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Day 23: How to communicate with the Queen

This year Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II turned 90-years-old. From the gorgeous Annie Leibovitz photographs, to celebratory paraphernalia and specialist edition newspapers, it’s been a big deal here in the UK.

Today’s Countdown to Christmas features London-based strategic communications consultant Dawn Neville. In a special guest post she’s given us an insight into working with Royalty and the protocols you have to follow.


Dawn @DawnLNeville has worked with Clarence House and consults, speaks, trains, coaches and blogs on PR and communications.

The Queen celebrates two birthdays each year: her actual birthday on 21 April and her official birthday on (usually) the second Saturday in June.

I found this article fascinating and hope you do too. It was first published on my blog in May 2016 and is being repeated as part of my Advent IC series.

I’ll hand you over to Dawn…

Etiquette to follow when working with the Queen

To mark this week’s big occasion, it’s rumoured that President Barack Obama is popping to Windsor Castle for a spot of lunch with Her Majesty.

This reminds me of the raised eyebrows during his 2011 visit, when he continued speaking during the national anthem which, it was suggested by commentators, breached protocol.

When meeting a royal, there are rules that need to be followed about who can speak first, where you can look, how to address them, and whether or not you should curtsy.

It is a mysterious world to the uninitiated.

Having dealt with quite a number of royal visits and events during my career, I think protocols are very helpful and practical, and help everyone to understand how they should behave when working with Clarence House, and meeting a Royal.

What is Royal protocol?
Royal protocols originate from a time when monarchs were accorded an almost divine status. They are a set of instructions to show people how to act, and help to avoid embarrassment for both you and the royal family member.

Here are just a few of the protocols communicators, charities and businesses who have a royal visit or event might be asked to follow:

Lunch etiquette
If you are at a lunch with Her Majesty, you may pick up your cup but not your saucer. And you must put the cup back on the saucer between sips.

Should the Queen finish her tuna and cucumber sandwiches before you, you’ll be expected to stop eating – hopefully the leftovers go to the corgis!

Greeting the Queen
Royalty always offers the hand first, and you should be careful not to shake too firmly. Curtsying is a minefield.

Debrett’s etiquette advisor, Jo Bryant offers up some excellent advise on the art of a proper curtsy on

“Put your right foot behind your left foot. Briefly bend the knees with one foot forward keeping the upper body straight. Repeat when the member of the Royal family leaves.”

Either way I advise a practice run, and if you’re lucky enough for the Queen to pay a visit, you will have a recce and run through in advance with her team.

One should never, ever touch the Queen
There have been signs of a relaxing of this rule, for example in 2009, when Michelle Obama seemingly broke royal protocol by putting her arm around the Queen.

Her Majesty returned the gesture by hugging her back. Still, I’d guess that only VIPs (and the brave) can get away with this.

Don’t turn your back on One
If it’s all sounding a little complicated, you’re not alone. It was reported back in 2011 that even Kate Middleton required lessons in etiquette. I wonder if she’s ever turned her back on the Queen…

Writing to Her Majesty
The Queen is shown almost all of her correspondence every day by one of her Private Secretaries, and it’s reported she takes a keen interest in her letters.

The Royal Family website states: “If you wish to write a formal letter, you can open with ‘Madam’ and close the letter with the form ‘I have the honour to be, Madam, Your Majesty’s humble and obedient servant’. This traditional approach is by no means obligatory. You should feel free to write in whatever style you feel comfortable. Write to the Queen.”

When all is said and done, even heads of state like Obama can get protocol wrong.

You can find out more information by visiting and see messages on Twitter #HappyBirthdayYourMajesty and #Queenat90.

Post author: Dawn Neville

Thank you Dawn and Happy Birthday Your Majesty!


Here are some more Tweets from this week:

Missed any of my Advent series? I’ve collated them all via LinkedIn.

First published on the All Things IC blog 21 April 2016. Republished 23 December 2016.

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