According to the Daily Telegraph (UK), the Queen has updated the Order of Precedence in the Royal Household to take into account the Duke of Cambridge’s wife.
The new rules of Court make it clear that the former Kate Middleton, when she is not accompanied by Prince William, must curtsy to the “blood princesses”, the Princess Royal, Princess Alexandra, and the daughters of the Duke of York, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.
When William is with her, Kate does not need to bend the knee to either of them, but she must curtsy to the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
A document is said to have been circulated privately in the Royal Household, clarifying Kate’s status. When the Order was last updated, after Prince Charles’s second marriage, in 2005, the Countess of Wessex was reported to be upset that she now had to curtsy to Camilla. “She didn’t like it one bit,” a senior courtier was quoted as saying.
The etiquette of curtseying (and bowing, no doubt) is taken very seriously by the Royal family, whose members bow and curtsy to each other in public and in private. A vivid illustration came after the Trooping the Colour ceremony last weekend, when Kate could be seen curtsying to Prince Philip on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
The Order of Precedence affects other aspects of royal protocol, such as who arrives first at an event. For example, Camilla was forced to wait in the drizzle outside the Guards Chapel, Windsor, for the arrival of Princess Anne at a memorial service in 2006, because Charles had not accompanied her.
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It reminds me of a cute story told by Rose de Freycinet, the vivacious wife of a French discoverer, who sneaked on board in male attire so she could accompany her beloved Louis about the world. On a remote tropical island, she recorded that the natives shrieked with laughter every time the ship's officers bowed and raised their hats as they encountered each other on the beach.
No doubt the French elegants found the natives' manners and customs equally amusing...