Being a British royal certainly seems glamorous, but the seemingly endless perks aren’t free. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of royal family rules to follow, including the requirement that you curtsy to Queen Elizabeth when she enters a room. (Even Prince Philip has to bow to the queen.) But you’re not done curtsying or bowing once you’ve paid your respects to Queen Elizabeth. Royal family curtsy protocol dictates you acknowledge the important people in the room in a specific order that, to be honest, is a little hard to follow. So we’ve broken down the proper sequence of royal family curtsying, which is actually quite an intricate process.
So, say you find yourself in the royal court some day and you’re not sure what to do. The queen is the most important royal, so you curtsy to her first. Then, you’d curtsy to the next highest-ranking royal — most likely her children — in order from oldest to youngest. Makes sense, right? Well, the next part is where it gets tricky.
Princess Beatrice curtsying to the queen in 2012. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
“Blood princesses,” or those females who are born into the royal family — like Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie, and Princess Charlotte — are considered to be a higher rank than someone who marries into the royal family. This is because of a rule change Queen Elizabeth enacted in 2005 after Prince Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles. The queen’s daughter, Princess Anne, and cousin, Princess Alexandra, no longer have to curtsy to Camilla when she is not accompanied by Charles, as they outrank her as “blood princesses.” If Camilla and Charles are together, Anne and Alexandra have to curtsy to her because Charles is of a higher rank than them.
As alluded to previously, the wife takes on her husband’s rank when the couple is together. In a sense, the husband’s presence validates the wife’s royal status. For example, if Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were in a room with the queen, Prince Charles, Camilla, Princess Anne, Princess Beatrice, and Princess Eugenie, Meghan would only need to curtsy to the queen, Prince Charles, and Camilla, because they are the only royals in the room who rank higher than her. In this example, Anne, Beatrice, and Eugenie would actually have to curtsy to Meghan because she takes on Harry’s rank, which is above that of those three women. (This would be the first time British royalty would curtsy for an American, according to Best Life.) Now imagine that same scenario, except Prince Harry isn’t there to accompany his wife. In that case, Meghan would have to curtsy to everyone in the room.
Kate Middleton curtsying to Queen Elizabeth. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
What about Prince William’s wife, Kate Middleton? Who does Kate Middleton curtsy for? Does Meghan Markle curtsy when she sees Kate? Because Kate Middleton is married to Prince William — and William has a higher royal rank than Harry — Meghan Markle has to curtsy for her sister-in-law. That said, these two probably skip these formalities when they see each other in private.
Now that you’re an expert on who curtsies to whom at a royal gathering, the only thing left to do is work on your curtsying skills. Getting a royal curtsy down pat might actually be harder than remembering the exhausting bowing protocol, don’t you think?