Someone sent me a link to the video below. The title of the video is “Should Sophie Duchess of Edinburg Still curtsy to Meghan Duchess of Sussex”. If you’re only here for commentary on the title topic, watch the video. (Featured image created using AI art generation tool)
It is said that the curtsy is just a sign of respect. Here, for example is an AI generated response to a question about the point and purpose of bowing or curtsying to a member of the royal family.
The concept of bowing and curtsying before a queen or monarch is generally considered a traditional sign of respect and deference to the institution of the monarchy, rather than to the individual monarch themselves. It is often seen as a symbolic gesture of loyalty and recognition of the monarch’s role as the head of state and representative of the country. Bowing or curtsying before a monarch is a culturally established tradition that is meant to show respect for the institution of the monarchy(via openai.com)
OpenAI defines a curtsy as a formal gesture of respect or acknowledgement, typically performed by a woman or girl, in which she bends her knees and lowers her body by briefly bending at the waist. The hands may be held together in front of the body or at the sides, and the head may be bowed slightly. Curtsying is often used as a sign of respect or deference to a person of higher social status, such as a monarch, a member of the nobility, or a superior officer. It can also be used in certain formal settings, such as at a wedding or a formal dance, as a polite way to acknowledge a partner or a guest of honor.
Would you curtsy to show respect and deference to a person of a higher social rank?
When I was a teenager I used to get royally upset at any suggestion that I would have to curtsy to the Queen of England (she was of course alive at the time). I would declare that I would rather be imprisoned or beheaded if a beheading would be the punishment for my refusal (**this does not mean I thought they would imprison me or behead me if I didn’t curtsy. It was just an exaggerated and descriptive way of expressing my stance). Of course, given the choice between getting my head cut off or curtsying to the queen in order to keep my life, I’d probably have curtsied. But if the only consequence for not curtsying was having people write articles about the crass little nobody from nowhere who thought she was too good to curtsy to the Queen, then I would have borne the burden of being shamed for my temerity in refusing to follow protocol.
At the time I did not know I would not even have needed to worry, because I would not have been required to curtsy. I have since come to understand that the curtsy is supposed to be a sign of respect and loyalty to the institution of the monarchy expected to be shown by subjects of Institution. It was not so much an act of kowtowing to the Queen or other royal, though, in my opinion, that is the result of the execution of the act. And it’s not expected of individuals who are not British. At least that’s what I read. According to the response I received questioning OpenAI chat on whether Americans would be expected to curtsy:
Americans are free to greet members of the royal family in a way that is comfortable and appropriate for them. It is generally expected that Americans show respect and courtesy when meeting members of the royal family, but this can be done in different ways, such as a handshake or a polite greeting.
As a young girl, I grew up on an island that was part of the British commonwealth, so, at that time, I would probably have been expected to curtsy had there been occasion for me to stand before the Queen or another member of the royal family. And I’d have probably done so with much gusto, trying to be as dramatically graceful and elegant and “extra” as I could manage–no doubt ending up looking comically and embarrassingly asinine. But then I moved to America and I became a teenager and my mind expanded in a different direction from the training of my childhood.
Since my teenage years I’ve been of the opinion that the idea of a “royal” family as a group of people who hold a position in society that entitles them to be shown higher courtesy and respect because of a title they acquire at birth is counter to the concept of human equalness. I don’t think anything will change this point of view, but I realize it’s not a point of view shared by many people–at least is doesn’t seem to be. Many people that I love and respect hold the royal family in high regard. Not necessarily the British Monarchy as an institution but the royal family specifically. It seems like most of the world accept the idea of royalty and all the pomp and circumstance that comes with it.
But my personal opinion isn’t necessarily baseless or uninformed. At least, when I posed another question to OpenAI chat asking about it, I received a response that gave me a bit more confidence that there’s a basis for my point of view.
Is the concept of royalty counter to the concept of human equalness?
Some people will say that the fault lies in the idea of human equalness. Not everybody believes humans are equal. Some people believe in human equalness only as it relates to their own situations and interests. Someone could argue for their right to be considered equal to one group while still being willing to grant superiority to another group. In other words, it’s possible to believe that humans aren’t equal as it relates to yourself and the royal family while arguing for your equal rights as it relates to you and some other group that you’re unwilling to grant power over you. So I thought it would be interesting to see what kind of answer OpenAi chat would return if asked are humans equal.
Are humans equal?
I find this to be an extremely interesting answer. I would love to delve into this more extensively, not necessarily with my own thoughts since my opinions are unqualified. It would be fascinating to be able to organize a discussion around this topic. The OpenAi response, in my opinion, is a dangerous place to leave the answer to this particular question. But I will leave it there for now.