What Should You Do If You Meet a Royal? Rules About Touching and Greeting Them Explained

You may have wondered what it would actually be like to meet a member of the royal family in person. How would you react? What would you ask them? What would you call them? Would you shake their hand or bow?

Madonna meets Queen Elizabeth II

Madonna meets Queen Elizabeth II | DAN CHUNG/AFP/GettyImages

There are lots of questions people have about meeting and greeting a real-life prince, princess, or queen. Even celebrities don’t know what to do when they first meet a royal. Remember when Michelle Obama hugged Queen Elizabeth II or when NBA star LeBron James put his arm around Prince William’s wife, Kate Middleton, and everyone lost their minds? Well, that’s because people thought they broke the rules regarding encounters with royalty.

We’re clearing things up now so you know exactly what you should do just in case you’re ever lucky enough to meet a royal.

How to physically greet them

People have always been curious about touching the royals. Do extend a hand or should you not touch them at all and bow to them instead?

Well the Royal U.K. website suggests women do a small curtsy, which is a formal greeting made by bending the knees quickly with one foot in front of the other, while men can give a neck bow (from the head only). However, it is perfectly fine to reach out and shake hands with them.

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Queen Elizabeth II, and Prince Philip

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Queen Elizabeth II, and Prince Philip | Alastair Grant – WPA Pool/Getty Images

What to call them

Another question that comes to mind is how to address them? Well, that’s pretty straightforward according to Lucy Hume, the associate director at Debrett’s, a professional coaching company founded in 1769 and an authority on modern British etiquette.

“If you are introduced to the queen, you address her as ‘Your Majesty.’ Any other members of the royal family are addressed as ‘Your Royal Highness’ and for women you thereafter would call them ‘Ma’am’ and, for men, you would call them ‘Sir’,” Hume told Reuters.

When it comes to Prince William though that’s a different story as he previously stated in interviews what he prefers to be called.

“I am and always will be an HRH. But out of personal choice I like to be called William because that is my name and I want people to call me William — for now,” he said, adding, “I was HRH Prince William as soon as I was born. But I don’t want all the formalities because they’re not needed for the time being.”

No rules at all?

Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle sign autographs and shake hands with children as they arrive to a walkabout at Cardiff Castle

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry | Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Despite all this info. the royals seem much more relaxed about meeting members of the public these days than in years past. Their website has even been updated to emphasize that these rules are not required today but were simply the traditional way of greeting the royal family.

“There are no obligatory codes of behavior when meeting The Queen or a member of the Royal Family, but many people wish to observe the traditional forms,” the site reads.

Read more: Which Member of the Royal Family Refuses to Shake Hands With Fans and Why?

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