Why Most Of The Royal Women Don't Curtsy To Each Other

Royal rules regarding curtsies can be confusing, and some individuals disagree on what constitutes proper protocol. At its foundation, there's one simple rule: All female members of the family should curtsy when they first see King Charles and Queen Camilla on a given day. If the family sees the king and queen multiple times in a day, they only need to curtsy the initial time. 

Apart from curtsying out of respect for Charles and Camilla, a royal guideline involving Her Royal Highness titles makes it less likely that royal women would need to curtsy to one another. "The general rule of thumb to remember is that a Royal Highness does not curtsy to another Royal Highness," Myka Meier, author and etiquette expert explained to People. This applies to anyone possessing the HRH title, whether they acquired it at birth or via marriage.

His and Her Royal Highness titles belong to a select few. In 1917, King George V stipulated HRH titles were reserved for children of the monarch, grandchildren of the monarch's sons, and the first grandson of the heir to the throne.  In 2012, Queen Elizabeth extended the privilege to all children of William, Prince of Wales' children, meaning Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis didn't have to wait for HRH titles until after Charles became king. Sometimes, however, HRH titles can be taken away. For example, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, had to relinquish her HRH title when she and Prince Andrew divorced in 1996. 

Curtsying is not based on royal rankings of HRHs

Occasionally, the etiquette of royal curtsying has been thought to be complicated, based on inferences made in a royal document titled "Precedence of the Royal Family to be Observed at Court." Drafted in 2005 and later updated, some claim it stipulates a hierarchy of royal curtsying. A 2022 article in The Telegraph described varying curtsying scenarios depending upon which royals were together at a particular moment. According to this article, Catherine, Princess of Wales, would only curtsy to Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie if she was not with her husband, William, Prince of Wales, since William's presence or absence would change their rankings relative to each other.

Joe Little, Majesty Magazine's managing editor, lambasted this interpretation as incorrect. "Back comes this nonsense yet again in one of today's newspapers, Little tweeted alongside a screenshot of the article. "Royal Highnesses bow and curtsey only to Majesties. Why is that so hard to understand? Nothing to do with the order of precedence."

A similar debate occurred when Prince Edward received Prince Philip's title, Duke of Edinburgh, and Edward's wife, Sophie, became Duchess of Edinburgh. A 2023 Daily Mail article claimed Sophie wouldn't have to curtsy to Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, now that both were duchesses. However, as Express reported, royal fans refuted this idea, noting Sophie and Meghan were HRHs since their weddings in 1999 and 2018, respectively, so a curtsy to Meghan was never required.

Curtsy procedures can be mystifying to women marrying into the royal family

By age five, royal daughters start to gain experience in curtsying, at public and private family situations.  For women who join the royal ranks through marriage, however, how and when to curtsy might have a learning curve. While she was dating Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex suddenly needed a crash-course in curtsying before her very first meeting with Queen Elizabeth. "Grandmother was the first senior member of the family that Meghan met," Harry explained in the Netflix series "Harry & Meghan" (via Esquire). "She had no idea what it all consisted of, so it was a bit of a shock to the system for her." 

Initially, Meghan didn't realize Harry was serious. To help her out, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, gave Meghan a quick curtsying tutorial just before meeting the queen. Based on this limited experience, Meghan did the best she could with her first-ever curtsy to the monarch. In "Harry & Meghan," she recalled that she admitted to Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice afterward, "I didn't know what I was doing" (via Esquire).

Luckily, there's no one way to do a royal curtsy. For instance, Fergie is reportedly partial to a more pronounced curtsy, while Catherine, Princess of Wales often demonstrates a confident, understated curtsy. As for Meghan, when she made her first public curtsy in December 2017, she opted for an unobtrusive dip to greet the queen.