Why President Trump Doesn't Have to Bow to the Queen — and Melania Doesn't Have to Curtsy

Matt McNulty

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on May 29, 2019. On Friday, the White House announced the Trumps would return to the U.K. in December, including attending a reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth.

President Donald Trump and his family are heading to the U.K. next week for his first state visit after multiple delays, again putting a spotlight on the matter of royal protocol — what is and is not acceptable when he meets Queen Elizabeth.

Last summer, during a working visit to the U.K., Trump made headlines when he shook hands with the 93-year-old monarch instead of bowing.

While the move was criticized by some online, it was not against the rules (such as they are).

“There are no obligatory codes of behavior when meeting The Queen or a member of the Royal Family,” according to the royal family’s official website, “but many people wish to observe the traditional forms.”

For men, this means “a neck bow (from the head only).” For women, “a small curtsy.”

However, the website notes, “Other people prefer simply to shake hands in the usual way.”

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A handshake is not unusual for a president or first lady: Barack Obama and Michelle Obama also opted to shake the Queen’s hand over bowing to her while visiting Windsor Castle back in 2016.

Trump was first invited for a state visit — an offer that must be extended by the Queen — in 2017 but it was repeatedly held off, with speculation that the delay was due to worries over the protests he might face.

President Donald Trump greets Queen Elizabeth on July 13, 2018 | Chris Jackson/Getty

Among other controversies in his relationship with Britain, Trump sparked intense backlash in June 2017 after he attacked London’s mayor in the wake of a terror attack there.

In July he met with the Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle amid the expected protests about his working trip. A “Stop Trump March” in London drew tens of thousands of people.

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The state visit next week while be three days, Monday-Wednesday, and include a private lunch with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, tea with Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. The Queen will also host a state banquet for the president.

In an interview ahead of his meeting with the Queen last year, Trump said, “She is a tremendous woman. I really look forward to meeting her. I think she represents her country so well.”