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Thursday, July 8, 1999 Published at 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK


Preparing oneself for tea with the Queen

All smiles: The Queen made Mrs McCarron feel at ease

By BBC News Online's Liz Doig

Mrs Susan McCarron wasn't the least bit perturbed, she told reporters, at having the Queen around for tea.

As Her Majesty's Roller pulled away from outside 6 Dougrie Gardens on Glasgow's Craigdale estate, Mrs McCarron said: "It went well. I wasn't nervous at all.

"She was asking about the house and how long I had lived here, where I lived before. I found her very easy to talk to."

[ image:  ]
As most of Thursday's broadsheets were happy to point out, Mrs McCarron - who was chosen for the honour of a Royal visit because her housing association home has been adapted for her special needs - brought out her best china and tablecloth and had the house looking spotless.

Well wouldn't you? In fact, if the Queen's people let it be known that your sovereign wanted to pay you a visit, just how would you prepare?

Buckingham Palace told BBC News Online that in the first instance, the "visitee" would be contacted by the Queen's high sheriff of the county.

He or she would answer any questions that anybody anticipating entertaining the Queen might have.

The spokeswoman also said that if people coming into contact with the Queen had any specific queries they wished to be addressed, they would be happy to answer them.

[ image: Formalities were still observed]
Formalities were still observed
The Queen's trip to Mrs McCarron's house was just the "first of her more intimate meet-the-people visits", The Times reported.

"How one behaves when one meets the Queen is fairly self-evident and obvious," said David Williamson, co-editor of Debrett's (the last word in social etiquette).

"Initially one should address her as Your Majesty, and thereafter Ma'am. Then it's Your Majesty again as one takes one's leave."

Everyone but the Queen Mother has to stand up when the Queen enters a room - even her nearest and dearest, should they ever be sitting together watching Eastenders or playing Scrabble.

Nigel Evans, of Majesty magazine said: "It comes from the idea that the Queen is never off duty. Even in a private residence if she walks into a room, everyone has to stand up."

Then there's the convention of bowing and curtseying. Women should curtsey - "a little bob is quite sufficient" said Mr Williamson.

And men have to bow. Bowing on the face of it seems quite a complicated affair. Bowing from the waist is definitely out, and "strictly for the pantomime" according to the Spectator.

Instead men should either bow from the shoulders, or bob from the neck.

  • Upon losing her HRH title, Diana, Princess of Wales lost the right to be bowed, bobbed and curtseyed to. She was placed in the awkward post-divorce position of having, in the strictest terms of royal etiquette, to curtsey before her sons.

    Protocol also insists that everyone stops eating when the Queen takes her last mouthful - so prospective hosts need to watch carefully for when Her Majesty has finished with the biscuits.

    [ image:  ]
    Although she doesn't often eat in public - she did not touch those Mrs McCarron offered - she has been known to reserve a little morsel on her plate to push around in order to let other diners finish their meals.

    Mr Williamson said: "One should of course be neat and presentable when meeting the Queen and one should not dress ostentatiously.

    "And if she wants to shake your hand, well you shake hands."

    Society mag Tatler advises that "you may not shake the Queen's hand, only touch it briefly".

    Curtseying and bowing is also required as the Queen leaves.

    Formalities registered and curtseys practised, there still remain questions of who should initiate the conversation, what topics should one cover or steer well clear of.

    Buckingham Palace's spokeswoman said: "The thing that we would say to anyone who is likely to meet any member of the Royal Family, is just be yourself."

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