Weird Things Everyone Needs To Do When They Meet King Charles

Queen Elizabeth II died on September 8, 2022, and her son Charles immediately ascended the British throne. While King Charles III is already technically wearing the crown, the official coronation will happen on Saturday, May 6, 2023 (per The Royal Household). With a new leader at the helm, many are wanting to know more about the new king and what traditions might change, if any. One area of fascination is what guests need to know if they are going to meet the current king. And while meeting the king of England certainly sounds like an event full of fanfare and rules, The Royal Household notes that technically there aren't "obligatory codes of behavior when meeting the queen [or king] or a member of the royal family, but many people wish to observe the traditional forms."

Over the years, many have researched what the proper etiquette is for meeting the queen of England, and many of these procedures that applied to Queen Elizabeth also carry over and apply to King Charles. If you are interested in some of the strange things you are expected to do when meeting the brand-new king, then read on.

Addressing King Charles

What's in a name? While Shakespeare may have argued that the naming of things is irrelevant, when it comes to the royal family, names and titles are taken seriously. When you are meeting King Charles, one of the first things you need to consider is how to verbally address the king and the proper protocol for conversations. When addressing the king, it is very important to get the title correct. Upon first address, always use "your majesty" and then "sir" thereafter (per The Royal Household).

If you are introducing someone else to the king, Debrett's notes that the presentation should emulate the following format: "Your majesty, may I present Mr. John Smith?" When speaking directly to the king, maintain good eye contact and speak in a clear and audible tone. Lastly, beyond introductions, the official guidance for many years was to let the royal initiate any conversation, similar to the adage of "speak only if spoken to." However, many people now believe this directive is loosening up a bit (via BBC).

You should bow or curtsy in acknowledgment

The next thing to check off the list when preparing to meet King Charles is to make sure your bow or curtsy skills are on point. These physical gestures are customary upon meeting the monarch. For men, the key is to slightly bow one's head in recognition of King Charles (the bow should only take place from the neck up, similar to a head nod), while women are encouraged to do a small curtsy that is subtle, defined, and maintains eye contact (per Debrett's).

Everyone, including other royal family members, partakes in bowing or curtsying to the king as a traditional sign of respect and decorum. However, if you are not a British citizen and really feel that bowing and curtsying is not up your alley, then you could alternatively participate in a formal handshake (per The Royal Household). Now that you know the royal procedure, it is time to practice. So ready, set, curtsy!

Don't wear sunglasses

Make sure your eyes are unobstructed before showing up to meet King Charles. You don't want to make the same mistake in protocol as Joe Biden when he met Queen Elizabeth in the summer of 2021 and kept his classic aviator shades on.

"If you're meeting the queen [or king] face-to-face there's no sunglasses or anything like that at all because eye contact is quite important with any introduction," Grant Harrold, a former royal butler, told Newsweek. Harrold writes about etiquette advice on his website The Royal Butler. He added, "Everyone else has to, it doesn't matter who you are. Even royals remove sunglasses when they meet royals."

Eye contact is not only polite but is said to help facilitate better understanding and human connection (via Better Up). It is possible that the king could grant special permission for keeping sunglasses on during an engagement, but it probably wouldn't happen, according to Harrold. So do yourself a favor and ditch the sunnies ahead of any royal events.

Never touch or hug King Charles

In some cultures, it is customary to hug or kiss acquaintances upon meeting or saying goodbye. However, when it comes to the royals, touching is typically not permitted beyond a formal handshake (per Evening Standard). However, it is worth noting that Michelle Obama has broken this rule a number of times (per Insider).

This protocol dates back to the Middle Ages, and for the monarchs, it is rooted in the notion that they were seen as "divinely appointed to rule by God, so they were kind of seen as gods, so they demanded to be treated as gods," expert Kate Williams told BBC. Additionally, according to The Independent, people should not try to hug or touch a member of the royal family unless the royal is the one to do so first. As expert Victoria Arbiter told Insider, "What you would absolutely not do is launch and give a big hug to the queen [or king], or try to kiss them or put your arms around them. That's a big no-no. Really it comes down to don't touch a royal. I'm sure there's lots of security reasons associated with it, but it's just not befitting of their position." Therefore, when it comes to the king, you can look, but you can't touch.

Always arrive before King Charles

The order in which guests arrive at an event has a specific meaning and follows a specific protocol. If royals are attending, they are designated the final and most honorable position of entrance. Furthermore, at an event among the royals, the king should be the last one to arrive, according to royal precedence (per Harper's Bazaar). However, it is important to note that the order can also depend on the occasion and type of event taking place. Marlene Koenig, a royal historian, told Harper's Bazaar, "A true order of precedence really only takes shape at state and diplomatic events." The royals should also leave events first, although Debrett's points out that for occasions that run late, like banquets, attendees can ask permission to leave before the royal family.

One notable exception would be a state dinner, which has the monarch arrive first, leading the royal procession. "The queen [or king] enters first followed by other royals. She will walk with the head of state," Koenig told Harper's Bazaar. And for more casual events, this order of precedence is not always followed.

Never walk ahead of the king

When in the presence of the king, it is considered proper and polite to walk a few steps behind him. According to Popsugar, the rule of walking behind the king in public stems from the royal hierarchy and how no one outranks the monarch. Therefore, no one should walk ahead of the king to keep the order of precedence alive. Even their spouse or another political leader is expected to walk a few paces behind them. However, these guidelines have been broken in the past, like in 2018 when Donald Trump visited Queen Elizabeth and walked ahead of her for a short time (per Vox).

Within the British royal family, the order of precedence directly mirrors the line of succession to the throne. It starts with King Charles on top, and the other family members follow based on who's next in line for the throne. All in all, it is important to remember the rules of precedence. And one tip — don't pull a Trump and try to walk ahead of the king.

Stand when King Charles arrives or exits

Imagine a royal event has commenced, and everyone is eagerly awaiting the arrival of King Charles. You then see him walk through the doors. Quick — what should your next move be? Once the king has arrived, per royal protocol, you should stand when he enters the room and stay standing until he has taken a seat (via Mirror). The same is true for when the king leaves his chair. Everyone should stand until he has fully exited the premises (per Parade). This behavior helps show respect to the king and his rank.

The Maralee McKee Etiquette Schools says, "Standing up sends a signal from across the room that you're willing and eager to greet and welcome the other person into your here and now. It speaks well of you even before you've had an opportunity to say your first word because it shows by your action that you're a welcoming person." Therefore, standing upon the king's entrance and exit demonstrates through nonverbal communication the deference and hospitality you have for them. So don't be the last one on your feet the next time you see King Charles approach.

Host sits to the right of the king

Anyone who has thrown an elaborate dinner party or wedding knows that seating plans are no joke and can entail a lot of planning. Seating arrangements are important because they help give structure to a table and help facilitate a nice flow of conversation among the guests. This sentiment also rings true for royal events or dinner parties, which often require seating charts.

When King Charles attends an event, the protocol is that the host surrenders their spot to the king and sits directly on his right-hand side. As for other seating plans, royal family members are given precedence over other dinner party guests. Spouses of royal family members also get priority: husbands are given precedence directly after their royal wives, while wives of royal husbands are given the same precedence as their husbands (via Debrett's). Next time you encounter a seating chart, remember all the work and thought that goes into them behind the scenes, especially royal seating charts!

Don't eat before King Charles does

Are you a fast eater or a slow eater? Either extreme could cause an issue if you are having dinner with King Charles. During special events or traditional royal meals, the king should set the pace for when guests should commence and finish eating. So a guest must not begin eating until he starts, and then they must stop eating once he finishes (via Insider). Therefore, it is important that you carefully monitor the king throughout the meal to ensure you are eating at the correct pace.

If you find yourself at a royal dinner, try thinking of the eating schedule as an opportunity for mindful eating and staying in the present during your meal. You must be in the moment in order to be eating while paying attention to the king and other guests around you. Remember the Goldilocks rule — not too fast or too slow, just right. Happy eating!

Writing King Charles a letter

Sometimes things are better expressed in the written word, am I right? And you can't just call the monarch on the phone. If you'd like to speak with King Charles via letter, it is recommended that you first submit an informal inquiry through his private secretary, especially if you don't personally know the king. But if you're writing to the king directly, it is advised that you open with a formal salutation like "May it please it your majesty," and the first sentence should be "With my humble duty," followed by your communication (per Debrett's). Finally, you should close the letter in the following format: "I have the honor to be, sir, your majesty's humble and obedient servant" (per Nottinghamshire County Council). Address your letter to Buckingham Palace and send it on its way.

So there you have it. Time to pick up your pen and get to writing your royal letter!

Don't ask for any selfies

While getting a selfie with the king would probably garner many likes and look awesome on your IG grid, it is not advised to ask or try to take any selfies with King Charles or any other royal family members. Many royals, including Harry and Meghan, are personally not a fan of selfies. So, while it is not an official rule, guests are often instructed not to ask for any selfies with any royals. They're likely to get rejected.

"Royals would always rather have a personal interaction than have people clamoring for selfies," royal expert Victoria Arbiter told Insider. "If you grant one, then it quickly becomes overwhelming."

And, as Arbiter pointed out, that could quickly become a bigger problem. "From a security standpoint, they're also not ideal as they warrant a certain closeness." If a royal engagement or public meeting is on your itinerary, it is safe to say that leaving your selfie stick at home would be a wise choice.

Be cognizant about gifts to King Charles

Royals know a thing or two about receiving gifts. They receive numerous presents from all over the world from public fans to foreign dignitaries. Across this whole spectrum, royals are expected to accept all gifts graciously. After all is said and done, King Charles decides which gifts the royal family members get to keep (per My London). The official royal guidance on gifting also states that they are not allowed to accept anything above a certain price point and anything that would place them under obligation to anyone else.

Given all these factors, it is important to plan ahead of time if gift giving is appropriate or not, and if so, which gift you should give. Gifts that tend to be acceptable are flowers, books, small amounts of food, and items below £150, which is about $180 (per The Royal Household). If the gift does not fit within the accepted parameters, the item may have to be returned. Giving a gift is a great way to show appreciation. Just make sure it is thoughtful and not too extravagant or inappropriate.

Don't discuss controversial topics

Sure, those deep-dive, provocative, and hot-button exchanges can be intellectually stimulating and make for great conversation. And telling silly and humorous jokes can be funny, but these types of conversations are best left for your monthly book club or a girls' night out instead of during a meeting with a royal. According to the former royal butler Grant Harrold, you should avoid certain topics. "You're not allowed to talk about sex, religion, politics, and money" when you're with a royal, he said (per Insider). "It depends on the conversation, but weather and travel are allowed."

These more mundane and simple topics are considered more polite and won't rock the boat. Overall, it is advised not to try and get too edgy in your conversation with the monarch. So, upon speaking with King Charles for the first time, think about keeping it safe, and make sure you check the weather app prior to arriving so you're fully prepared.

Dress appropriately for King Charles

Feeling like you have nothing to wear every time you have a big event? What about when a royal meeting arises? Do you have the perfect outfit at the ready? If you are meeting King Charles, make sure you look sharp and are dressed appropriately for the occasion.

It is recommended that you choose something that covers the arms and has a formal or modest appearance. Dressing too casually (think jeans and tennis shoes) could be seen as a sign of disrespect. If you are attending a royal event, first check your invite to see if it states a specific dress code, and if it does not specify, err on the side of caution to make sure you represent yourself in the best light possible (via The British School of Excellence). Finally, if you are in need of a style muse, look no further than Kate Middleton for perfect fashion inspo. For many, the Princess of Wales is considered the gold standard of royal dress. Her style is always demure, put together, and fashionable. Sounds like a fashion win on all fronts!