Five times Meghan Markle perfectly curtsied to Queen Elizabeth in public
Meghan Markle’s famous curtsies have been the subject of increased discussion in recent weeks after the duchess faced criticism for revealing that she considered the request that she perform the gesture to Queen Elizabeth II a “joke” when they first met.
As part of the Harry & Meghan docuseries, released through Netflix in December 2022, Meghan described being asked by Harry if she knew how to curtsy before having lunch with the queen in 2016.
“I remember in the car driving up, and he [Harry] said, ‘You know how to curtsy right?'” Meghan told the documentary, before performing what she described as a medieval-times style bow. “And I just thought it was a joke.”
Harry then added: “How do you explain that you bow to your grandmother and that you will need to curtsy? Especially to an American, like, that’s weird.”
This earned the royal criticism for appearing to mock British customs. The curtsy is a traditional form of reverence offered to the sovereign by British royals and by others to members of the royal family themselves. Importantly though, outside of the royal family and households, there is no expectation for members of the public to perform the gesture.
Royal women curtsy to the monarch on first greeting them and then leaving them each day.
The docuseries was not Meghan’s first time describing the adjustment to curtsying. In her 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey, she gave a more detailed account of preparing to meet the queen at the lunch hosted by Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson near Windsor Castle.
“Fergie ran out and said, ‘Are you ready? Do you know how to curtsy? Oh, my goodness, you guys,'” Meghan recounted.
“I practiced very quickly and went in, and apparently, I did a very deep curtsy, and we just sat there and we chatted and it was lovely and easy and I think, thank god I hadn’t known a lot about the family. Thank god I hadn’t researched. I would have been so in my head about all of it.”
In his recently released memoir Spare, Prince Harry remembered the occasion with a sense of pride, describing his future wife’s curtsy as “flawless.”
Here, Newsweek looks at five times Meghan Markle curtsied to Queen Elizabeth in public.
Christmas Day, 2017
The public first got to see Meghan Markle make a curtsy in public on Christmas Day 2017.
The newly-engaged future royal was invited to spend Christmas with the queen and her family at her Sandringham estate, in a break with tradition that saw royal brides asked to attend only after they were married.
The royals who were staying at Sandringham attended the annual church service with the queen, including Meghan, Harry, Prince William and Kate Middleton.
When the royal party was preparing to head back to the main house after the service, they gathered as the queen was the first to leave, driven back instead of walking.
As her car pulled away Meghan, alongside Kate, dipped into a low curtsy which was widely reported on and praised at the time.
The Royal Wedding, 2018
It is a tradition at royal weddings that after the vows are exchanged and the marriage register signed, the national anthem is played and following this, the bride curtsies to the sovereign while the groom makes a bow.
This was the case with Princess Diana when she married Prince Charles in 1981 and Kate Middleton when she married Prince William in 2011.
Contrary to popular belief, Meghan Markle did make a curtsy to Queen Elizabeth after the national anthem at her 2018 wedding, though viewers of the official TV coverage may have been quick to miss it.
As the new duchess dipped into her curtsy, the news cameras who were recording the event cut to an overhead shot, making the gesture difficult to see. Eagle-eyed social media fans shared the footage pointing this out on the day, but still, many are under the impression that this did not take place.
Christmas Day, 2018
Meghan Markle’s third public curtsy was seen on Christmas Day 2018, where again she offered the gesture to Queen Elizabeth as she was leaving St Mary Magdalen church on the Sandringham estate after the traditional religious service.
Wearing a longline black coat and feathered hat, Meghan made the deep sign of respect to her grandmother-in-law alongside Kate Middleton and other members of the royal family.
Meghan Markle’s two most recent public curtsies were offered to Queen Elizabeth II after her death on September 8, 2022 at the age of 96.
The duchess and Prince Harry were visiting Britain to attend charity events at the time of the queen’s death and extended their stay to take part in the national mourning events.
On September 14, the queen’s body processed from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall where she lay in state until the official funeral. At this lying-in-state ceremony, the female members of the royal family each curtsied to Elizabeth’s coffin and the men offered a bow.
Out of respect, Meghan was seen to offer her deepest curtsy on record.
State Funeral, 2022
Queen Elizabeth’s state funeral took place on September 19, 2022 and marked the end of the national mourning events for Britain’s longest-serving monarch.
After the ceremony at Westminster Abbey, the senior ladies of the house of Windsor including Queen Camilla, the Princess of Wales, Princess Charlotte, Sophie Wessex and Meghan Markle gathered to offer their final curtsy.
As the queen’s coffin left the abbey, the women dropped into their curtsies together.
As the new sovereign, King Charles now receives curtsies from the royal women, though Meghan has not yet been seen publicly offering the gesture to her father-in-law.
James Crawford-Smith is Newsweek’s royal reporter based in London. You can find him on Twitter at @jrcrawfordsmith and read his stories on Newsweek’s The Royals Facebook page.
Do you have a question about King Charles III, William and Kate, Meghan and Harry, or their family that you would like our experienced royal correspondents to answer? Email [email protected] We’d love to hear from you.
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