ROYAL TITLES & PROTOCOL
The Monarchy is governed by a series of official and sometimes unofficial sets of behaviours and processes referred to as 'protocol'. These rules impact the King or Queen themselves, their relatives and their subjects. Members of the royal family in particular adhere to this set of rules completely. These processes define the position of individuals from within the royal family, outlining their level of seniority whilst also showing respect to the monarch at all times.
As the most senior member of the royal family, the Queen is referred to as Her Majesty. Anyone meeting the Queen is expected to either bow from the neck if they are male or curtsy if they are female. This rule to bow or curtsy is not enforced, but not doing so would be deemed as a disrespectful greeting to the sovereign. The appropriate first greeting is "Your Majesty" followed by "Ma'am". The "Majesty" title is also held by dowager Queens for life. Dowager Queens are the still living wives of a deceased King. Since the death of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in 2002, we currently have no dowager Queens in the United Kingdom.
In addition to Her Majesty the Queen, many members of the royal family carry what is known as 'Princely' rank. This means that they have a title with the words His or Her Royal Highness ahead of their name, for example the Queens youngest son Prince Edward is known formally as His Royal Highness Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex. The correct form of address when meeting a member of the royal family who has a HRH title is "Your Royal Highness" followed by either "Sir" or "Ma'am". Often shortened to HRH, anyone carrying this title should also be bowed or curtseyed to by anyone they meet who ranks below them. By extension, this means that members of the royal family themselves bow or curtsy to one another.
Not all members of the royal family are entitled to be known as HRH. HRH extends as far as male-line grandchildren of the monarch of the day, or the children of the eldest child of the Prince of Wales, hence the reason why Prince William's children are HRH's but Prince Harry's are not. It is for this reason that Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie of York, daughters of the Queens son Prince Andrew are HRH's, whilst their cousin Zara Tindall, daughter of the Queen's daughter Princess Anne is not. Contrary to popular belief, Princess Anne did not decline titles for her children, nor did Prince Andrew lobby for his daughters to be Princesses. It is a purely straightforward position of birth right. Princess Anne's first husband Mark Philips was offered an earldom, which he turned down. Had he accepted it then Zara would have become Lady Zara. The decision to turn it down was Marks own - Anne did not decline titles.
There are four HRH's who are not descendants of the Queen but instead are the male-line grandchildren of King George V, the Queens grandfather. These people's fathers were brothers of the Queens father, King George VI, and are therefore the Queens first cousins. They have the HRH title because they were born when King George V was still alive. They are Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, Prince Michael of Kent and Princess Alexandra of Kent. Princes Richard, Edward and Michael's spouses, Birgitte, Duchess of Gloucester, Katharine, Duchess of Kent and Princess Michael of Kent are all HRH's through virtue of their marriage. At one time the Queens cousins were much higher up the line of succession, but as the Queen's own descendants grew in numbers, it pushed them further down the list. Princess Alexandra for example was 6th in line to the throne when she was born in 1936, but is now 53rd in line to the throne.
Several core members of the royal family can be seen below, starting from left they are:
1. HRH Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex - the Queens youngest son.
2. HRH Camilla, Duchess of Cornwell - the Queens daughter-in-law as spouse to Prince Charles
3. HRH Prince Andrew, Duke of York - the Queens second son
4. Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence - the Queens son-in-law
5. HRH Charles, Prince of Wales - the Queens eldest child and heir apparent
6. HRH Princess Eugenie of York - the Queens granddaughter
7. HM the Queen
8. HRH Princess Beatrice of York - the Queens granddaughter
9. HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh - the Queens consort
10. HRH Prince Henry, Duke of Sussex - (known mostly as Prince Harry) - the Queens grandson
11. HRH Princess Charlotte of Cambridge - the Queens great-granddaughter
12. HRH Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge - the Queens granddaughter-in-law
13. HRH Prince George of Cambridge - the Queens great-grandson
14. HRH Prince William, Duke of Cambridge - the Queens grandson
The way that members of the family interact with one another from a protocol perspective is determined by either the line of succession (the order in which members of the royal family have proximity to the throne) or birth right. In the main, it effects married-in female members of the royal family most considerably. A good example here would be to compare how Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Beatrice of York would interact with one another. The two scenarios of line of succession or birth right are dictated by whether Catherine's husband Prince William, Duke of Cambridge is present alongside her. Prince William is ahead of Princess Beatrice in the line of succession, as such, he outranks her. This means that Princess Beatrice would be expected to curtsy to William and Catherine IF William was present. If William was not present, then the system of birth right comes in to play, and Catherine would then curtsy to Beatrice, because Beatrice is royal by blood, whereas Catherine is royal by virtue of her marriage. It is also worth mentioning that the line of succession only includes people who are blood relations of the monarch - anyone married in to the family such as Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge or Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi do not sit in the line of succession.
The order of precedence is also reflected in the way members of the royal family arrive or depart events and ceremonies or where they stand in relation to the Queen in photo calls. Again, this is dictated by seniority within the family. Regarding events and ceremonies, typically the royal family arrive and depart in reverse order. More junior or extended members of the family such as Prince and Princess Michael of Kent arriving first, with the most senior (behind the Queen) Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall arriving last. When leaving an event, the rules are reversed, with the most senior departing first and so on. All members of the royal family know "their place", understanding that it isn't personal or a slight on them. At photo calls such as the one seen above from the Trooping the Colour balcony appearance at Buckingham Palace, the royal family are arranged according to rank and position in the line of succession, hence Prince Charles and Prince William stand either side of the Queen, whereas Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie of York are behind her.
In addition to the HRH title, many members of the royal family have additional titles that come after their given name. These titles are normally given to male members of the royal family when they marry. When this happens, the wife of the male member of the royal family takes on the female equivalent of the title. When Prince William married Kate Middleton in 2011, he was given the Dukedom of Cambridge, meaning that Kate then became formally known as HRH The Duchess of Cambridge. When female members of the royal family marry, their husbands might be offered an Earldom by the Queen. This Earldom would not grant them an HRH. To our knowledge, the only time this offer of an Earldom has been accepted was by Antony Armstrong-Jones, former husband of the late Princess Margaret, sister to The Queen. Since then, the three men who have married royal Princesses Anne, Beatrice and Eugenie have not accepted an Earldom, although it is not known if Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi and Jack Brooksbank, husbands of the York Princesses were offered them at all. As outlined earlier, we do know that Mark Philips, first husband to Princess Anne was offered and subsequently declined an Earldom. The weddings of Prince William and Princess Eugenie can be seen below.
As with the HRH prefix, all titles are passed through the male line, meaning they cannot be passed on to daughters. It is for this reason that when Prince Andrew, Duke of York dies, his eldest daughter Princess Beatrice will not become Duchess of York in her own right. Instead the title will be held for the "next" Duke of York to come along, most likely this will be Prince Louis, second son of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge when the time comes for him to marry. The only additional official female title that can bestowed upon a female member of the royal family in their own right is The Princess Royal, a title normally held by a daughter of the reigning monarch, hence Princess Anne is the current Princess Royal. When she dies, it is likely that Princess Charlotte, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will in due course become the Princess Royal.
Male members of the royal family often have additional titles beyond what they are normally known as, which may in turn be adopted by their sons as a courtesy title. An example here is James, Viscount Severn, the son of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex. As a male-line grandson of the monarch, James would have been styled as His Royal Highness Prince James of Wessex upon his birth. Equally his sister Lady Louise would have been known as Her Royal Highness Princess Louise of Wessex. Prince Edward and his wife, Sophie, Countess of Wessex requested however that any children of theirs not carry full royal titles, hoping that they would avoid some of the burden that comes with being an HRH. The Queen accepted this request and as such James is formally known as Viscount Severn, which is one of Prince Edward's subsidiary titles. Louise and James are technically still a Princess and Prince, and upon turning 18 they can use the title if they so wish. It is also believed that when Prince Philip dies, Prince Edward will become the next Duke of Edinburgh, at which point Sophie, Countess of Wessex will become The Duchess of Edinburgh and James, Viscount Severn will likely be elevated to Earl of Wessex. Lady Louise will remain Lady Louise.
Members of the royal family who have the HRH prefix often use the territorial designation that comes from their parents title as their surname, rather than using the family surname of Mountbatten-Windsor. For example, before marriage Princes William and Harry were informally known as William Wales and Harry Wales, the same goes for Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie who went by Beatrice York and Eugenie York. Once the male members of the royal family marry and receive new titles, their adopted surname changes to the new title, e.g. William Cambridge and Harry Sussex.
Royal protocol applies to both the way members of the royal family behave to the Queen and the way in which members of the public interact with the Queen and Royal family. In the main whenever a member of the royal family with the HRH prefix enters a room, all within are expected to stand. With that said, it is mostly only observed for the Queen, Prince Philip or Prince Charles. Whenever the national anthem "God Save the Queen" is sang, all those singing are expected to stand. At meals, no one can start eating until the Queen begins, and as soon as she finishes, everyone else does as well. It is said that the Queen deliberately eats slowly to allow her guests to enjoy their meals properly. At evening functions, no one can leave before the Queen does.
The Queen and members of the royal family are not to be touched in an overly familiar manner such as hugging or kissing, nor should conversation be directed, started or ended by a member of the public. The Queen speaks and acts first. It is believed that in a situation when the Queen is meeting several people in quick succession, such as a public walkabout, that she never says hello or goodbye, allowing her to move from person to person smoothly. It is also said that the Queen has her own secret methods of communication that act as signals to her staff. Her handbag in particular acts as one such signal. If she places it on the table at dinner, it is a sign that she wishes the event to end in five minutes. The movement of her handbag from left arm to right signals that she wants a conversation to end, at which point a member of her staff will appear and guide her away without appearing to be rude. The most overt signal is if the Queen is seen to be twisting her wedding ring - a sign that she needs rescuing from a situation immediately.
Hopefully this page has given you all the information needed to know how to behave should you ever be fortunate enough to meet the Queen or a member of her family! Just hope and pray you don't spot the Queen twisting her ring though! :)