LeBron James broke a cardinal rule of royalty when he met Duchess Kate

On Monday night, Lebron James met the visiting Duke and Duchess of Cambridge after a Nets game in Brooklyn, N.Y. “King James” smiled while he was photographed with Prince William and Kate Middleton, but the Duchess’ face showed that something was amiss.

What’s wrong with Kate’s face? Is it because she has no idea who Lebron is? Is it because she’s upset that he is using a title to which he is not entitled? Neither of the above. In fact, James was breaking one of the many important rules of etiquette for dealing with royals: He was touching her.

For a short while, I worked for the British royal family, or as it is officially called, Her Majesty’s Household. Because we were based in Buckingham Palace and Clarence House, one of the first things we were taught was how to interact with royals if we came into contact with them. The first lesson was to Google them so we did not mistake them as lost tourists and usher them out. The second lesson was to never start a conversation. The third—and most important—lesson was to never, ever touch them.

We have to forgive LeBron James. Most Americans are not aware of British royal protocol, which can lead to an embarrassing faux pas like this. James is not the first American celebrity to violate the no-touching rule. We all remember when the First Lady decided to give the Queen a hug.

One would hope that future American encounters with royalty proceed more smoothly. We wouldn’t want a repeat of 1812 all over again. For all of our sakes, here are some of the most important rules of interacting with royalty.

  1. Do not speak unless spoken to. Do not ask inappropriate questions.

  2. Do not touch a royal. The only exception is a handshake, which they will initiate. Don’t keep holding on.

  3. For the Queen, it’s “Your Majesty,” then “Ma’am,” pronounced like “ham,” not “farm.” For the Duke and Duchess, it’s “Your Royal Highness,” then “Ma’am” or “Sir” as above.

  4. One must stand when a royal enters a room. Men should bow and women should curtsy on introduction.

  5. For meals: When the most senior royal in attendance finishes, so do all the guests.

With these tips in hand, Mr. James is well prepared for his next encounter with a British royal.

Photo via tsaiproject/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Ned Donovan

Ned Donovan

Ned Donovan is a politics and entertainment journalist who's done stints with GQ, Wired, and the Daily Mail. His bylines have also appeared in the Week, the Telegraph, BuzzFeed, History Today, and elsewhere.