British Columbia

How to say 'Hi' to Harry and Meghan, according to an etiquette expert

With the world's currently most-watched couple hanging out in B.C., you may well run into them walking the dog. Bow, curtsy, maybe even shake hands — but never tap them on the shoulder.

Bow, curtsy, maybe even shake hands — but never tap them on the shoulder

Prince Harry and his then-fiancée Meghan Markle pose for photographers during a photocall in the grounds of Kensington Palace in London in 2017. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

If British Columbians happen to spot the much-talked-about Duke and Duchess of Sussex, treat them like cats: let them come to you. 

Vancouver etiquette expert Elizabeth Burnett says it's important not to approach them.

"I would wait for them to attend to me," Burnett told Kathryn Marlow, guest host of CBC's All Point West. "I wouldn't just go up and tap him on the shoulder and say, 'Oh, hello, Harry, how are you?'"

"We have to remember that Harry will always be royal," she added. "It's in his blood." 

If presented to the newcomers, Burnett advised people to bow or curtsy. And never, she said, touch a royal. Instead, stand straight forward facing them with your arms at your sides. 

However, Burnett also encouraged people to consider the situation before deciding how exactly to interact with the world's currently-most-watched couple. Perhaps such strict formality would be out of place on a Vancouver Island hiking trail. 

"But you certainly wouldn't go up and start putting your hand out because they would offer their hand to you first and then you would shake hands," said Burnett, founder and president of Elizabeth Etiquette, an etiquette school.

After announcing they would take a step back from their royal roles and work to become financially independent, Buckingham Palace and the Queen said on Saturday that Harry and Meghan would no longer be working members of Britain's monarchy, no longer use their "Royal Highness" titles and would now pay their own way in life.

So, what then should we call them?

"Well, of course they're not His and Her Royal Highnesses anymore," noted Burnett.

She said they should still be addressed as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, titles they still officially hold, along with the Earl and Countess of Dumbarton and the Baron and Baroness Kilkeel.

However, using those titles in Canada might be an issue. The Nickle Resolution of 1919 effectively bans foreign titles of nobility for Canadian citizens and anyone "domiciled or living in Canada." It's not clear how the resolution applies to people who already have titles when they come here.

And, in the end, the pair may prefer simply Harry and Meghan, anyway. 

"They would like to be treated, I believe, as just one of the locals," said Burnett.

Prince Harry — yes, he's still a prince — reportedly landed at Victoria International Airport on Monday night before reuniting with Meghan and their young son, Archie.

The duchess and her eight-month-old have been staying on B.C.'s West Coast, where the family spent the Christmas holiday, after briefly returning to the United Kingdom earlier this month. 

Royal watchers continue to feverishly speculate over where in Canada the Duke and Duchess might plant roots, with Greater Victoria, Vancouver and Toronto as apparent top contenders.

"I think we have to give them time to establish themselves and give them some breathing room, which they haven't had before," Burnett told All Points West listeners. 

On Tuesday, media outlets like the Guardian said the couple had issued "a stern warning" against photographers in Canada after"unauthorized pictures of Meghan walking with Archie in a park with the family's two dogs were published in a number of British tabloids. 

"They enjoy their privacy, so they didn't come over here to have swarms of people around them all the time," said Burnett. 

"When they start to come out more into the community, they will let us know how they would like us to approach them."

To hear the complete interview with Elizabeth Burnett on All Points West, tap the audio link below:

Bow, curtsy, maybe even shake hands — but never tap them on the shoulder, says Vancouver etiquette expert Elizabeth Burnett. Hear her conversation with Kathryn Marlow. 6:05

With files from Reuters, Evan Dyer and Roshini Nair 

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