Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bowing to etiquette will help avoid a royal spat

Sunday July 11 2010
Source: Sunday Independent

TO bow, or not to bow, is the great question that Taoiseach Brian Cowen will have to face up to, should he still be around at the top table if and when Queen Elizabeth II visits our shores.

The prospect of a state visit by Queen Elizabeth may have been universally welcomed by the major political parties. But before her Majesty has even set foot on Irish soil, the azure skies of reconciliation have been darkened by a disputation between Irish and British experts on etiquette over the most appropriate way to greet the reigning British monarch.

The etiquette war was sparked by a recent appearance by Charles Kidd the editor of Debrett's, the top British magazine on matters of etiquette taste and culture, on Morning Ireland.

Kidd noted that whilst when it came to greeting the queen "the sweeping bows of history are gone", there is still an appropriate code of behaviour when one is meeting the monarch.
Mr Kidd said that for gentlemen the most appropriate behaviour is "a bow from the neck" and that ladies should "bob or curtsey".

It is believed that excessively firm handshakes are not encouraged either whilst there was also quite the hullabaloo when the Australian PM Paul Keating put his arm around the queen.

However, those experts on heraldic and etiquette issues within Ireland's Genealogical Gazette (incorporating the Genie Gazette) were not impressed.
In an attack titled 'Clash of the Harps', they noted that whilst Mr Kidd obviously believes that "royal etiquette -- no matter how anachronistic -- travels with the monarch'', they very much doubted whether during the respective visits of the King of Thailand and the Emperor of Japan that British officials "greeted the latter with a bow from the waist and approached the former on their knees''.

"Surely, Mr Kidd is aware neither bowing nor curtseying is appropriate for citizens of a Republic like Ireland or the United States,'' thundered the magazine.

The staunch Republicans of The Gazette also tartly noted that "not content with having the citizens of our Republic bowing and curtseying, Mr Kidd advised against firm handshakes with the queen''.

Whilst The Gazette said the queen would receive "a warm Cead Mile Failte" they also expressed concern that in spite of Ireland's Declaration of the Republic in 1949 the British Royal Arms still retain the blue shield with the golden harp symbolising Ireland as part of the realm and asked if it was too much to expect the new age of friendship and mutual respect would be "reflected heraldically''.

The appropriate way of greeting royalty has already been the source of a number of controversies involving Irish figures.

It is believed that the decision of the builder Michael Bailey to kiss the Queen Mother on the cheek after his horse won at Cheltenham was seen to be excessively exuberant.

Though this was the source of some fuss in the British tabloids the Queen Mother, who had lived through the Blitz, did not appear to be too upset.

John Bruton was also roundly mocked when he claimed that a meeting with Prince Charles on Irish soil was the happiest day of his life.

It is not, alas, known if Prince Charles felt the same way.

A nervous senior source in the Department of Foreign Affairs refused to comment on whether the department was drawing up an etiquette hand-book in order to avoid a diplomatic incident.

Sunday Independent

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