Why women curtsy and how fashion and royal rules dictated the display of respect

Although Meghan, the overly dramatic curtsey of the Duchess of Sussex that caused such controversy in Netflix’s recent documentary about Prince Harry and she is clearly made for comedic effect, there’s no denying that it’s a skill with which the Duchess should have familiarized herself when she married into the royal family.

“I didn’t know I was going to meet [the queen] until just moments before,” Meghan said in the docuseries. “We were in the car and we were going to have lunch at the Royal Lodge. And Harry was like, ‘Oh, my grandmother is here. She’ll be there after church. I remember we were in the car, driving, and he said, ‘You know how to curtsey, don’t you?’ And I just thought it was a joke.

“Now I’m starting to realize it’s a big deal. I mean, Americans would understand that.

With many rules in place as to who bows to whom, the act, which is the feminine equivalent of bowing, has evolved over the centuries.

How to curtsy

Taking its name from the word “courtesy”, the movements of the curtsey and the bow were very similar until 17th century Britain, when the delineation between the sexes became more pronounced.

In Victorian times, due to the long skirts women wore, a ballet-style move – otherwise known as “second position” – was the common way of curtsying with feet and knees pointing upwards. exterior and straight back.

In the modern curtsey, the weight is transferred to one foot, usually the left, while the sole of the other foot is placed behind and just outside the standing ankle. Eye contact should be maintained as the front knee is bent, the torso kept straight, and the hands remain by your side.

“Customers should try to be empty-handed, having put down drinks or bags,” says British etiquette and behavior firm Debrett’s. “Women should bow and men should bow by the neck.”

Rules on who royal women curtsy and when

Prince William holds the hand of his wife Kate as she curtsies to Queen Elizabeth II inside Westminster Abbey on their wedding day on April 29, 2011. Getty Images

Although a curtsy is considered a mark of respect, traditionally the curtsey is addressed to the crown as a whole rather than the individual person. Foreign dignitaries, such as world leaders, as well as British commoners are not required to curtsy, although some choose to do so.

The rules of curtsy within the royal family are quite complicated and depend on the setting and the people present, who decide who curtsies to whom.

Kate was forced to curtsy to all members of the Royal Family, including Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie who upgraded her as ‘Blood Princesses’. However, if Prince William was present, the princesses of York would curtsey to Kate as she walked ahead of them.

Since changing her title from Duchess of Cambridge to Princess of Wales, Kate no longer bows to Beatrice and Eugenie.

The rules, which in classic British Royal Family style were observed but largely unspoken, have been formally documented in the Priority of the royal family to be observed at courtwhich was drafted by the Queen’s Private Secretary in 2005 after Prince Charles married Camilla to determine who should curtsy to him.

According The telegraphthe document was updated in 2012 after Prince William and Kate married to clarify that she should curtsy to Prince Andrew’s daughters.

Updated: December 15, 2022, 03:47

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