“King James” Fouls With Duchess of Cambridge
By William Hanson – Etiquette guest writer
Who would have thought a few lines to the Daily Mail about basketball player Lebron James putting his arm around the Duchess of Cambridge would cause so much outrage? For the past 24 hours I have been getting some very forthright opinions on Twitter, Facebook and directly through my website. I even made an ESPN show last night where the host dubbed me the ‘World’s Worst Person in Sports’. I’m so touched.
Now, I really don’t mind the abuse. I’ve had worse and actually find it all very funny. Thankfully I have a thick skin. What I can’t see is why there is so much outrage. Yes, from a Royal protocol point of view Mr. James should not have put his arm around Catherine. As I said originally, I am sure she didn’t mind. Did I expect Mr. James to know the fundamentals of Royal protocol? No, although it would have been nice for one of his colleagues to brief him, and others, beforehand, as used to happen. Today we now all live with a pandemic of ‘CBB disease’ (Can’t Be Bothered).
But royal protocol aside, he had just finished a basketball game. He was sweaty, icky and moist. Would anyone, let alone a highly voguish lady who was obviously dressed up for the occasion, really want a smelly, wet arm placed around them? Probably not. My American correspondents seem to forget that we over here, and, I would hazard to guess, most of the rest of the world too, have absolutely no idea who Lebron James is, whereas I suspect most know the Duchess of Cambridge. (This assumption based solely on the fact that an estimated 2.4 billion people watched her get married into an institution that is thousands of years old.)
Royal protocol is getting relaxed, it is very clear to see that. Many say that it is the younger generation who are the root cause, although anyone with half an interest in the monarchy will know that Her Majesty The Queen has been known to move things along a bit, dropping presentations at court in 1958, and the stopping the requirement for her ‘subjects’ to not turn their back on the Monarch. That said, one former senior royal courtier told me recently that although this is no longer taboo it is still the practice to try to avoid it when at close proximity – out of courtesy, not necessity.
Protocol is not there to annoy, it is there to manage relationships. When countries meet, formally (state visits, summits) or informally (basketball games), it is there to ensure that both parties come away without losing face. As well-intentioned as Mr. James’s tactile gesture was to the Duchess of Cambridge he should know that you don’t hug perfect strangers. If the tables were turned it’s the equivalent of legendary British entertainer Sir Bruce Forsythe goosing the First Lady. It just shouldn’t happen. Common sense dictates that.
Moving the narrative along, much else can be learned from the official visit to the United States of America by Their Royal Highnesses. We saw Taylor Swift high-five the royal couple (also incorrect from a protocol/common sense point of view). But it wasn’t just the USA who raised eyebrows. Should the Duchess of Cambridge have worn such a bright choice of pink to the World Trade Centre memorial? A more subdued colour given the occasion may have been fitting, although I suspect both she and her dresser were thinking that in a big grey city in December, hot pink may stand out more and be more striking. That it did, but a block white or cream would have done the same thing but been a little more becoming to the occasion. Catherine is still learning lessons from the Diamond Jubilee river pageant where she wore a red dress that made her vanish against the red cushions and furnishings of the royal barge – whilst The Queen was visible to all in a pristine white.
However many high-fives and sweaty hugs the Duke and Duchess had to endure, would they have cared? No. Absolutely not. They may have clocked it, but will have seen far worse before now. They don’t care as, unlike Mr. James and Miss Swift, they will be around in 20 years’ time and need not play up to cameras with publicity stunts. Shake it off!
(c)2014 William Hanson