I always thought a handshake was simple enough — it’s not.My first few attempts are too firm, and I’m waiting for Jean to shake first. ‘Royalty always offers the hand first.’As if that’s not enough, curtseying is a minefield.
As far as Jean is concerned, protocol begins with, ‘bum in, shoulders back! The ‘bob’ is hands at the sides, one foot in front of the other, and a knee-bend. ‘One foot slightly in front of the other, toes out,’ says Jean. She prods me till I vacuum in my tummy (no easy task). ‘And pretend you’ve a zip running up your middle, holding you in.’ I feel like a reject from the Build-A–Bear workshop, vainly trying to keep my stuffing in. One must brush the chair with the back of your calves — ‘so you aren’t going to miss the chair’.
Apparently, I’m ‘sticking my hands out as if I’m about to take off’. After lowering my bottom onto the edge, I should then push back into the seat. I may cross my ankles — ‘but you must never cross your legs, it’s masculine’.
The purpose of all this is to ensure that knees are Velcro-ed together.
As Kate Middleton prepares to become Princess Catherine, there’s a lot more for her to worry about than what Pippa’s got lined up for the hen night.
Because once all the fuss and flag-waving has died down, and she embarks on her new regime of duties — starting with a royal visit to Canada at the end of June, any gaps in her knowledge of etiquette and protocol are set to be ruthlessly exposed.
That’s why she’s allegedly being trained up by experts in everything from how to greet foreign dignitaries to the correct method of eating a grape.
After all, Kate is posh, but she’s not aristocracy — and none of this will come naturally to her.
As a fellow commoner, I am equally un-trained when it comes to deportment, curtseying, banqueting and handling servants.
So in a bid to understand just what Kate’s up against, I booked in for Princess lessons with etiquette expert Jean Broke-Smith.
As the former principal of the famed Lucie Clayton School of Grooming and Modelling for 30 years, she has taught politicians, royalty and TV stars, and casually says: ‘I’ve trained all Prince William’s girlfriends.
Apart from Middleton.’ This, she explains, is because ‘Middleton’ was not a deb. ‘But she will have to learn to be a princess.’My own ancestry involves Russian egg-importers and Mancunian tobacconists. Prince William has grown up meeting foreign dignitaries and royalty from all over the world. Kate, however, will have to concentrate hard to avoid making a faux pas.‘Do you remember when Michelle Obama put her arm round the Queen to shepherd her? ‘One never, ever touches the Queen.’Princess Catherine will have to show subservience to other royals, and shake hands several hundred times a week, for the rest of her life.