'Please' before 'cheese': Answers to your royal etiquette questions

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, will be in Ottawa today as part of a three-day Canadian tour.

The royal couple will make several stops in Ottawa, both in private and in public.

If you are fortunate enough to meet the Prince and the Duchess, there are some rules of etiquette to follow that you may not know.

Etiquette expert Julie Blais Comeau tells CTV Morning Live that manners and courtesy are of paramount importance.

“You’re going to behave royally. This is when your manners are going to come out and you’re going to be courteous and of delightful company. You’re going to take your cues from the invitation that you’re getting.”


Blais Comeau says to let the royal couple come to you and follow their lead.

“They’re used to this. Let them come to you,” she says. “For the handshake, let them initiate it. If you are not comfortable because we’re still in that pandemic state, take your right hand, place it on your heart. ‘It’s so nice to meet you.’”

She also says Prince Charles has been known to do the Namaste greeting, the añjali mudrā, where you bow slightly with your hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, with your thumbs close to the chest.

A curtsy with your right foot behind your left heel is another greeting women and girls can use, while men and boys can bow at the neck.

The proper honorific for Prince Charles and Camilla is “Your Royal Highness.” Following that, address them as “sir” and “ma’am”, respectively.

“You do not want to call him ‘Your Majesty.’ There is only one Majesty right now; it’s the Queen herself. Charles will have that title at some point, but you will address them as ‘Your Royal Highness,’” Blais Comeau says.


If you’re at an event with the royal couple, you likely won’t have long to make conversation, but if you do get a few moments to chat, Blais Comeau says making the royals feel welcome is your first step.

“First of all: ‘Welcome to Canada!’ The same you would do with anyone you’re hosting,” she says. “Take a look at the itinerary. Position where you are. Any conversation starts with doing your homework. It’s a little bit of a pas de deux, a little back and forth, but you won’t have long!”


How you dress will depend on the weather and where you are. The Prince and the Duchess will be visiting a school and will also be at Rideau Hall, as well as some places in public. Blais Comeau says the location will dictate your style.

“It depends on the weather. It’s going to depend on the context. It’s going to very different if you’re going to be invited to that elementary school in Vanier or to the Platinum Jubilee at Rideau Hall,” she says.

“Take away your sunglasses. That connection happens in the eyes. Ball caps, please remove them,” Blais Comeau adds. “Ladies, if you’re choosing to have a fascinator or gentlemen, a hat for the weather, the gentlemen are going to remove them and ladies, no hats after 6:30 at night.”


If you’re requesting a picture, ask permission first.

“You’re going to go ‘please’ before ‘cheese’,” Blais Comeau says.

Selfies with the royals were frowned upon before 2014, but Blais Comeau notes that the Royal Family has begun to accept them.

“Guess who was the first one to—I’m not going to say embrace the selfie—but to say okay to selfies was Prince Charles,” she says. “They are so used to customs evolving and that’s what etiquette is. If you’re in the mood for a selfie, make sure that Prince Charles or Camilla are in the mood for a selfie as well.”


Short answer: No.