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Royal Etiquette: Dos and don'ts when the King is around

 His Majesty King Charles III and President William Ruto at State House, Nairobi. [State House, Facebook]

King Charles III and Queen Camilla are finally in town. If you are among the chosen few who will have a chance, however fleeting, to interact with the couple, there are a few things to keep in mind.

While the royal family’s website states that while there are “no obligatory codes of behaviour” when meeting the King or a member of his family, it says many people still opt to observe traditional forms. 

The website has restricted itself to outlining a few of the cultural norms especially the formal salutations either in speaking or writing to a member of the family.

“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,” states the site.

For most members of the family, the title used in the first instance is ‘Your Royal Highness’ and subsequently ‘Sir’.

Away from these ‘simple’ salutations, etiquette, there is an unwritten code that all guests must adhere to.

Whatever you do, please do not attempt to ‘high-five’ King Charles or the Queen

Recall the ruckus in the British and other Western media when Michelle Obama hugged Queen Elizabeth? Obama then said she was not aware of any protocols that barred her from hugging the queen.

Buckingham Palace had to issue a statement insisting there was “no true ban on being tactile with the monarch”, terming the embrace a “mutual and spontaneous display of affection”.

Certain manners

According to the British School of Excellence, there are certain manners to be observed when around the British monarch.

Most of the rules were applied during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II and it remains to be seen how ‘commoners’ will carry themselves around her son, King Charles.

Among the rules stated by BSE include: If the King or ranking royal is standing, you should too; you can sit once he is seated.

You are also supposed to stop eating when the King/Queen does. If you sit to the left of royalty, expect her to start a conversation.

The guest of honour sits on his right and he will speak to them during the first course, then switch sides. 

Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton who once sat to the left of the queen was gently reprimanded by the queen when he tried to address her during starters. “I will come back to you,” she said.

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