Weird Rules For When You Meet Royalty

People who meet British royalty have to follow a lot of weird rules. Queen Elizabeth and her family expect the people around them to adhere to strict guidelines - after all, they have to follow certain regulations themselves. If you're wondering what to do when meeting a royal, don't worry. The event might seem daunting, but most people pick up on the expectations quickly. As long as you err on the side of caution, you'll probably be fine.

  • Don't Rest Your Back On The Chair
    Photo: Mexicaans fotomagazijn / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    Don't Rest Your Back On The Chair

    There's a particular way to perch in the presence of British royalty. People are expected to sit with an "egg’s width of distance" between their backs and chairs. They must also keep their chins parallel to the floor. 

    Another rule forbids guests from crossing their legs at the knee. Feet can remain planted on the floor or crossed at the ankle.

  • Never Turn Your Back On The Queen
    Photo: Commonwealth Secretariat / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Never Turn Your Back On The Queen

    Whatever you do, never turn your back on the Queen; it's incredibly impolite. She'll likely be meeting a long line of people, so it'll be hard to avoid facing the other way. Be careful just in case, though.

  • Do What The Queen Does During Dinner Engagements
    Photo: BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    Do What The Queen Does During Dinner Engagements

    When you're at dinner with the Queen, do whatever she does. After sitting at the table, don't touch your food until she touches her food. This goes for the end of the meal as well. When she finishes up, you're done too. When she stands, you stand.

  • Don't Make Any Extreme Bows
    Photo: chego-chego / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Don't Make Any Extreme Bows

    Don't bow excessively in the presence of royalty. In fact, if you don't feel like bowing, there's no need to do so. Quick, minor bows are appropriate, but they occasionally make royalty feel uncomfortable.

  • Don't Touch The Queen Unless She Asks
    Photo: Mikepaws / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Don't Touch The Queen Unless She Asks

    Don't get handsy when you meet the Queen or any other royal. If she reaches out for a handshake, you may accept, but don't go overboard.

    Some Americans don't realize touching royalty is a major faux pas. Lebron James incurred the wrath of the British press in 2014 when he put his arm around the Duchess of Cambridge during a photo op. Etiquette expert William Hanson notes, "Americans are much more tactile than we Brits and this is another example of an American being too touchy feely with British royalty. You’d have thought they’d have learned by now."

  • Don't Arrive After The Royals
    Photo: babasteve / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    Don't Arrive After The Royals

    If you're invited to dinner with the royals, arrive at your destination before the Queen. Additionally, expect to hang out until the Queen says it's time to go. Don't make any other plans on the same day; the royal engagement might run later than anticipated.