Prince Harry and Meghan Markle: will they start bowing and curtsying to Prince William and Kate Middleton?

Gemma Strong

It's a time of great change within the British royal family as they adapt to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's decision to step back as senior royals. Following the couple's announcement, there has been a great deal of speculation as to what their future holds; from their titles, to their finances and their position within the royal family. One of the most commonly asked questions is whether Harry and Meghan will now have to bow and curtsy to Prince William and Kate. While the Cambridges hold a higher position in the line of succession, the reality is that the British royals rarely bow or curtsy to one another; that honour is mainly reserved for the Queen, her husband Prince Philip, as well as foreign monarchs, and, as such, Harry and Meghan are unlikely to adhere to such a formality.


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William and Kate seen bowing and curtsying to the Queen

Interestingly, there are no obligatory codes of behaviour when meeting the Queen or another member of the royal family, but most people choose to observe the traditional forms. According to the official royal website, this a neck bow for men, while women do a small curtsy. On presentation to the monarch, the correct formal address is "Your Majesty" and subsequently "Ma'am" pronounced with a short 'a', as in 'jam'.

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For male members of the royal family the same rules apply, with the title used in the first instance being 'Your Royal Highness' and subsequently 'Sir'. And for other female members of the Royal Family the first address is conventionally 'Your Royal Highness' and subsequently 'Ma'am'.

Princess Charlotte curtseys to the Queen

Princess Charlotte, four, famously made headlines on Christmas Day 2019, when she was filmed sweetly curtsying to the Queen following the morning church service. According to historian Marlene Eilers Koenig, royal children start the tradition from a young age. She told HELLO!: "Certainly by age five. The only person they will curtsy or bow to is the sovereign. A royal highness does not curtsy to another royal highness. Yes, there are articles that state this, but it is not true."

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She continued: "Curtsying and bowing is etiquette, nothing to do with precedence. You bow or curtsy the first time you see the sovereign and then again when you leave. At Christmas at church [in 2017], we saw the Cambridges and Prince Harry and Meghan curtsy and bow when the Queen arrived and left. Other royals including Charles did not because they had come from Sandringham and had already seen the Queen."

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