Bowing and Curtseying

  March 23, 2009 at 5:44 am by

Meeting a member of any Royal Family can be a nerve wrecking experience for even the most seasoned Royal watcher. The questions of what to wear, say and do can be mind boggling and then there is the major question – should I bow / curtsey. In days gone by it was an obligatory act of deference to ones Sovereign, today it is optional. Buckingham Palace state only that many people wish to observe these traditional forms, however a handshake is just as acceptable.

There are some Royal Courts which have clung on to the tradition of curtseying with great fervour. The King and Queen of Spain seem to receive bows and curtseys on a very regular basis, and even their children greet Their Majesties with a bow or curtsey. The Princess of Asturias has, I am sure, one of the deepest curtsies in Europe (Princess Letizia).

Other Courts have abandoned the practice and now only observe these ancient forms when greeting a foreign Monarch. The Netherlands and Sweden are two such examples; however Princess Maxima of The Netherlands did greet The King of Thailand with a very respectful curtsey on the occasion of His Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee (King Rama IX).

The Royal Family of Denmark observe the tradition of making obeisance, Crown Princess Mary is frequently seen greeting her parents-in-law with a curtsey which always makes for a lovely photo opportunity (Crown Princess Mary). The Norwegian Royals also seem to cling to curtseying traditions (State Visit).

In The United Kingdom Queen Elizabeth II and her family are often greeted by curtseying ladies, and certainly it is very common in “court circles” (court curtsey). Members of the Royal Family always bow and curtsey to The Queen when they meet her for the first time in the day (Zara Phillips). However among the general public there is beginning to be a tendency to simply shake hands, Mrs. Tony Blair famously refused to Curtsey however Mrs. Gordon Brown and The Baroness Thatcher (Lady Thatcher) both greet Her Majesty and members of The Royal Family in the traditional form.

The Diplomatic Corps accredited to Monarchical States usually bend the knee and greet the Sovereign with a bow or curtsey, however the United States forbids it’s Foreign Service Personnel to observe such acts as representatives of The President of a republican state. However the French have no shuch qualms (Madame Chirac).

It was, until as recently as the 1970s, usual to greet Governors General and other such high ranking officials with a curtsey, however this has given way to the more informal handshake.

Only time will tell how long these ancient traditions will endure, but I believe that as long as we have Crowns and Coronets people will continue to greet Kings and Queens in that age old manner.

Read more about Bowing and Curtseying at this Royal Forums thread.

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