Kate's first lesson: Who must curtsey to whom
The first thing the new Duchess of Cambridge will have noticed about her altered status is that the Palace policemen have started saluting her.
In the state rooms of Buckingham Palace on Friday afternoon, female servants began to curtsey and grizzled retainers in their 100-year-old livery bowed their heads low.
One former courtier said: ‘At first she’ll be embarrassed by all this courtly attention from people she barely knows. But she’ll soon come to realise that it’s not what she wants, but what everybody else wants that matters when it comes to people showing their respect.’
As a brand new royal duchess, and wife of the second in line to the throne, Kate will need to bone up on who curtseys to whom.
In case nobody’s told her yet, here’s a rough guide to how things work.
If the Queen comes into the room, it’s simple enough – Kate should curtsey to her.
If Camilla appears and is with Charles, William’s wife should also curtsey to her.
But if Charles is absent but William is present, then Kate outranks Camilla, who should – in theory – curtsey to Kate. This is because William outranks Camilla in terms of the lineage, which means that effectively so does his wife while he is present
If neither William nor Charles is there, then Kate curtseys to Camilla because – woman to woman – Camilla is her senior in the Firm.
In the case of Princess Anne – born a princess – and Princess Alexandra (the Queen’s cousin and granddaughter of George V), both these women have royal blood in their veins and therefore are more important than Kate – unless William happens to be around, in which case she’s more important than them. (Sophie Wessex, being married to a royal junior in rank to William, just has to curtsey to them all).
As for Prince Andrew’s daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie, they out-rank Kate – but again not when William’s in the room.
Fortunately, Kate has had a long time to absorb what might politely be called the ‘ancient traditions’ of monarchy.
Those privy to the plans she and William are laying down for when they are King and Queen, believe that much of this ancient courtesy – well-meaning though it may be – will be swept away as the Cambridges seek to rejuvenate the monarchy.