Dear Miss Fine,
It’s March and the daffodils are blooming, which means one thing is certain: sundresses and bare legs will be possible once more! However, I feel like a lady should always dress as if she could meet the Queen at a moment’s notice (future grandmothers-in-law are influential, after all). Any tips on how to dress like a royal? Apparently, even Kate Middleton dresses too scandalously for the Queen! And how should one address the Queen? Do I really have to curtsey?
The Future Mrs Prince Harry (again)
P.S. Unrelated, but do you think she’s ever worn jeans?
Dear Future Windsor Woman,
I think the Vanity Fair article, and the articles it refers to, are all making a huge mountain out of a mole hill. Never once (with the exception of that poorly judged college fashion show in her youth), has Kate Middleton ever looked anything less than perfectly regal. The woman practically invented conservative chic.
Stories insinuating that the Queen is scandalised by her hemlines are ridiculous — A) if this were the case, the Queen and her aids would have said something before the royal marriage took place, not three years later and B) if the Queen really cared, she might try mentioning the topic of hemlines and appropriate royal clothing to her granddaughters Beatrice and Eugenie or the topic of appropriate fancy dress costumes to Prince Harry.
That said, when it comes to meeting the Queen – dress codes vary hugely depending on the setting. If you’ve been invited to her annual garden party (which is actually received as a royal command rather than an invitation), a smart day dress with a hat or fascinator will suffice. If you’re attending a state banquet, a floor length evening gown (in any colour but black) with gloves is required. Also, if you own a tiara, this would be the place to wear it. However, if the Queen is touring your family’s organic farm (on Charles’s recommendation), she will not be offended if you are wearing denim overalls. Likewise, if Her Majesty is visiting your office (don’t laugh – it happened to me), your normal business casual is perfectly acceptable.
Whether your royal encounter is impromptu or planned, it’s still best to be prepared. When HM enters the room, you should stand. You must never introduce yourself to the Queen; always wait to be formally presented. And yes, you should curtsey. (Americans are not subjects of the Queen and therefore technically not required to curtsey like Canadians, Australians, and other members of the Commonwealth but it remains a traditional sign of respect.) Verbally address The Queen as “Your Majesty” in the first instance, then “Ma’am” (to rhyme with “spam.”) Do not offer your hand or touch the monarch in any way. If HM chooses to engage in polite conversation with you, allow her to lead the conversation.
As much as you’re dying to ask about that naughty, redheaded grandson of hers – questions of any kind are not permitted. Curtsey again as she leaves you.
I suppose you’re also wondering how to curtsey so here’s a crash course: Start with your weight on your right foot, with the toe of your left foot a few inches behind your right heel. As you bend your right knee, allow your body to gently sink. Your arms should be gracefully bent, your hands occupied by lightly holding your skirt or gown. Lower your eyes briefly but resume eye contact when you rise. A curtsey should be done gracefully and with control. If executed correctly, it will feel like a ballet move.
Miss J Fine
P.S. The Queen does not wear jeans. The closest she comes to donning a casual trouser is jodhpurs while horseback riding (see photo below).
Jerramy Fine is the author of Someday My Prince Will Come, The Regal Rules for Girls and Bright Young Royals. The Dear Miss Fine advice column will run twice a month — send your questions regarding English etiquette, life in England, and royal encounters to graduatesinwonderland at gmail dot com and we’ll forward your questions on to her.