Untarnished Etiquette: Recalling a date with the queen
by Zeda Dowell
May 24, 2012 | 917 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print

The invitations are out. The catalogs are filled with souvenir items emblazoned “Diamond Jubilee, London 2012.” From June 2 to 5, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth officially celebrates 60 years of her reign, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Years ago, I traded in my British passport for an American one and became a proud American citizen. But though I now cover my heart and say the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, I still stand at attention when I hear “God Save the Queen.”

I was once a British subject, and although my enthusiasm is somewhat diluted for the royal family, there is a part of me that still remembers some very special moments as a British subject. Like the time I had an audience with Her Majesty.

There is a protocol that is strictly followed when you are about to meet the queen of England. I was a member of a ballet company, and we were asked to do a command performance for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, the duke of Edinburgh, along with the prime minister and his wife and a group of their invited guests.

A few days before our performance, I was requested to appear at the government house for a brief meeting. I expected that my entire company would be there to work out the logistics of our performance; however, when I showed up, there was only me.

I was not afraid but wondered what was going on when then I was approached by a lady who identified herself as the royal protocol officer. She told me that I was selected to have an audience with the queen after the performance, as her majesty wanted to meet one of the dancers. I was about to take a course on etiquette on how to meet with her majesty the queen.

In a choreographed ballet performance, when your guest of honor is the royal family, there is no room for error, so I was not pleased that while my company was hard at work, I was being briefed on what would be a short interaction.

We started with the introduction: I would address the queen as “Your Majesty.” Any other reference would be “Ma’am.” I would curtsy, and if Her Majesty were to reach out to shake my hand, then I would do so very gently. Upon my exit from her presence, I would gracefully back out, then turn around. 

My visit with Her Majesty was a bit longer than I expected. She wanted to know about our rehearsal times; she admired the costume and wanted to know about costume changes and how long I had been dancing. I was quite at ease with her, but this was not because of me — it was obvious she was charming and had done this many times.

Etiquette, regardless of status, should be considered common courtesy. There are acceptable standards of behavior, and by following simple rules, we can get through some of the most difficult situations.

We will all most likely have the privilege of meeting elected officials, and it is important that we show respect. 

We do not have royalty in America, but we do have a president. Should you meet our sitting president, it is important that you know how to address him: simply as “Mr. President” or “Sir.” The wife of the president, our first lady, is referred to as “Mrs. Obama.”

Forms of address are usually easy, as they make reference to title. However, a member of the United States House of Representatives should never be addressed as “representative,” except when making an introduction. Then it is usually “The Honorable (name), representative from (state)” The term “congressman” or “congresswoman” indicates either a senator or a representative.

- Zeda Dowell of Ben Lomond answers questions, teaches classes and provides information about international protocol, dining, being a gentleman and cultural diversity. She can be reached by email at zedadowell@gmail.com.

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