I never thought I would find myself writing a piece about curtsying, and these are certainly the first and last words I will have to say on the subject, but the storm in the Royal Doulton teacup that has apparently erupted over the Prime Minister’s decision to forego bending her knee to the Queen in favour of a courteous bow is, to be blunt, ludicrous.
Back when I was in primary school in Joh’s Queensland, we learnt to curtsy. As far as I can recall, this instruction occurred during folk dancing lessons when, upon taking one’s partner for a quick Pride of Erin around the steaming bitumen of the outdoor basketball courts, girls would curtsy (one knee behind the other, girls, and then dip without bending forwards) and boys would bow (left hand behind the back, lads, and bow from the waist to a 45 degree angle). It was all very chivalrous and, much like long division and reciting My Country, we figured on it being a quaint, anomalous skillset that we’d never use again.
As a woman in my own age group, Julia Gillard’s training in etiquette was likely much the same, growing up in conservative Adelaide.
Then we all moved on to high school, took up disco in place of the Pride of Erin, went to university, learnt about colonialism and the lasting legacy of the monarchy around the world and some of us became ardent republicans. That’s pretty much where the PM’s life and mine diverge. She did law and went into politics, I did education and teach politics.
Curtsying, like the smell of vegemite sandwiches fished from a plastic lunchbox on a hot day, became a distant memory.
Until last week when the Queen came to town.
This isn’t the first time the PM has met Her Majesty, although it is the first time on home turf. On hand to greet the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, along with a conga line of other dignitaries, the PM chose to bow slightly as she shook hands.
Well. From the outraged response from sections of the hardline monarchist rump and the British press, who love any excuse to sink the boot into the colonials’ lack of respect and ignorance of protocol, you would think that Julia had mooned our Head of State as she descended the gangway of the Royal aircraft.
For the record, and just in case any reader of this blog is likely to be presented to Her Majesty during her current review of the colony, the official website of the British Monarchy states:
The Queen meets thousands of people each year in the UK and overseas. Before meeting Her Majesty, many people ask how they should behave. The simple answer is that there are no obligatory codes of behaviour – just courtesy.
However, many people wish to observe the traditional forms of greeting.
For men this is a neck bow (from the head only) whilst women do a small curtsy. Other people prefer simply to shake hands in the usual way.
See? No curtsy required. Now let’s just all go about our business and pretend this neverhappened, shall we?