queen Elizabeth II. And so, with trumpet, fanfare and a 21-gun salute, President Bush welcomed the British monarch to the White House on Monday, as thousands of invited guests crowded the South Lawn for a glimpse of the woman who has reigned over Britain for more than 50 years.

The queen's six-day visit, her first official one since 1991, has spawned a cottage industry of royal etiquette advice. Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine posted a full page of such advice on his state's Web site.

The real test, though, is Monday's state dinner at the White House. The 134 guests will dine at 13 damask-clothed tables set with gold-trimmed ivory china and gilded silver candelabras. It will be a five-course affair, rather than the customary four. Entertainment will be provided by violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman.

President Bush, known for his informality, took some time to warm up to the idea.

"We did sort of have to convince him a little bit" to opt for the white-tie dinner, First Lady Laura Bush said of the effort she and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's made to talk Bush into hosting the most formal dinner the White House can offer.

The United Kingdom's official Web site tries to put people who might meet the queen at ease by noting that "There are also no obligatory codes of behavior when meeting the queen or a member of the Royal Family." It then proceeds to list a number of presumably non-obligatory codes of behavior when meeting the queen or a member of the Royal Family.

If you do commit a royal gaffe, members of the Royal entourage are not likely to publicly reprimand you. They are too polite. The British tabloids, however, will have a field day.

They were horrified, for instance, when, in 1992, Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating committed the ultimate Royale gaffe by putting his arm around the queen — an incident the tabloids dubbed the "Lizard of Oz" scandal. Geri Halliwell, a former member of the Spice Girls music group, was scolded for turning up 40 minutes late to meet the queen at a Buckingham Palace reception. And in 2004 in Paris, French President Jacques Chirac was admonished by Britain's Daily Mail newspaper for almost touching the queen. The headline read "Hands off!" and the accompanying story described, in great detail, how Chirac "came within a whisker of manhandling The Queen."

So far, the British media seems to approve of the reception their queen has received during this visit to the United States.

"Americans may not be taking the monarch to their hearts the way they did Diana, but they are warm, and above all respectful," noted Britain's Guardian newspaper.

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