One leg is laid back and touches the tip of the toe of the floor, the knees are bent, the head is bent, the gaze is down, and the skirt is held by hands - this is perhaps the first thing that dancers, girls born in royal families teach, and more recently, ordinary women, who were lucky to marry representatives of blue blood. The art of curtsy is old, like the institution of the monarchy itself, and despite the fact that since the time of the most ancient dynasties, bowing techniques in different countries have undergone significant changes, respectfully greeting kings ─ still remains a strong tradition.
For a long time, curtsy was considered one of the most beautiful and feminine gestures. It was performed smoothly and sedately - largely due to the fact that earlier ladies wore magnificent long dresses, and their body was firmly fixed with a tight corset, which did not allow ugly deflections in the back. Modern princesses, duchesses and countesses, however, hardly wear lush dresses (let alone corsets - all the more so) - respectively, for them the task is to kneel and not look like a person who can’t keep his balance becomes even more difficult.
And these are not just words: if you look at the photographs of modern monarchs, it becomes obvious that in such a delicate matter a lot depends on the degree of “professional training”. Moreover, the fact of birth with a golden spoon in the mouth does not give advantages. It is enough, for example, to compare how Princess Beatrice of York curtsies and how the Duchess of Cambridge does, which, as you know, spends a lot of time on simulators.
In general, the standards for performing curtsy are more or less uniform in all monarchies. An exception, perhaps, can only be the Danish Royal House, where there is a tradition of squatting well below the prescribed position (when the knee almost touches the ground), which Crown Princess Mary gracefully demonstrates.
Today, by the way, the royal people, although they do not refuse to curtsy, are nevertheless swiftly striving to deprive this ritual of the corresponding degree of officialdom. For example, contrary to the protocol, many already prefer not to bow their heads and not to lower their eyes. On the contrary, if we are talking about members of the same family or about royalty who have long been familiar with each other, it is quite possible during a curtsy to hug, hold hands or even release a couple of kisses on both cheeks.
Who performs the curtsy best of all
Obviously, in conditions when the tight skirt or too high heels interfere with the proper execution of curtsy, it is becoming increasingly difficult to greet those who are higher in status, princesses and duchesses. In our gallery, we show which of the modern royal people this ritual is given without much difficulty, and who else should learn grace.
Who bowed before whom
When Kate Middleton joined the family of Her Majesty Elizabeth II in 2011, some observers seriously believed that in the future, when William's wife became queen, she would fiercely advocate the abolition of reverence. First of all, because she, a man brought up in an ordinary family, will have to practically bow to all of her relatives for almost the rest of her life (until she becomes the Princess of Wales and the Queen). Yes, one of the most popular people in the UK and the future ruler, is obliged to pay respect even to Princess Beatrice and Eugenie of York, who, it would seem, are much further from the Crown.
However, the general public hardly sees Kate curtsy. The thing is that, according to the rules of the protocol, curtsy is performed when people meet each other for the first time in a day. So usually respectful obeisances take place in a more private setting.
It is widely believed that in the same family curtsies are performed on the principle of "who is more important", and - most interestingly - this principle is very variable. Only Her Majesty Elizabeth II remains the absolute: absolutely everything is obliged to bow to her, since she is Sovereign and head of state.
With the rest of the family it's harder. For example, if Charles, Camille, Catherine and her husband William suddenly meet in one room, then the Duchess of Cambridge will certainly curtsy before the Duchess of Cornwall. But if Charles is suddenly not around, then Camille will have to bow to Kate. This is because in this case, William is the only present heir to the Crown who stands above his stepmother. Accordingly, Katherine, as his wife, will also be higher in status than the wife of the Prince of Wales. But if William disappears, then Catherine will again bow to the Duchess of Cornwall - corny because she is married to the first heir in the queue.
This confusion arises because initially neither Kate nor Camille (and now Megan) were princesses by blood. That is why, by the way, the Duchess of Cambridge - despite the fact that she is objectively closer to the Crown (albeit as William's wife) - is obliged to bow to almost every Windsor. Including Princess Anne, Princess Alexander (cousin of Elizabeth II), as well as Princess Eugenie and Beatrice of York. But again: in the presence of William, this rule works in the opposite direction. As soon as the eldest son of Prince Charles appears next to his wife, all these ladies will bow to the Duchess of Cambridge.
The rules of bowing in the Windsor dynasty are really vitiate and complex, but, nevertheless, if you look closely, we will notice that all the ladies in the royal family without fail bow their heads only to Elizabeth, and in relation to each other often (exceptions happen, but in recently less and less) are limited to kisses and hugs. Perhaps the whole point is that, despite the presence of some kind of closed family document regulating obeisances and reverences in the dynasty, women from the Windsor family are keen to consider such archaic greetings, more as an option than as a duty. It is known that even Elizabeth II in private conversations admitted that, as a rule, she does not pay any attention to who and how performs her bow.
With other royal families
Here the rules are a little weaker. Much depends on the degree of acquaintance of members of different royal houses. But still, there are standards.
Again, the Sovereigns remain the Absolute. Kings (including the emperor of Japan) greet each other as they see fit. For example, when Queen Beatrice was still at the head of the Netherlands, she and Her Majesty Elizabeth II simply hugged at a meeting. In 1988, when the Queen of Great Britain paid a visit to Spain, King Juan Carlos - as a sign of courtesy of the gentleman to the lady - leaning slightly, kissed her hand. It's funny that after almost 30 years, Elizabeth II - already in Great Britain - will be greeted by his son, King Philip VI.
The hierarchy rule continues to work with the rest of the royal families. The heir to the Crown of one country is obliged to bow before the current ruler of another. There are no exceptions. For example, when the royal family of Norway paid a visit to the UK in 2005, the crown princess Mette-Marit had to sit down in curtsy before Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, despite the fact that the woman was eight months pregnant.
Data from other dictionaries
Ed. S. A. Kuznetsova
1. A female bow, a squat on one leg, resting on the tips of the fingers of the other, placed behind (as a final performance of a ballerina, a partner in pair ballroom or sports dances, a sign of gratitude for applause or expressing consent to dance with a partner).
Make p. Crouch down before smb. Deep r.
2. usually plural: references, s. Iron. On the manifestation of excessive reverence, servility.
Curtsy at smb. address. Bow to curtsy before smb.
- In olden times: a sign of special reverence when greeting or saying goodbye to privileged sections of society, usually accompanied by bowing of the head and spreading of the hands holding the edges of the dress to the sides.
1. The ancient form of a deep bow with a squat.
- relating to curtsy, curtsy.
2. usually pl., Trans., Iron. Respectfulness, servility.
To curtsy to the authorities.
1. A respectful bow with a squat (crouch in curtsy).
2. An exaggerated expression of respect, servility (curtsy).