Some years ago in a post titled God save us from the queen, I wrote about the absurd obsession that even people in the US, especially in the media, have with observing the ridiculous protocol rules that the British royal family tries to impose on everyone who comes in contact with them. That post was prompted by the US media getting the vapors and reaching for their smelling salts when the Obamas violated some absurdly trivial protocol rule when they visited Buckingham Palace, caused by Michelle Obama touching the Queen.
And now we have a similar reaction because of what happened when Prince William and Kate Middleton attended a basketball game. Following the game, LeBron James gave them gifts of cupcakes and two Cleveland team jerseys, one a small one for their one-year old child. It was a nice gesture but the media are all of a doodah over the fact that during the ceremony, James (oh, the horror!) touched Middleton on the shoulder.
According to protocol in Britain, a commoner is not supposed to touch members of the royal family — even if it is an innocent gesture.
The official website of the British Monarchy says “there are no obligatory codes of behavior” for meeting a member of the royal family, “but many people wish to observe the traditional forms.” “For men this is a neck bow (from the head only) whilst women do a small curtsy,” the website says.
My feeling is that those who want to can bow and scrape all they want to whomever they want. But there is no reason why we should treat members of the British royal family with any more respect than we would give to any other person. I am glad that James maybe broke with protocol because he did not do anything that violated the normal rules of polite behavior. I hope that the media does not hound him into making some sort of apology that he did not know the ‘proper’ behavior. In fact, I hope he did know and was deliberately making a point with his casual gesture.