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Miss Manners: I thought Americans shouldn’t curtsy to foreign royalty?

3 min

Dear Miss Manners: In a TV show about Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, they described the first time Meghan met the queen. This was when they were still dating, so she did not have any royal titles. She was an American citizen, not British royalty.

I heard that Harry told Meghan at the last minute, in the car on the way to the meeting, that she was going to have to curtsy to the queen. The only thing that Meghan apparently wondered was whether she knew how, and whether she would do it well enough.

But I was always taught, even as a child, that after the American Revolution, Americans did not curtsy to foreign royalty. Am I incorrect? Was Meghan required to curtsy to the monarch of another country, just because she was dating the monarch’s grandson?

Does it have to do with what position one holds in the United States? For instance, if the president and his wife visit the queen (or now the king), is the first lady expected to curtsy? Or is it simply that American citizens do not curtsy to royalty, but instead show respect in other ways? If so, what are they?

What should Meghan really have been expected to do?

You are quite right that American citizens — and especially American officials — should not show obeisance to foreign potentates, which is what a curtsy (or bow) symbolizes. Nor do British diplomats show this to anyone except their own monarch.

Not creating offense is another diplomatic objective, and not only for professional diplomats.

Miss Manners can imagine that this factor would prevail with someone who is about to meet her future grandmother-in-law and whose future husband has informed her of that person’s expectations.

Dear Miss Manners: My boss and I have the same degree in our field, which we each received at approximately the same time. When he writes out his name — in his email signature, for example, and in his biography on the organization’s website — he includes both the honorific associated with the degree before his name and the letters after it (e.g., Dr. John Smith, PhD).

When I received my degree, I was taught that it was incorrect to do this in writing — that one could include the honorific (Dr. John Smith) or the letters (John Smith, PhD), but not both.

Maybe this is trivial, but we work in a setting where style, grammar and tradition are of key importance. My first question is: Am I correct in my understanding? And second: If so, may I suggest that he remedy this little error?

1. Yes. 2. No.

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© 2023 Judith Martin