On my Queen for a Day audio tour I’ve taken you to many of the Queen’s favourite places, so let’s face it there’s a chance, a slim chance, that you might just bump into her by the Foie Gras in Fortnum’s. I think I’d have failed miserably if I didn’t tell you how to greet her in such a way that you didn’t end up being thrown into the Tower of London for gross offensiveness and insubordination.
So, hold on to your hats and remember…
1. When meeting the Queen for the first time you address her as Your Majesty. We think we know Queen Elizabeth because we've seen her so often in our homes on television. When we see her face to face an assumed intimacy is an easy mistake to make. She's an old mate, but you can't quite remember where from. The BBC tv soap Eastenders? Behind the bar in the pub? An old English teacher from your first school you haven't seen for thirty years? No. She's the Queen. THE QUEEN!!
After addressing her as Your Majesty, if she’s hanging around for more of a chat, or asks if you have any good racing tips for the 3,20 at Plumpton, you address her simply as Ma’am (which should rhyme with jam), NOT Ma’arm (which rhymes with farm).
2. You address any other male royals as Your Royal Highness the first time you meet them, and then ‘Sir’ is considered appropriate for use in a continued conversation. Other female Royals should also be addressed as Your Royal Highness and subsequently Ma’am (still keeping the Jam thing going, and avoiding the Farm thing at all costs).
3. If you’re one of her subjects (if she’s your queen) and you’re a man, you bow, just from the neck. Not from the hips and not from the knees. This is not the time for swooshy, grovelling, theatrical curtain calls, grazing your chin on the ground. Nor is it right to just quickly nod as if shaking a drip off the end of your nose.
If you’re a woman, and one of her subjects, you curtsey. Just a little bob of a curtsey. No need for a deep wobbling manoeuvre which might dislocate your hips and send you reeling into the curtains.
4. Don't be tempted to touch her just to see if she's real. I think it was President G W Bush who actually touched her on the back. I believe several staunch traditionalists passed out with blood pressure problems at this point. The Queen had been touched! "Prepare the Tower of London" Just stay safe and keep your hands to yourself, unless she offers to high five you of course, and then it would be rude to decline.
5. Keep your distance. You might be tempted to cozy up and show her the pictures you took at the Changing of the Guard, or steer her into Starbucks to share a coffee and a few minutes, but it’s not the done thing. No hugs or kisses on the cheek, unless of course she points at her lips and says “I’m waiting.”
6. Don’t offer her your hand to shake. Wait for hers, and when you get the Royal gloved fingers, just give a light touch and let go. No knuckle crunching, pumping or double handed bear grips here. If she veers past you and doesn't offer the Royal hand, don't be offended. It's probably a time thing - she has to be back in the limo to race (regally of course) to the next exciting function.
7. Never sit before she does. If you find yourself in a potential sitting scenario please don't collapse onto the couch, patting the space next to you to invite her to join you. She's much stronger than she looks and has stood on those legs for decades, literally. Some say those Royal legs are actually made out of walnut and belonged to her great Grandmother.
8. Don’t finish eating before she does. If you’re now getting on so well that she’s asked you back to Buckingham Palace for dinner, the Queen takes the last bite. However long it takes. So chase that last pea round the plate for a bit longer, and best not to say "That was fab! Any more?'
9. Don’t leave the room before her. It’s just not done to leave her there on her own. Much better to offer to help with the washing up.
10. Don't hand her your phone saying "Quick selfie?". As far as I know, nobody has actually tried this yet, but should you be tempted I think you'll be met with the Royal Glare of Intense Disapproval. This Glare is know throughout the world, and beyond. It can stop a medium sized tank at 75 metres. It can make the sea go out when it's meant to be coming in. It can turn stone into... er more stone. Don't even think of saying the S word when you're with her.
There you go. Now you can wander round Windsor Castle or Buckingham Palace, safe in the knowledge that should you walk round the corner and come face to face with Queen Elizabeth II, you will make your country proud - or faint, whichever is easier!