9 Things You Should Never Do When You Meet King Charles

King Charles III has come a long way since his "pampered prince" days. Charles, who is taking a more modern approach as monarch, has highlighted his desire to "slim down" the monarchy to be less dependent on taxpayer coin (via The Sun).


Although Charles took the throne immediately following his mother's death on September 8, 2022, his coronation is set for May 6, 2023. The ceremony itself will follow a millennia-old tradition; however, the king desires a coronation "shorter, sooner, smaller, less expensive and more representative of different community groups and faiths" compared to past coronations, a source alleged to the Daily Mail

With 2,000 people expected to attend the king's coronation and the likeliness of thousands, if not millions, of well-wishers waiting outside Westminster Abbey, many will be hoping to meet the monarch for the first time. However, meeting a royal comes with plenty of do's and don'ts. If you happen to come face to face with King Charles III, you should avoid doing certain things.


Never address him as king

When King Charles III was visiting the United States back when he was a prince, an American made the grievous error of not using his full title and instead greeting him with a "Hi Prince." In the book "Not in Front of the Corgis," author Brian Hoey revealed, "His Royal Highness was not amused and his Private Secretary was instructed to inform future hosts that if fellow guests could not manage his full title, he would prefer a plain 'Charles.' Anything but 'Hi Prince'" (via Express).


Now that Charles is king, the proper way to address him is "Your Majesty," after which you can call him sir, a spokesperson for Debrett's, a professional coaching and etiquette company, told the Mirror. Of course, there will still be times when people forget to use his full title. In fact, this happened in early 2023, when a pub worker accidentally bumped into the monarch and told him, "Sorry, King!" This time, Charles was able to laugh it off. "[The worker] was later told by his boss that the King found it really funny and it was the first time he'd been called 'King,' a friend of Charles allegedly told the Daily Mail. "In [the] future, he should call him, 'Your Majesty,'" he added.

Don't use the word 'pardon'

As a 1,000-year-old institution chock full of traditions and guidelines, navigating the monarchy can be complex. Knowing what to say — and what not to say — is an important piece of the puzzle. If you find yourself meeting King Charles III and have managed to greet him with the correct title, you'll need to know what to say when it comes time to excuse yourself.


Some American vocabulary thought of as polite is actually quite offensive to royalty. You may think it kind to use the word "pardon"; however, it's a terrible word among the royals, akin to a swear (via Business Insider). Instead, simply use the word "sorry." In the book "Watching the English," social anthropologist Kate Fox wrote, "This word is the most notorious pet hate of the upper and upper-middle classes. ... Some even refer to lower-middle-class suburbs as 'Pardonia.'" Keep those "pardons" to yourself when around the king and other royals, or you'll be exposed as — gasp — a mere commoner!

Avoid speaking before being spoken to

Meeting the monarch is undoubtedly exciting, but try to keep your head about you. Most importantly, refrain from speaking to him first if you want to follow the rules of decorum.

Grant Harrold, royal etiquette expert and former butler to King Charles III, explained to Insider, "Technically speaking, you're not supposed to engage in conversation, or call out to them." He continued, saying, "Royals are supposed to begin the conversation. You'll notice they start it, so they can be in control of the time. They have to take control." However, you won't be sent to the tower if you don't follow this rule. According to the royal family's official website, this isn't a mandatory edict for greeting royalty — they don't technically have those. Rather, it's simply polite and traditional.


Little ones are also seemingly exempt from this guideline. "If a child calls out to [a royal], nine out of ten times they will go over," Harrold told Insider.

Don't bring an inappropriate gift

Being invited to meet royalty is considered an honor, so it's understandable if you want to bring a gift. But how can you choose the perfect gift for a literal monarch? First and foremost, it needs to fit the occasion (via CNN). Small gifts — like flowers, consumable goods, and other presents under £150 — are appropriate. If you try to give the monarch money, something exuberant, or a promotional product, you risk him refusing your gift. The royal family's gift policy asserts: "Gifts offered by private individuals living in the UK not personally known to the Member of The Royal Family should be refused where there are concerns about the propriety or motives of the donor or the gift itself."


According to Charles' former butler, Grant Harrold, the king is a fan of honey so you can't go wrong by gifting him a small jar (via Toronto Sun). If you choose to gift the king flowers, he may just have them displayed in his residence; otherwise, they may be donated to charity.

Never initiate physical contact

Throwing your arms excitedly around King Charles III would definitely not be a respectable greeting for a member of the royal family, let alone the monarch. In fact, you should wait for him to initiate contact. Grant Harrold, Charles' former butler and royal etiquette expert, told Insider, "If you are a member of the public meeting a member of the royal family, you should never offer your hand to shake — wait for them to initiate the handshake."


Naturally, mess-ups do happen. When singer Ed Sheeran met Charles back when he was a prince, he committed a royal breach. "Apparently, I did a big faux pas," Sheeran told NBC (via People). "I shook his hand and then grabbed it and you're not meant to do that." Indeed, Harrold confirmed to Insider, "A royal handshake should consist of two-to-three pumps, with your palms open and thumbs down."

Whatever you do, though, don't recreate the Spice Girls' first meeting with Charles. Geri Halliwell (Ginger Spice) and Melanie Brown (Scary Spice) each kissed the then-prince's cheek (via Express). Halliwell then went a step further and touched his backside. "Patting him on the bottom was against royal protocol, but we're all human," she reflected in an interview with The Times.


Don't skip the traditional greeting

If you fail to bow or curtsy when meeting King Charles III, you could offend an ancient tradition. "For female British citizens a curtsy when meeting royalty is the norm," Grant Harrold, Charles' former butler and royal etiquette expert, told Evening Standard. For men, it is customary to bow. "It is not compulsory but it can be seen as churlish to refuse," Harrold explained.


Since the rules of old are no longer enforced with an iron fist, it's up to those meeting the king to choose whether to bow, curtsy, or opt for a modern handshake. For those choosing the traditional route, the English bow is mostly from the neck — just slightly more than a nod of the head, according to the royal family's official website. A curtsy, on the other hand, is performed by placing the right foot behind the left heel, then bending the knees and head slightly.

Avoid dressing too casually

Members of the royal family have become known for their elegant, modest fashion choices. If you were to meet King Charles III, you would want to follow suit.

White-tie attire is recommended if you're attending a state banquet, Lucy Hume, an etiquette expert at Debrett's, told The Royal Family Channel. For men, this could mean wearing a white bowtie with a winged collar, while women should opt for long evening gowns. If attending a black-tie event, a dinner jacket and black bowtie are suitable for men, while women can trade in the long gown for a cocktail dress or suit, according to Hume.


Garden parties allow many to rub shoulders with Charles and other royals, as 30,000 people are invited each year. If you happen to score an invitation, don't dress too casually. "The expectation is formal day wear," Hume confirmed. An outfit you'd wear as a wedding guest would be appropriate here. Men should wear a suit; women can opt for a dress or skirt that falls below the knee or a pantsuit with heels or nice flats. "Trainers [sneakers]? Usually a no-no," Hume said. When in doubt, Hume says to dress up rather than down. "Nobody's going to be offended if you've made too much effort, whereas they might be if you turn up looking a bit sloppy," she explained.

Don't pull out your phone to snap a selfie with the king

Many members of the royal family have shown up in selfies (via Daily Mail). However, that doesn't mean they like it. During her reign, Queen Elizabeth II reportedly favored eye contact over photographs, and it seems Charles has followed in her footsteps.


While there is no official protocol for selfies, and King Charles III himself has appeared in them, he'd really rather you not take them. "He gets irritated by people poking their phones at them," John Bridcut, director of the documentary "Prince, Son and Heir: Charles at 70," told Vanity Fair. "I heard him tell people, 'I'm trying to give up selfies.' He wants to meet people, and it irritates him getting camera phones shoved in his face."

Additionally, ahead of the king's visit to Bolton in January 2023, security requested that those wishing to take pictures of the king avoid asking for selfies, reporter Tom Molloy tweeted.

Never turn your back on the king

When greeting the monarch, you should avoid turning your back to him (via CBS News). This rule should be a cinch to follow if you've ever been camping or hiking — just as you wouldn't turn your back on a bear, don't turn your back on a monarch. Simple enough, right? Of course, the repercussions between the two missteps are drastically different; one just leads to a social blunder, and the other a possible mauling. But whether you want to chum it up with the king or survive in the wilderness, be sure to remember this rule. 


In 2018, when the former monarch hosted former President Trump, he disregarded the guideline and awkwardly stopped in front of Queen Elizabeth, blocking her with his back, which is considered rude (via BBC News). That same year, "Game of Thrones" actor Emilia Clarke was cautioned against turning her back on a member of royalty. As she detailed on "Late Night with Seth Meyers," a palace staffer gave her a briefing of etiquette rules, instructing her not to turn her back on Prince William and to first address him as "your royal highness." Although it seems Clarke was able to remember the first rule, she admitted, "For whatever reason — probably because I was so scared — I couldn't manage to get out 'Your Royal Highness.'"