British Prime Minister Theresa May’s weird curtsy to Prince William on Thursday has sparked international headlines and calls for her to stop “tugging her forelock” to the royal family.
At a sombre service at Amiens Cathedral, Mrs May inadvertently provided an entertaining note with her signature deep curtsy.
Mrs May’s move is a contrast to the elegant bob most women perform for royals. While William looked both amused and bemused, British media was not.
“The prime minister’s curtsy looks more like a crooked lunge,” judged the Independent, who noted Mrs May “treated” William to a similar display at a June ceremony “with her long legs splayed out awkwardly.”
The UK Guardian also rapped Mrs May’s knuckles.
Her “grovellingly low dips” to royals, it ruled, have drawn “comparisons to Gollum from Lord of the Rings.”
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But the biggest problem for the media outlet, which launched into a mini republican rant, was that Mrs May curtseys at all.
“There is something uncomfortable about the sight of a woman in her 60s ritually abasing herself before a man half her age,” it trumpeted.
Further, William “has done nothing to warrant such reverence besides being born into his current family.”
The BBC was kinder to both Mrs May and the monarchy, although it noted the curtsy is “a movement the PM seems to struggle with.”
The national broadcaster went so far as to provide Mrs May with a cheat sheet by experts for the next time she has to crank out a curtsy.
BBC royal correspondent Jonny Dymond insisted a straight back is key, and that ladies don’t need to drop towards the floor “clutching your skirts”.
An inclination of the head does the job, advised Mr Dymond, who said,
“Finally, do not appear too smug as you complete the flawless curtsy.”
According to Adam Partridge from English etiquette bible Debrett’s, there are three steps to the “brief, discreet” movement.
Weight is transferred onto one foot, then the ball of the foot is placed behind and slightly outside the standing ankle, followed by the front knee being bent while eye contact is maintained.
“The knees should be virtually connected but hers are about 10 inches apart,” said etiquette expert Jean Broke-Smith, a teacher in the art of the curtsy.
“How she didn’t fall over, I don’t know. I was trying it just now and I couldn’t balance.”
Modern manners columnist Sophia Money-Coutts told the BBC she was “fascinated” by Mrs May’s very low version, “but I think someone should have a word.
“If you’re a Tory PM stopping like that in front of the Queen, you’re going to get a backlash. Reining it in a bit and doing a neat bob would be less controversial.”
Mrs May isn’t the first British woman to struggle with the move.
Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher repeatedly “over-egged” it, according to the Independent, and, on her wedding day, Sarah Ferguson almost prostrated herself on the floor before her new mother-in-law the Queen.
Former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard avoided any false moves altogether whens she met the monarch in 2011.
Ms Gillard opted for a fast head nod and a handshake.