Royal Etiquette Practices and the History Behind Them

Published October 7, 2020
Queen Elizabeth II

Royal etiquette plays a significant role in the life of a royal family. Royal families may operate and live by different standards and rules, but royal etiquette is often directly linked to a particular member of the family and their proximity to the throne.

Understanding Royal Etiquette

Young royals learn the etiquette of their position early in life. In fact, etiquette is such an important part of royal life that it is interwoven throughout virtually everything members of the royal family do.

Dining Manners Must Be Just So

Royal etiquette as it relates to dining is straightforward. Members of the royal family cannot act like commoners. Some examples of royal dining etiquette include the following:

  • Royals must hold their teacups with their thumb and index finger at the top of the handle. This is done with the middle finger supporting the bottom.
  • Another very royal dining etiquette is eating food from the back of forks. It's a very tenuous skill set as one has to keep the food balanced all the way to the mouth.
  • Leaving the table while eating is more conventional. Utensils are left at an angle, so that servants know not to touch.

Royals Must Be Dressed to the Nines

Royal families live their entire lives in public, so royal etiquette heavily influences dress.

  • The Queen of the British monarchy always wears bright colors. Royal etiquette dictates that the Queen always wears bright colors so that she can be easily identified. There must never be any ambiguity about who the queen is in any gathering.
  • It's standard practice to only have a suit of clothing in black while traveling, in case there's an unexpected death and decorum dictates mourning garb.
  • The use of the handbag by the royal family is also unique. The clutch in hand not only sometimes shields the cleavage, it also prevents unnecessary handshaking when clutched with both hands.
  • The position of the Queen's handbag also is a powerful tool of communication. The handbag on the table indicates that the queen wants the event to end in five minutes. When placed on the floor, she's communicating displeasure with the current conversation. A switch of handbag from one hand to the next indicates that she wants to end the conversation.

The Queen Approves Marriages

The only way the royal family guarantees continuity is through marriage and family. Royal etiquette dictates marriage.

  • Suitors must seek approval from the Queen prior to proposing.
  • The Queen must also provide final approval of all wedding dresses for future brides marrying into the family.
Britain royals

Royal Children Are Raised as Ladies and Gentlemen

Raising the next generation of royalty requires even more finesse.

  • All children of royals must learn the proper wave and follow bowing and curtseying etiquette.
  • The child of royal lineage is also expected to learn and be fluent in a foreign language.
  • Regarding fashion choices, boys wear shorts until around age eight. The transition into being a young boy is marked by being able to wear trousers.
  • Another surefire way to protect the lineage is a precaution in traveling. Royal etiquette dictates that two family members who are direct heirs to the throne are not allowed to travel together.

There's No Escaping Etiquette Practices

Some etiquette practices for royals may seem odd to commoners.

  • Only married women can wear tiaras.
  • The queen doesn't eat garlic or shellfish and has the same thing for breakfast every day.
  • Royals aren't allowed to run for public office or vote.
  • At least six ravens must be kept at the Tower of London.

History of Royal Etiquette Practices

The history of royal etiquette is fascinating. All facets are interesting and sometimes odd.

  • The silver service, also known as "The Grand Service" is so large and complete, it takes eight palaces at least three weeks to get ready for setting on tables.
  • The Queen has her own salt cellar that was made by Nicholas Clausen in 1721.
  • The Queen's tiara with 96 rubies created by the House of Gabbard, a wedding gift to the Queen from the people of Burma. It was intended as a symbol of protection against illness and evil.
  • The GH Hurt & Son's shawl was made for Prince Charles when he was born in 1948 and has been used by Prince Will and all his children.
  • Six resident ravens never left the Tower of London, as it was believed that the tower would fall if they did.

Royal Traditions Maintain Decorum

Following royal families is very exciting. They lead lives that seem almost fairytale in nature and outside of norms. However, their lifestyles are directly controlled by set rules and expectations that set them apart but may, at times, be constricting. The unique thing about royalty is that at their core they are still a family.

Royal Etiquette Practices and the History Behind Them