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Dublin: 7 °C Saturday 23 August, 2014

Don’t call me princess: Fáilte Ireland makes Queen gaffe

So our national tourism board got the British royal etiquette wrong – but how easy is it to know how to greet a monarch? We look at international royal meet ‘n’ greet customs.

Alpha female: Even Margaret Thatcher had to creak at the knees to fulfill British royal etiquette
Alpha female: Even Margaret Thatcher had to creak at the knees to fulfill British royal etiquette
Image: David Cheskin/PA Images

THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE of the British monarchy is clear enough:

On presentation to the Queen, the correct formal address is ‘Your Majesty’ and subsequently ‘Ma’am’.

It seems someone in Fáilte Ireland didn’t do their research. The Irish Times reports that Queen Elizabeth II was referred to as “Her Royal Highness” in a radio ad aired on a number of stations before the etiquette mistake was spotted. (“Her Royal Highness” is how a princess is addressed). Fáilte Ireland confirmed the mistake and said new versions of the ad have been recorded.

The business of meeting royalty is quite the minefield. Should you ever find yourself in the position of having to kow tow to a monarch, this is how to do it:

Philip? Just call him ‘Sir’ - Men should make a neck bow (from the head only), and women should curtsy. The British monarchy’s guidebook does, however, say that if you feel like it, you may “shake hands in the usual way”. As Prince Philip will also be tagging along for the visit, it’s worth noting that you may call him ‘Sir’.

Get up, Barack – US President Barack Obama, also due here this month, made a presidential gaffe by making a deep bow to the Japanese Emperor Akihito last November. One chief of state is not to bow to another, according to etiquette experts, but the White House  later released a statement saying that the boy was simply one of respect. One Youtube.com user went to the bother of showing how 46 other dignitaries had shaken hands with the Emperor, while Obama was the only one to perform a 90-degree angle bow…



Sheik it all about - If Failte Ireland got mixed up over the proper address for Queen Elizabeth, imagine how confused its officials would be in the Middle East. Sheiks are the equivalent of princes, according to business blog Portfolio.com, but also ‘Sheik’ is “a common first name” so “be sure you’re talking to a prince before treating him like one”. Sultans are above sheiks, and emirs are above sultans, just so you know. Handshakes are fine but wearing sunglasses while speaking to them is not.

Thai’s the limit - The Ministry for Culture in Thailand has a convoluted set of instructions for greeting various members of society. But wait until you come to the part about greeting the King and other members of the Thai royal family. There is different protocol for when His Maj is seated, walking on a carpet, travelling in a vehicle, during an anthem, in an informal meeting, during a formal ceremony and so on. Things to be presented to the royal family must be placed on trays, at waist level, with a curtsy at the knee.

As for the ‘ao ngan’, “the ancient customs of paying respect to show that one was not carrying a weapon in the King’s presence”, it’s best to read the instructions here. It looks a little something like this:

Oh yes, and if granted an informal audience, don’t be too happy about it. It involves “crawling on the knees and paying respect to His Majesty with a krap is more suitable”. A krap, to be clear, is a way of prostating oneself before the monarch.

Only men wear the trousers - if you are meeting the King of Tonga, that is. A New Zealand contingent of journalists learned that lesson the hard way when female journalists were not permitted into a meeting with King George Tupou V because they were wearing trousers.

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