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How to Address the Queen (and Other Important People)

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You’re in London celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. You’re touring Westminster Cathedral and suddenly, surrounded by an entourage, there she is. You freeze. What now?

Knowing how to interact with members of an aristocracy can seem strange to many Americans. (Don’t worry—it seems strange to many people in the United Kingdom, too.) But that doesn’t mean you cannot show the Queen the respect due to the second-longest-reigning British monarch in history.

When you find yourself in the presence of the queen,

  1. Citizens of the U.K. or Commonwealth may bow slightly from the neck or give a small courtesy. These gestures are not expected from Americans or other non-British citizens. Only shake the Queen’s hand if she first offers it to you.
  2. Don’t start a conversation with the Queen. Only reply if she speaks to you first. Finish your first reply with, “Your Majesty.”
    • Address a prince or princess as “Your Royal Highness.” Any child or grandchild by a son of a monarch is a prince or princess.
    • Address a duke or duchess as “Your Grace.”
    • Address a baronet or knight as “Sir (first name).” Address his wife as “Lady (surname).”
    • Address a dame as “Dame (first name).” A dame is the female equivalent of a knight.
  3. After you’ve struck up a conversation, finish every additional reply with, “Sir” or “Ma’am.”
  4. When in doubt, ask someone nearby of a lower rank what is the right way to behave.

When we address people with their correct titles, we show respect for their office and for them as fellow human beings. Even if you never encounter Her Majesty, you may want to keep these forms of address handy for other important American and world leaders:

Address the… as…
The President of the United States “Mr. or Madam President”
The First Spouse “Mr. or Mrs. (surname)”
A Former President of the United States “Mr., Ms., or Mrs. (surname)”
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court “Mr. or Madam Chief Justice”
A Supreme Court Justice “Mr. or Madam Justice”
A Senator “Senator (surname)”
A Representative “Mr., Mrs., or Ms. (surname)”
A Governor “Governor (surname)”
A State Legislator “Mr., Mrs., or Ms. (surname)”
A Mayor “Mayor (surname)”
The Governor General of Canada “Your Excellency”
The Prime Minister of Canada “Prime Minister”
The President of Mexico “Mr. or Madame President”
The Prime Minister of Great Britain “Prime Minister”
The Pope “Your Holiness”

Who is the most important person you’ve ever met? Did you know what to do? Share your story with us in the comments.

One response »

  1. Well isn’t this nifty!


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