Can you curtsy?

If you watched “the interview” on Monday evening, you may have been amused by the anecdote about the curtsy. It certainly made me smile. Meghan was describing her first encounter with the Queen and how Harry had asked her if she could curtsy. Apparently they spent several minutes practicing before the introductions were made.

Afterwards I wondered why we have this tradition of curtsying to the Queen. I googled “why do we curtsy to the Queen?” and found the answer on The Royal Family. Did you even know there was a website for our head of state and her family? Well, I didn’t but no surprise really when everyone else has a website.

Anyway on a page headed up “Greeting a member of the Royal Family”, we’re told that there isn’t an obligatory code but that many people wish to conform to tradition. And the tradition is a bow from the neck for males and a little curtsy for females. And then it says “Other people prefer to shake hands in the usual way”.

Well, I never knew curtsying was optional and I can’t ever recall seeing anyone shaking hands with the Queen. I shall pay more attention in future and see if anyone does go against tradition. (Not that anyone is shaking hands with anyone else at the moment! Or going to London to visit the Queen either.)

I’ve never met the Queen but once, many years ago, I came close.

One year the Queen was scheduled to come to our town and present the annual Easter Maundy money to some worthy locals at a special church service.

Afterwards there was to be a reception and our school, with its newly built school hall and adjacent kitchen, was selected as the venue for local big cheeses to meet and greet her Majesty.

The local education authority’s catering service would provide the refreshments although the Queen herself would not be staying for lunch.

Our usual school dinner ladies were brought under the command of the Head of School Meals for the occasion. A couple of Sixth form girls and myself were drafted in to be the kitchen gofers.

The senior catering officer brought military precision to the preparations and soon had us girls chopping and slicing; buttering and spreading; fetching and carrying.

We’d been told to arrive at school at six in the morning and at eleven we stopped for refreshments. A very senior, suited gentleman appeared in the kitchen and thanked us all for volunteering and for our hard work. He then announced that, contrary to our expectations, it would not be possible for us to see the Queen and in the interests of security the communicating door between the kitchen and the school hall would be locked and remain so until the royal progress had ended.

The disappointment amongst the dinner ladies was palpable and expressed with Yorkshire forthrightness but the spokesman was not moved. The door would be locked and that was that. He left and we returned to our preparations.

The finger buffet lunch (sausages on sticks, cheese and pineapple on sticks, mushroom vol au vents and cheese straws included) was arranged on tables at the side of the school hall. The guests began to assemble in the school hall and when it was almost time for the royal party to arrive, sure enough, the doors through which we’d carried the results of our morning’s labours were locked.

The atmosphere in the kitchen could have been cut with any one of the knives we’d been wielding since dawn.

Then the senior catering officer threw the chef’s hat he’d been wearing all morning on the floor and in choice Anglo Saxon told us we’d cooked for the Queen and fetched and carried for the Queen and we were going to see the Queen regardless of what the high-and-mighty so-and-so might have to say on the subject.

This was the first time I’d ever heard an adult using the F-word and to say I was shocked would be an understatement.

His words were greeted warmly. Warning us to keep the noise down, he unbolted the serving hatches on either side of the communicating doors and raised them several inches.

We all had to kneel down on our side of the serving hatches and peer through into the school hall.

Fortunately the view was uninterrupted and we did manage to see the Queen as she was introduced to her waiting subjects. She was accompanied by the Chief Education Officer, and a couple of gold-chained worthies and there was considerable bobbing and bowing.

I was surprised how diminutive the Queen was. She was wearing her trademark dress, coat and matching hat in pale turquoise; and we saw only fleeting glimpses of her face and inscrutable smile.

Still, the dinner ladies were satisfied; and after the Queen had left and the guests had enjoyed the lunch we did the clearing up in record time and polished off the leftover finger buffet, cheese straws and all!

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Image by Prawny from Pixabay