Walpole & The Countess of Wessex | Debrett’s guide to the Royal Family

In mid-October, Walpole is co-hosting an evening of champagne and canapés with Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex GCVO, Chair of The Women in Business Committee of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

To read about this event, please click here.

We asked Walpole member Debrett’s, the recognised authority in British etiquette, for a few pointers on what to expect if you’re hosting or attending an event at which a member of the Royal Family will be present.


If an organisation wishes to secure a royal guest of honour, a request is normally sent to the private office of that member of the Royal Family for consideration or to the lord lieutenant of their county. Since they are usually very booked up, it is sensible to allow plenty of time. Priority is usually given to a cause with which the member of the Royal Family is associated, but occasionally they may agree to attend something which catches their attention or seems worthwhile.

Once a request has been accepted in outline, the private office guides the potential host through all the formalities such as wording invitations, timings and what form the event is to take. The private office should approve the wording before an invitation is printed.

Arrival and departure

Guests should arrive before the royal personage, and protocol rules that no guest should leave an event before a member of the Royal Family, except in special circumstances when prior permission should be obtained.

Guest etiquette

The key recommendation is to relax, follow instructions and not to drink too much alcohol because of over-excitement or nervousness. It is generally best to err on the more conservative side when interpreting dress codes, and ask for guidance from your host if necessary.

Meeting members of the Royal Family

Those who are to be presented to a member of the Royal Family are discreetly marshalled into position by members of the Royal Household. The usual form is a series of semi-circles rather than straight rows like a formal receiving line. Guests should try to be empty-handed, having put down any drinks or bags. Women should curtsy and men bow from the neck. The royal personage will offer their hand, in which case shake it with a light contact. Answer any question posed but try not to hold up proceedings by talking at length.

Addressing members of the Royal Family

The Queen is addressed as ‘Your Majesty’ and subsequently as ‘ma’am’. Other members of the Royal Family are addressed as ‘Your Royal Highness’.


If a royal personage has been a guest of honour at an event, the organiser should write to thank the private secretary afterwards, asking them to pass on thanks on behalf of himself and the organisation or institution. Guests would normally thank the organiser and not feel called upon to thank the royal personage.

For more information, please consult the Debrett’s Handbook – the ultimate guide to British Style, Correct Form and Modern Manners.