December 5th, 2014

Mastering Royal Etiquette: How To Greet Will and Kate During Their Upcoming U.S. Visit

by Jacqueline Whitmore

Among the roughly five million visitors expected in New York this holiday season, at least two are certain to get the royal treatment. Britain’s Prince William and his wife, Kate, will be making their first visit to the Big Apple on Sunday.

International etiquette expert and author Jacqueline Whitmore shares the following tips for those lucky enough to meet the royal couple during their three-day visit.


Properly known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, address Prince William as “Your Royal Highness” at the start of a conversation, followed by “Sir” in later conversation. Address the Duchess of Cambridge as “Your Royal Highness” at the start of a conversation, followed by “Ma’am” (to rhyme with jam) throughout your conversation. But those close to them say the “relaxed” couple are not sticklers for the exact rules.

Be prepared with a few conversation icebreakers. Stick to topics that most interest the couple. For example, William enjoys talking about polo and many of his favorite charities including fighting illegal trade in wildlife parts.

Kate loves talking about her 17-month old son, Prince George. She is also expecting her second child in April. Kate also loves fashion. She’s a style icon whose outfits can sell out in stores within hours after she’s seen in them. Look for her to pack some American labels for her trip to the U.S. It’s a tradition to pay some fashion tributes to a host country.


It’s best to wait until William or Kate offers their hand to you before you extend yours. Give a slightly firm (not a bone crushing or limp, dead fish) handshake. If you wear gloves, remove your right glove before shaking hands. And never give a cold, wet, clammy handshake.

Body Language:

It is not necessary for an American citizen to bow or curtsy to William and Kate as you are not one of their royal subjects.

If you are a British or Commonwealth citizen, you should bow if male, and curtsy if female. Bow from the neck, not the waist. To curtsy, place one foot behind the other and slightly bend both knees.

Maintain eye contact throughout the greeting.

Physical contact including hugging and air kissing should be avoided unless the couple initiates the gesture of affection.

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