How are you supposed to behave if you meet the Queen?


There are no formal rules, but a bow, a curtsy or a handshake are all traditional.


A Canadian official recently outraged almost no one by touching Queen Elizabeth’s elbow as she walked down some stairs.

Some outrage did ensue but – this being the age of social media – most of it was from people who became outraged after imagining other people were outraged.

Still, a few media pot-stirrers did their best to be offended at the actions of David Johnston (Canada’s Governor General and now a suspected enemy of the people).

The Daily Express – a newspaper whose views would be considered pretty racist by a 19th Century Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan – screeched “hands off!” and said Mr Johnston had broken “official rules stating you cannot touch Her Majesty”.

Sorry Canada, but you leave us with no choice: Off with his head!

Oh, but hang on. The official website of the Royal Family (yes, that’s a thing) begs to differ.

“There are no obligatory codes of behaviour when meeting the Queen or a member of the Royal Family, but many people wish to observe the traditional forms,” it says.

These traditional forms are as follows:

  • Men should do a “neck bow” (ie bow your head only, not your whole body). There’s no need to kneel and pledge your sword to Her Majesty until your last day (save that for the Mother of Dragons).
  • Women can do a “small curtsy”. This might feel awkward if you didn’t go to the same finishing school as everyone from Downton Abbey, but it might be fun to try.
  • There’s good news for anyone feeling less ambitious. The website says: “Other people prefer simply to shake hands in the usual way.”
  • When meeting the Queen, the correct formal address is “Your Majesty” and subsequently “Ma’am” (to rhyme with “jam”).
  • For male royals, use “Your Royal Highness” then “sir”.

All pretty straightforward: bow, curtsy and – apart from shaking hands – no touchy.

It might be generally polite to stop old ladies falling down the stairs but, as the Daily Telegraph points out, touching the monarch is “simply not the done thing”.


Writes for a living. Has never won a fight.