The Royal Articles:
Protocol and Etiquette: a Very Royal Perspective
Royal Ceremony and Protocol
In the face of a national decline in deference and decorum, the Royal Household is one of the last bastions of good form, etiquette, and protocol. No other institution prides itself quite so much on its ability to ensure that at all times people are addressed correctly, letters meet with Debrett’s approval (in fact the Royal Household usually sets the standard), orders and decorations are worn correctly, and umbrellas are carried as in times gone by on Whitehall. The Old Guard still reigns at Buckingham Palace.
Having attended various royal events over the past few years, I was surprised to see how traditional life surrounding the British Court still was. No other institution could in this modern age still consider recommending that “women should wear hats” and advising that men wear “morning dress, uniform or lounge suits.” White gloves are still the form, and they will stay immaculately clean as they glide along banisters, shake proffered royal hands, and wave goodbye in the ever-familiar royal manner. From the word “go,” one is delighted to learn that “The Lord Chamberlain has been commanded by Her Majesty to invite” you to some super-grand royal gathering. These commands range from invitations to the ever popular and massive afternoon parties in the gardens of Buckingham Palace or Holyroodhouse to a state banquet in honour of a visiting Head of State at Buckingham Palace. For us mere mortals these invitations are more likely to be to a “minor” function, a garden party, the Garter service, or, for the newly honoured, an investiture. The invitations are sent in cream envelopes addressed only to a wife (Mrs John Smith, never Mrs Jane Smith [except for divorcées, who have recently been allowed to enter the royal fold]) in the case of couples, and they contain all the information you require: dress codes, arrivals and departures, parking, etc. The rôle of loyal and dutiful subject then falls to you. Good form dictates that one always accept The Queen’s invitations apart from the most exceptional cases. The replies are sent to the member of the Household through whom the command was conveyed, and one “has the honour to obey Her Majesty’s command” after the traditional act of “presenting one’s compliments.” A sample reply may read as follows:
“Mr and Mrs Charles Beaufort present their compliments to the Lord Steward and have the honour to obey Her Majesty’s command to attend the State Banquet at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday 12th March 2008 in honour of Their Majesties the King and Queen of The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.”
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