News & Politics

Meeting the Queen, Learning to Curtsy

Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Prince Philip, says that “the stress of meeting the Queen provokes one in five men to forget themselves and curtsy,” as the British Guardian put it. Prince Philip isn’t the world’s most in-touch man—he makes President Bush seem like a smooth talker—so the male-curtsy number may be even higher.

I’m going to suggest that if you meet the queen when she visits Washington in May, you curtsy—whether you’re male or female. Technically, if you are not a British subject you don’t have to curtsy. But do it anyway. It’ll be the best and only funny part of your story of meeting the queen.

In my five years in England, I’ve met her twice, and it was a strangely un-awe-inspiring experience. The curtsy—something I haven’t done since curtain call at ballet school when I was six—gave me something to focus on, particularly this last time when all I wanted to do was compare the pintsize grandmother in front of me to Helen Mirren.

“What did you talk about?” asked my own grandmother. Well, nothing. The same will likely be true for you. You will not be chatting about pressing royal issues such as how many shots her grandson Harry can down in a single evening at his favorite club, Boujis, and when her grandson William is going to make an honest woman of his lovely girlfriend, Kate Middleton. (Kate is the kind of girl who comes out of a nightclub at 3 am with perfect makeup and not a hair out of place.)

Likely you will discuss that most British of topics, the weather. Probably for no more than 30 seconds before she moves on to the next person.

As a writer for the Guardian wrote in a story detailing the endless monotony of royal tours: “If this was your life, you would kill yourself.” Do yourself and the queen a favor: curtsy.