DEAR MISS MANNERS: I'm never likely to meet Elizabeth II, but if I do, how would I be expected to act? I assume there would be someone there to give me protocol tips, but I am curious.
As a citizen of the United States, I assume I wouldn't curtsy (and if I were male, wouldn't bow), but would I slightly incline my head?
GENTLE READER: You would be amazed at the number of Americans who are so ignorant of our history as to believe that we still owe this symbolic obedience to the British monarch. Did they miss the class when the outcome of the American Revolution was taught?
You are correct that if you are in a receiving line on the queen's home territories, you will receive murmured instructions from an equerry about the behavior expected. Not about curtsying or bowing -- which the helpful official will know applies only to the queen's subjects -- but about refraining from touching her and not speaking to her unless she speaks first.
Miss Manners would hope that Americans would not grab strangers even if they are not heads of state, or launch into a conversation when there are others requiring attention.
But will you be scorned if you practice American good manners by offering a hand or a word of greeting?
That is doubtful. Decades ago, British royalty learned the hard way that snubbing well-meaning Americans is a bad idea. When, for example, many years ago, an elderly American statesman took the elbow of the queen's daughter to guide her up the steps of our Capitol, there was a public outcry because she gave him what in current American usage might be called the stink-eye.
That visit was not a diplomatic success. And on subsequent official visits, the queen and members of that family were remarkably affable, including responding to polite greetings.