A charming, perhaps archaic, ruckus has erupted in Australia over the manner in which Prime Minister Julia Gillard greeted Queen Elizabeth II, who is on a tour of the country.
Upon meeting with the British monarch, Gillard shook hands, but failed to curtsey, as proper protocol usually requires. The press in Australia has suggested that the prime minister’s failure to bow showed disrespect to her Royal Highness.
Just prior to Gillard’s apparent gaffe, Quentin Bryce, Australia’s Governor-General, curtseyed before the Queen at a military air field in the capital of Canberra on Wednesday evening. Thereafter, came Gillard – who was born in Wales and is an avowed republican.
June Dally-Watkins, an Australian etiquette expert, was outraged (and tickled) by the Prime Minister’s failure to curtsey.
I thought it was really hilarious and of course very rude, she told Australian radio, ABC. If she isn't a royalist, it's not a matter of that; it's a matter of paying courtesy to a queen, to the Queen.
Matthew Archer, deputy chair of the Victorian branch of the Australian Monarchists League, was similarly appalled.
I understand she thinks we should ditch the monarchy but it's just a sign of courtesy, it actually would be a sign of respect, he told Australian media.
The prime minister was also pilloried for not wearing a hat when she greeted the 85-year-old British monarch.
Gillard has responded to the charges by insisting she did not violate protocol.
The advice that was given to me was very clear – that you can make a choice with what you are most comfortable with, she said in a statement.
That's what I felt most comfortable with. The Queen extended her hand and I shook her hand and bowed my head.
Gillard added that she is a great admirer of the Queen and has much affection for her.
I mean, what a life, what an incredible life she's lived over so many generations of change and to see someone play such a steadfast role over so much change, I think, is remarkable, she told the press.
The Daily Telegraph newspaper of Britain reported that Gillard’s Labor government is seeking a referendum on breaking ties to the British crown. However, a vote on the proposal is likely to be postponed until the current Queen’s reign finishes.
This is Elizabeth’s sixteenth, and likely last, visit to Australia.
Reportedly, the website of the British royal family said that under the proper rules for meeting the Queen there are no obligatory codes of behavior – just courtesy. However, many people wish to observe the traditional forms of greeting, which included curtsying for women and bowing for men.