Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Royal Visit Etiquette


This is one of those rare weekends where The Monarchy will be on many of our minds. We will celebrate Victoria Day and we will be welcoming Charles, Prince of Wales and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall to the Province as a part of the year long celebration of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. How remarkable that we mark this weekend as a celebration of the only two Queens to have ever achieved such historic longevity!

Many questions arise whenever senior members of The Royal Family visit The Commonwealth. We love the mystique that surrounds The Monarchy and the pomp and circumstance that accompanies such visits. Sales of shoe polish and Union Flags as well as hats and flowers peak during such occasions and a flurry of excitement penetrates our day-to-day lives.

What does one do and say if one should be lucky enough to meet Royalty? When meeting a senior Royal, men bow from the neck, ladies perform a small curtsey (not a Broadway bow) as a sign of respect and meet the extended hand with a firm grip simply saying, “Your Royal Highness”. In the rare case of meeting The Queen the address would be “Your Majesty”. Allow them to initiate the conversation, which they will do with great ease. Following this initial greeting, they should be addressed as either “Sir” or “Ma’am” (pronounced like ‘ham’). They greet thousands of people yearly and want more than anything to make who they are meeting feel at ease. They do, after all, put their trousers on one leg at a time just like everyone else.

May we give them a gift of any sort? It is quite traditional for young girls to offer a small bouquet of fresh flowers to female members of the Royal Family. Men receive no gifts. I am always amazed at how well coordinated the walkabouts are and how the endless bouquets are handled. There is either a Private Secretary of Lady-in-Waiting handy to relieve the Royal of the armfuls of flowers. These are ultimately donated to local hospitals or other charities for the enjoyment of people who will likely have their spirits lifted.

What do we wear along the parade route? This might be a good day to dress nicely anticipating that you might meet a member of The Royal Family. If possible, procure a small Union Flag for excited waving. A clean shirt and tidy hair are always encouraged. Imagine that if a photo is snapped of you meeting a member of the Royal Family, years down the road you will want to be proud of how you presented yourself, eh? Of course, sensible footwear and outer garments to keep one warm and dry are appropriate depending on the weather. It’s a time to be on one’s best behavior. Such moments are not everyday occurrences, now are they?

What’s all the fuss about anyway? Like any exciting event, such as The Grey Cup, there are those who participate and those who do not. Not everyone understands or cares about Monarchy, but for those who do, a Royal Visit is a fine reason for celebration, even if only viewed from the comfort of one’s living room on the TV. This particular moment in history is a first and won’t repeat during our lifetime. The significance of a Diamond Jubilee is not to be underestimated. Historians love new milestones along the timeline of human events. Social commentators will relate to the enduring role that achievements with such longevity lend to the durability of the very fabric that is the civility that gives quality to out lives.

Because The Monarchy is no longer the actual governing body of our Nation, Royal Visits are rarely times for restless political demonstrations. Occasionally groups will use such moments to bring attention to themselves, but this is not only inappropriate, but mostly ineffectual. Careful preparation and vigilance minimize the likelihood of such disturbances being disruptive during to these visits.

If you plan to attend a parade or just follow the proceedings online or on television, embrace The Monarchy for what it is. That is open to interpretation for each of us. The Monarchy has been both traditional and adaptable over the past sixty years. We can always feel comfortable having our own feelings about The Monarchy and it's role in our lives.  The example Her Majesty has shown us during her long reign on how to cope under trying times and good ones serve not only her subjects, but also the whole world. Perhaps if we were to take some time and appreciate her awareness, compassion and gratitude, we might carry these qualities throughout our daily lives and hope that the longevity of The Monarchy will sustain what we value in the social order we live by.