Curtseying rules within the Royal Family have always seemed complicated, especially since Queen Elizabeth II’s death. Following King Charles’ coronation in May this year, the Firm’s new curtseying protocol will be cemented.
Since Charles and Camilla became King and Queen Consort following the late Queen’s death, the Royal Family’s curtseying tradition has altered slightly. After May 9, 2023, this tradition will be set in stone as the royal couple’s titles are made official. However, while some royal experts have a lot to say about curtseying, others have previously claimed the practice is nonsense. This is what is known about the custom according to the Royal Family’s website and other sources.
Although considered old-fashioned to some, royal women are expected to bow and curtsy to one another, based on a document the late Queen produced back in 2005.
Called the Precedence of the Royal Family to be Observed Court, it listed the royal women and their seniority to one another.
Even though Camilla was not born into royalty, members of the Royal Family had to curtsy to her when she married the then-Prince Charles, heir to the throne, in 2005.
However, going against tradition, the Queen changed this due to the circumstances of Camilla and Charles’ marriage.
Women born into royalty, such as Princess Anne, Princess Beatrice, and Princess Eugenie, were moved forward ahead of Camilla, whereas those not born into royalty, like Sophie, Countess of Wessex, stayed where they were.
In 2012, a year after Kate Middleton joined the Firm, the order was updated again to fit her in.
The former Duchess of Cambridge was expected to curtsy to Anne, Beatrice, and Eugenie, but not if she was with Prince William.
But, even when Kate was with William, she still had to curtsy to Anne. The Princess Royal’s rank did not change.
The same rules applied to Meghan Markle – the Duchess of Sussex had to curtsy to everyone when alone, but didn’t have to bow before Beatrice and Eugenie if she was with Prince Harry. She did, though, have to curtsy to Anne.
Curtsying protocol applies in private, as well as in public, according to a Telegraph source.
They told the paper: “What they do when there are no outsiders present I can’t tell, but I suspect they do [curtsy]. They all did with the Queen.”
Since Charles became King last September, the major change in rules has been that Camilla is now ahead of Anne in the pecking order. All royal women must now curtsy to her. And, since she is the most senior royal, at the top of the pecking order, she does not need to curtsy to any other female royal.
Another claim that has previously circulated among royal experts and watchers is that royal women have always curtsied only to the monarch.
Therefore, by this logic, that means Eugenie and Beatrice, for example, would only bow to Camilla and Charles, and not Anne or Kate, even though the latter two are also more senior to them.
Royal experts and fans have also expressed their own opinions on the practice of curtsying on social media in recent months.
Royal expert Joe Little, from Majesty Magazine, previously wrote on Twitter: “Royal Highnesses bow and curtsey only to Majesties. Why is that so hard to understand? Nothing to do with the order of precedence.”
A royal fan added: “Joe is right, someone who is HRH, whether by birth or marriage, is equal. HRHs do not curtsy to each other.”
Pamela Marie wrote: “Respect. Simple as that. Curtseying to your Queen or King or senior member of the Royal Family is a sign of respect.”
Twitter user @monimoob commented: “The curtseying and bowing thing to the Queen or appropriate member of the British Royal Family is not law. It’s a highly suggested courtsey. More scrutiny is placed on members of the UK or Commonwealth, but most defintely not required of, say, an American.”
Ian Oliver added: “Indeed these people are no better than anyone else, that is why the Royal Family are continually curtseying to the Queen. She must have curtseyed countless times to her father. We all bow or curtsey to the sovereign, anointed by God.”