How to greet a king
If you are lucky enough to be in the presence of His Majesty, keep these tips in mind
If you are among the fortunate 900 persons who have received invitations to the official May 22 Seattle visit of His Majesty King Harald V of Norway, count your blessings. There are 60 Norwegian organizations in the Pacific Northwest with about 12,000 members, and many more would love to attend.
In the event you’ve forgotten King Harald and Queen Sonja’s visit here in 1995, you might want to brush up on protocol. Queen Sonja will not be here with King Harald for this visit.
Recommended apparel for the banquet is cocktail dress, bunad, dark suit. And of course you will be on your best behavior for the occasion. But here are a few hints:
• Because of changed circumstances worldwide, security will be heavy, according to Consul of Norway Kim Nesselquist.
• You will not be admitted to the 7:30 p.m. banquet at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel if you fail to arrive before King Harald. Pleading about the difficulty of heavy traffic won’t get you in. The directions on the invitation state: “You are kindly requested to arrive between 6:15 – 7 p.m.” Though that language is in diplomatically polite terms, read it as a command.
• But do come early for another reason—there will be a reception for all guests preceding the dinner, so come and enjoy complimentary wine and mingling with old friends. The King will not attend the reception.
• The formal invitation also notes: “This invitation is personal and non-transferable. Photo ID and the invitation for check-in is required.”
• Do not eat or drink anything at your table before King Harald arrives and official toasts have been made.
• If you are lucky enough to be in close proximity to King Harald, do not extend your hand. Wait until His Majesty initiates a handshake. Personally I would think that the royal hands would be worn out from all their official duties if they had to shake every hand at every event they attend.
• Please refrain from attempts at selfie pictures and aggressive use of cell-phone cameras.
• Curtsies and deep bows aren’t necessary; address him as “your majesty” the first time; after that, “sir” will be fine. The most common mistake is to call the King or Queen His or Her Royal Highness. That title is for the prince or princesses, according to Consul Nesselquist.
• Do not recite which farm your great-grandfather came from, or which cousins live in Oslo, Stavanger, or Trondheim. Gracious and quick are the operative words. Do not monopolize the conversation; others are waiting to greet him.
• Do not carry a glass, cup, or plate when greeting or conversing with the king.
• Be seated in the dining room before King Harald arrives. Stand as he enters and remain standing until he is seated. After dinner, stand and remain standing until he departs.
• No table hopping. Unless you are faced with a “personal emergency,” remain seated while the King is present.
But most of all enjoy this special occasion!
Shelby Gilje is a longtime Pacific Northwest journalist who wrote for The Seattle Times, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Bremerton Sun (now The Kitsap Sun), and The Anchorage Daily News.
This article originally appeared in the May 15, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.