When Queen Elizabeth II Comes To Your Town…

When Queen Elizabeth II Comes To Your Town…

Etiquette experts give advice on royal treatment; abrazos discouraged

By Loydean Thomas – Express-News

Originally published on May 17, 1991.What do you do when the queen of England comes to call?

The thing to do is be yourself but don’t overdo it, experts agreed Thursday.

“You mustn’t rush up and try to break through crowds to get presented when you’re not supposed to be presented,” said Leticia Baldridge, author of a book on correct behavior.

“Just be a hospitable Texan is the safest rule. Smile and wave but don’t let her take over. We’re not a colony anymore,” was the tongue-in-cheek response of Liz Carpenter, Lady Bird Johnson’s former press secretary.

The queen can’t abide the abrazo, or hug, warned Abelardo Valdez, a Floresville native who was Jimmy Carter’s chief of protocol.

“They understand that Americans are a different breed, especially in the Southwest, where the abrazo is almost required. But, no, you don’t touch the queen, except you shake her hand if she extends her hand. You wait for her to take the initiative,” Valdez said from his law office in Washington.

Baldridge, the social secretary in the Kennedy White House and author of a revision of “Amy Vanderbilt’s Book of Etiquette,” said Queen Elizabeth II probably will do a walk-through at a reception in her honor Tuesday at the Institute of Texan Cultures.

“She will get presented here and there, but people shouldn’t try to knock others down to try and get presented when they’re not supposed to be,” Baldridge said.

“She will have gloves on. If you’re wearing gloves, you take the right glove off. Don’t give a gloved hand to the queen.”

If you are bare-handed and up to your elbows in munchies?

“If you’re eating hors d’oeuvres and you’ve just had a sort of mayonnaisey little sandwich or a shrimp dripping in cocktail sauce, be sure you wipe your hand before you take hers. She has probably had a lot of hors d’oeuvres on her poor hand,” Baldridge said.

You say: “Your majesty, it’s such an honor.” Or “Your majesty, it’s such a pleasure,” Baldridge said.

To the duke of Edinburgh, you say: “Your royal highness, it’s wonderful to meet you.”

“And that’s all you say,” Baldridge said.

If the queen is going to make conversation, she might say something like: “This is such a lovely town. I am fascinated by its history.”

“Then you could offer some nugget about the history of San Antonio. Just make a tiny bit of conversation,” Baldridge said.

The etiquette doyenne says it is best not to call her majesty “Queeney,” as does happen from time to time.

“If, by mistake, you call her ‘your royal highness’ instead of ‘your majesty,’ don’t think it’s the end of the world. “She is a delightful lady, very petite with beautiful skin. She doesn’t photograph well. She’s so much prettier in person, you’ll see that.”

Carpenter, who lives in Austin, is on the guest list for functions honoring the royal party in that city.

“I’m going to have to resist telling the queen that I knew her mother, but I have a marvelous picture with the queen mum taken the year I was president of the Women’s National Press Club,” Carpenter said.

“There’s no way I can say anything except, ‘Your majesty, we’re glad to have you here.’ But I don’t know how she picks up many facts about the world if that’s all anybody can say to her. I guess she’s very well-read,” Carpenter said.

A few final words of advice were offered by Shirl Thomas, assistant to Mayor Lila Cockrell:

“You call the queen ‘ma’am’ and the duke ‘sir’ on second reference. Americans on American soil don’t bow or curtsy. Just treat the queen like any distinguished visitor. We in San Antonio are used to entertaining distinguished visitors.”