A version of this story appeared in the March 17 edition of CNN’s Royal News, a weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on Britain’s royal family. Sign up here.
Blustery weather conditions couldn’t keep King Charles III and senior royals from heading to Westminster Abbey earlier this week for a service to mark Commonwealth Day and celebrate the 56 countries that make up the global organization.
In his address at the abbey, the King spoke on the theme of this year’s celebration, “Forging a Sustainable and Peaceful Common Future,” (more on that later in the newsletter) while the service reflected the diverse Commonwealth community.
Brianna Fruean, a young Samoan environmental advocate and a previous recipient of a Commonwealth Youth Award, read a reflection, while Muslim, Sikh and Jewish representatives also gave readings. There were several musical performances, including from the National Ballet of Rwanda, Cyprus’ all-female Amalgamation Choir and British saxophonist YolanDa Brown.
But it was a moment at the start of the festivities that sparked conversation among royal-watchers.
As the Windsors made small talk before the service, several eagle-eyed fans noticed that the Princess of Wales didn’t curtsy to her father-in-law.
It is fairly well known that royal protocol directs members of the Firm to bow or curtsy to the sovereign and their spouse in recognition of their roles as the most senior members of the family.
Kate’s sister-in-law, the Duchess of Sussex, touched upon the convention in the Netflix docu-series with Prince Harry, released back in November. Meghan admitted her surprise at finding out that they practice the formality behind palace walls as well as in public.
In episode 2, Meghan recalled starting “to understand very quickly that the formality on the outside carried through on the inside” adding how “that was surprising to me.”
Recalling her first encounter with the Queen, Meghan said: “I didn’t know I was going to meet her until moments before. We were in the car and we were going to Royal Lodge for lunch and (Harry’s) like, ‘oh my grandmother’s here, she’s going to be there after church,’ and I remember we’re in the car, driving up and he’s like ‘you know how to curtsy, right?’ And I just thought it was a joke.”
Harry added: “How do you explain that to people? How do you explain that you bow to your grandmother? And that you will need to curtsy – especially to an American – that’s weird.”
While we’re briefly on a tangent, one common misconception is that royals have to bow or curtsy to more senior members of the family depending on rank. But that’s not actually the case. Other than to the monarch, the royals generally greet each other using the same guidance offered to the general public which states that there are “no obligatory codes of behaviour” but that “many people wish to observe the traditional forms.” Basically meaning it’s up to the individual who can choose to bow or curtsy if they would like to.
But getting back to Kate. The princess has often been praised over the years for her elegance while adhering to royal etiquette, so many were left confused about why she appeared to breach protocol at the Commonwealth event.
There could be a couple of reasons. One might be that she’s still adjusting to her father-in-law’s new role. Another, perhaps more likely, rationale may be that members of the royal family only need to greet the monarch formally upon their first meeting that day. While the King and Queen Consort arrived in a separate car to Prince William and Kate, it’s entirely possible they could have gathered ahead of the service and, as such, the Princess of Wales wouldn’t have been expected to curtsy again. Either way, the King appeared unperturbed and remained focused on the service – the first of his new reign.
Photo of the week
The King received a rather splendid gift this week: A black mare called Noble. Charles was given the horse by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), renowned for their famous Musical Ride – a showcase of their cavalry’s equestrian prowess. The RCMP have a long association with the royal family: They took part in the Queen’s coronation in 1953, and gave her several horses during her reign. Noble has been a standout in the RCMP’s recent displays, noted for her athleticism and poise, even in raucous environments. The 7-year-old horse is now settling into her new life at the Royal Mews in Windsor.
What else is happening?
Prince William features in Red Nose Day short film.
The Prince of Wales will appear in a video appeal for the UK’s Red Nose Day on Friday. Prince William sat down with Miles and Nawshin from Groundswell, a homelessness charity supported by Comic Relief. The pair are volunteer reporters with the organization’s Listen Up! podcast project, which allows individuals to share their perspectives and experiences of homelessness and explore how society can help. The issue of homelessness has become a priority in William’s public work and Nawshin said his involvement was “amazing.” She added: “I hope it means we can change the narrative for the better, and Prince William can use his influence to get real policy changes.” Check out a clip of the discussion here.
King knights Queen guitarist.
The legendary rock guitarist Brian May received a knighthood from King Charles III. May, 75, was a founding member of the band Queen, and will now be known as Sir Brian, following the investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday. He was one of more than 1,000 people recognized in the King’s first New Year’s honors list, and received the title of Knight Bachelor for his services to music and to charity. In addition to performing with Queen for more than half a century, May is also an astrophysicist. He received his PhD from Imperial College London in 2007 – having taken a break from his studies in the 1970s to focus on the band. “Arise, Sir Brian,” the band’s official Twitter account said, congratulating him for the award. Read the full story.
From the royal vault
One of the world’s most famous – and controversial – gems will be part of a new exhibition at the Tower of London exploring the origins of Britain’s crown jewels. The Koh-i-Noor diamond, which was seized from India while the country was under British rule, will be displayed as a “symbol of conquest,” a Tower of London representative told CNN Thursday.
The exhibit will explore the precious stone’s conflict-filled history. For her own coronation this summer, Queen Consort Camilla has chosen not to wear the diamond, which faced fresh calls of repatriation by India following the late Queen’s death last year. The exhibition will open May 26. Find out more here.
Postcards from royals around the globe
Spain’s Crown Princess Leonor to start military training.
The heir presumptive to Spain’s throne will begin three years of military training later this year in preparation for her future role as head of state, Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles confirmed at a press conference Tuesday. “In the Cabinet meeting today, we have approved a royal decree whose aim is to give structure to the military training and career of (Princess Leonor),” Robles said. Leonor will spend a year each with Spain’s army, navy and air force at their respective academies. She is following in the footsteps of her father, King Felipe VI, as she prepares one day to succeed him as the supreme commander of the armed forces. Read more on this story here.
The King added that the Commonwealth has “an incredible opportunity, and responsibility, to create a genuinely durable future – one that offers the kind of prosperity that is in harmony with nature and that will also secure our unique and only planet for generations to come.”