America frets over etiquette for royal visit

THEIR nation was born in rebellion with the equality of all men enshrined in its founding documents. But as Americans mark the 400th anniversary of the first Britons to arrive on their shores, they are struggling with how much deference to pay the Queen on her first visit to the upstart colonies in 16 years.

Officials for Tim Kaine, the governor of Virginia, are sufficiently concerned about the etiquette of meeting the monarch that an entire page is devoted to the subject on his website.

But the same page also affirms that "there are no obligatory codes of behaviour, especially in the US - as we do not recognise the Queen as our head of nation". The state is holding a lottery to give more than 100 "commoners" front-row places for a royal walkabout.

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Officials will ask winners to dress appropriately "with no 'I'm With Stupid' T-shirts etc".

Workers have been painting fences, installing lampposts and laying bricks and grass ready for the royal arrival.

The Queen will also fulfil a lifelong dream to attend the Kentucky Derby at the Churchill Downs racetrack.

Her visit will mark the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, the first permanent English colony in the United States.


AIDES to the Queen insist the monarch understands that human interactions have changed with the times.

But committing a social faux pas in her presence can have far-reaching consequences.

At Prince William's passing-out parade at Sandhurst, Carole Middleton, the mother of William's then-girlfriend Kate, was seen chewing gum in the presence of the Queen. According to some reports, such behaviour may have played a role in the couple's eventual break-up. But Mrs Middleton's mistake was not nearly as cringe-worthy as that of the late media magnate Robert Maxwell, who once put his arm around the Queen.

While it is a generally accepted mistake, tradition holds that you should not try to shake hands with the Queen, even if she offers. Bow or curtsy instead. Further, you should never wear gloves in her presence, nor turn your back on her. Tatler's advice is "you may not shake the Queen's hand, only touch it briefly".

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You should never say "pleased to meet you" when you meet the Queen. It is to be assumed that everyone who meets the Queen is pleased.

There is also a lexicon of acceptable words. A common pitfall is for people to choose posh-sounding words that are actually incorrect. Mrs Middleton's crimes allegedly included using "toilet" and "pardon". Experts say "lavatory" or "loo" or even "bog" is appropriate, but not "toilet". Other such words include mirror, settee, serviette and notepaper, which should be looking glass, sofa, napkin and writing paper.


AN OFFICIAL website for the state of Virginia is offering pointers to its citizens on how to act in the presence of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh.

"Bowing is not required of US citizens," it advises. "Shaking hands is acceptable." Should citizens feel obliged to observe strict formality, however, the right ways to curtsey and bow are explained just in case. Men bow their head only. Women place the right foot behind the left heel and then slightly bend the knees. In addition, it is explained that: "At least in Britain, when the Queen stops eating, you stop as well."

The site tells those likely to meet the Queen that she should be addressed first as Your Majesty and then as Ma'am, "which rhymes with jam".

But it warns: "By rank, the Duke of Edinburgh is lower than the Queen; thus he is addressed as Your Highness (NOT Your Majesty, aka King)."

On what to wear, the people of Virginia are told: "Members of the Royal Family do not wish anyone to be put to unnecessary expense by buying special clothes, hats or gloves."

While this covers the basics of royal etiquette, the Queen's own website lists a catalogue of further advice.

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The most complicated element concerns letter writing, as notes to the Queen should be addressed in the care of The Master of the Household.

The state also has a dedicated phone number, "Virginia's Royal Welcome hotline" offering information about the Queen's stay on Thursday and Friday.