Prince William of Wales and his bride, Catherine, also known as the newly minted Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, are set to make their debut as a married couple to North America on Thursday, heading first to Canada and then to Southern California. And while the couple views this trip as a working visit, they’ll be promoting Britain through “the prism of their own interests” a palace source says.
Rest assured that protocol standards will likely be more relaxed for Will and Kate than they were when Queen Elizabeth II visited New York City last July. However, if you’re one of the lucky ones to meet the royal couple, you’ll want to put your best foot forward. Keep in mind that William and Kate have immense power and influence and are representatives of one of the oldest and most revered institutions in the world. With that being said, there are still some important protocols to observe if you want to avoid making an egregious gaffe.
To help me compile this list of royalty etiquette tips, I conferred with my friend and fellow etiquette expert across the pond, William Hanson.
William and Kate are most likely going to generate a friendly, relaxed, personal connection with the Canadians and Americans they meet along the way, so it’s perfectly acceptable to initiate a conversation with them, just as long as you do so politely.
Address the Duke of Cambridge 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) in later conversation.
Be prepared with a few conversation icebreakers. Stick to topics that most interest the couple. For example, Will enjoys polo, flying helicopters, and his charity work. Kate enjoys hill walking, tennis, swimming, hockey, sailing, photography and painting.
Stay away from off-color jokes or personal or intrusive questions including, “When are you planning to start a family?” or “Why don’t you wear a wedding ring, Will?”
It’s best to wait until William or Kate offers his or her 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.
It is not necessary for an American citizen to bow or curtsy to Will and Kate (remember, 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. To bow, do so from the neck, not the waist. To curtsy, place one foot behind the other and slightly bend both knees.
Eye contact should be maintained throughout the greeting.
Physical contact such as hugging, pats on the back, and air kissing are highly discouraged.