The British royal family sometimes tend to downplay their rules. Members of the royal family have to follow a set of rules from meeting people or celebrities to attending events. Celebrities often hold the attention of the room, but when around the royal family, they feel a little less interesting.
The royal family has no officially published the set of protocols, but a few secrets of the royal protocol when meeting celebrities have been revealed by insiders eventually.
The royals did not shake hands until the 1970’s when Queen Elizabeth II relaxed some of these rules. Princess Anne did not agree with shaking hands with others and said, “they couldn’t shake their hands with everybody, so don’t start.”
The rules of the royal protocol state that it should be royal who should initiate the first contact. As per the royal expert and director of the Royal School of Etiquette, “If you are a member of the public meeting a member of the royal family, you should never offer your hand to shake – wait for them to initiate the handshake.”
Royals should speak first
According to royal etiquette expert Grant Harrold, “You’re not supposed to engage in conversation or call out to them. Royals are supposed to begin the conversation. You’ll notice they start it, so they can be in control of the time.”
Shawn Mendes, well-aware of the rules and obliged, no matter how awkward it might feel. At Queen Elizabeth II’s 92nd birthday in 2018, Mendes was waiting to go on stage when the Queen walked and stood next to him. He told Ellen DeGeneres, “You’re not allowed to speak to her unless she speaks to you first. So, it was like 10 minutes of very awkward silence between the queen and me. She didn’t look at me at all. I looked over a couple of times and I was like, ‘I probably shouldn’t even be looking.’ It was super weird.”
Don’t give autographs, even to celebrities
Signing things or autographs is considered out of the royal protocol. The main reason behind this is because if a royal signature is written or shared, there is a risk of it being duplicated. King Charles once responded to a request for autographs by saying, “Sorry, they don’t allow me to do that”, Express reported. Though King Charles broke the rule in 2010. It was when he visited victims of the Cornwall floods, a couple asked for his autograph for their son. Charles asked for a paper and wrote “Charles 2010”.
Royals have occasionally broken the “no signature” protocol, mostly at children’s request. According to Express, Prince Harry once signed a cast of a 17-years-old’s with the words “Get well soon! Harry.”
Celebrities must know the rules
Celebrities are adequately briefed before meeting a member of the royal family. At the London premiere of “Top Gun: Maverick” in 2022, Jon Hamm told Jimmy Fallon that he was given “guidelines that are not so many guidelines as hard and fast rules that you are made to follow.” He told Kelly Ripa that, “It’s a little anxiety-producing because they give you these rules that you’re meant to follow. You’re meant to say, ‘Your Royal Highness’- if they offer their name, then you can use their name. But you can’t offer to do it first. And you can’t offer your hand, they have to offer their hand. Then you have to bow, but you can’t bow too low.”
At events, the royals are the last to arrive and the first to leave. But this protocol depends on the type of event they attend. Royal historian Marlene Koeing said, “A true order of precedence only takes shape at and diplomatic events. Since the celebrities don’t often attend diplomatic events, they may not be limited by the ‘entrance protocol’”.
The royals are expected to abide by the “no selfies” policy while meeting their fans or even celebrities. The Telegraph reported when Prince Harry met a young fan, he said, “No, I hate selfies. Seriously, you need to get out of it. I know your young but selfies are bad.” He then offered the young fan to pose for a photograph with him.
You may wonder if celebrities have the immunity to get a selfie, but it’s just what they desire. When Serena Williams asked Princess Catherine for a selfie, she told People that she so was bold to choose a Snapchat filter. She claims she’s the first to Snapchat with a royal.
Carry a purse
Queen Elizabeth II rarely carried a purse during her reign. Though she is never required to carry a driver’s license or home keys, then why carry a purse? Her Majesty used a purse as a way of silently communicating with her staff and guest.
Hugo Vickers, a royal historian, said to People, “It would be very worrying if you were talking to the Queen and saw the handbag move from one hand to the other. She is signaling that she’d liked to be interrupted and move on from the person she is talking to.” Another purpose of the purse for the royals is that “Royals must always carry it in their left hand so their right hand is free to shake hands if they choose,” royal etiquette expert Myka Meier told Cosmopolitan.
Celebs can goof it up
Celebrities, unintentionally, mess up when they meet the royals, no matter how prepared they might be. When the One Direction band met Princess Catherine years ago, Harry Styles said in Hello! Magazine that he was nervous, “I said congratulations on the bump”, indicating her second pregnancy. Later, he said, “She didn’t look bumpy.”
While Grammy-winner Sam Smith, bowed too low when he met his crush, Prince Harry. But the most awful breach of protocol was in 1997 when Spice Girl Geri “Ginger Spice” Halliwell tapped King Charles III on his bottom. She said to The Times, “Patting him on the bottom was against royal protocol but we’re all humans.”