A-Z of British Etiquette
When greeting The Queen it is polite for men to bow and women to curtsey. Unlike at the end of a stage show, men should bow from the neck, not the waist. A woman’s curtsey should not be an elaborate sweep to the floor, but simply a bob of the knees with one foot behind the other. If you go down too far, you may never get back up.
Although it has been reported that Her Majesty is not fazed by the lack of a bow or curtsey, it can appear churlish to not. Former British Prime Minister’s wife Cherie Blair famously did not curtsey on one of her first meetings with The Queen, and Australian premier Julia Gillard did the same to much outcry during Her Majesty’s official visit to Australia in November 2011.
If you are not a British or Commonwealth citizen, you are not expected to bow or curtsey, although many do out of respect. The Queen is referred to as Your Majesty first and then Ma’am. (Ma’am is short for madam and is to rhyme with ham, not palm.)
William Hanson is the Etiquette and Protocol Consultant for The English Manner. He works with VIP households, diplomats, businessmen, schools and colleges and has advised multinational brands. He is regularly asked by global media to comment on modern manners and social mores.