During my term as director of protocol for the city and county of San Francisco, HRH Prince Andrew paid a visit to the city. As dictated by British protocol, I was not allowed to speak to the prince until first spoken to. This was difficult, seeing that he was coming to our city and I was supposed to welcome him. Nonetheless, I followed the rules and waited to greet him, first as "Your Royal Highness," then "Sir." The same applies to all other male members of the royal family. Female members are also referred to as "Your Royal Highness" in the first greeting, and as "Ma'am" afterward.
The protocol observed when meeting the Queen of England is traditionally a little more complicated. Here are some tips on greeting Her Majesty if you're lucky enough to be invited to tea at Buckingham Palace.
• Unless you are a Brit, you don't have to bow or curtsy in the presence of the queen. A slight nod of the head is all that's necessary.
• We all remember when Michelle Obama hugged the queen. That created a stir, as the rule is that the person meeting the queen is not supposed to initiate any physical contact with Her Majesty.
• The queen may shake your hand, but you must wait for her to extend her hand first. When she does, make eye contact and extend your hand for a brief handshake.
• You must always let Her Majesty speak to you first, not the other way around.
• When addressing the queen, you should first refer to her as "Your Majesty," and after that as "Ma'am."
• If the queen chooses to make conservation with you, your must never ask her anything personal about herself or her family, though you may say "How do you do?" and that you are pleased to meet her.
• It is considered rude to turn your back on the queen.
Lisa Mirza Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert, an on-air contributor, and the author of A Traveler's Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the city and county of San Francisco and the founder and CEO of The AML Group (www.lisagrotts.com), certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Stanford Hospital to Cornell University and Levi Strauss. She has been quoted by Condé Nast Traveler, InStyle magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on www.Twitter.com/LisaGrotts and www.Facebook.com/LisaGrotts.
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