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Lighten Up About The Queen, Or Don't Let the Door Hit You On the Way Out

The email queue has been overflowing ever since I wrote Sunday about the unseemly and downright unAmerican spectacle of seeing Queen Elizabeth greeted by fawning Americans who went so far as to bow and curtsy to the monarch.

Herewith a sample of your vehement disagreement and unusually enthusiastic support:

It's called humility.

Although you might find the British Monarchy an anachronism, courtesy costs very little. In his day, Thomas Paine of this parish, was considered a traitor, but that does not stop our local brewery in Lewes, where Paine lived and gave many speeches, from producing a Thomas Paine Beer around 4th July to celebrate his contribution to the evolution of the United States of America. We have no compunction in celebrating our common heritage, even where it involved treachery. Likewise your distaste for the Crown should be mellowed by its' context your country's history.

No of course Americans have no duty to bow or curtsy to the Queen but she is a lady of great dignity and to show discourtesy to her is surely not the behaviour of a gentleman, whatever his views on The Crown.
Beware of little old ladies in big hats.

Off with your head Mr Fisher.
David Elliott
United Kingdom

I was completely stunned by your article in the Sunday, 6 May edition at the top of the Metro page. Far and away the best piece of observational journalism I have ever read, it made me proud to be a member of the Armed Forces of the United States, where we dont bow our heads to anyone. It also made me thankful that, as a legal resident of another state, I do not have to pay taxes to a state in which its House of Delegates Majority Leader decides to demean not only the taxpayers of his state but his own humanity and honor as a human being by bowing to a foreign dignitary. It was very impressive on your part to remind us about Tom Paine and the American Revolution, something that seems, to many, to be too old-fashioned to be significantly remembered. Thanks for making my $1.50 go farther than it usually does on a Sunday.

Nick Granter

I have a different take on the deference being shown Queen
Elizabeth during her visit here. Perhaps her presence reminds us of an
earlier time when good manners and respect for others were valued. Here
is a woman who by all accounts put duty before personal gratification.
What a concept! Today our society is all about personal gratification ~
exemplified by our greedy 'leaders' both political and commercial.
Elizabeth radiates refinement in the midst of a society that has become
coarsened. She has no political or economic power ~ only the power of
her personal presence which symbolizes a civility we have lost. She
certainly is no threat to the American republic.
Linda Howard

The vast majority of people in England, and I would add, a substantial majority of people in the United Kingdom, would, I believe, vote to preserve the Crown, if it came to a vote. The Queen is highly respected and admired in this country not only for the rich cultural and political heritage and tradition which she represents, but for her personal integrity, intelligence, charm and tireless efforts in serving the interests of Britain, at home or abroad, in times of war and crises as well as in times of peace. The Queen is not a mere celebrity or figurehead, at least in this country. For celebrities we turn to America.

Yours sincerely.
S. Murthy
Oxford, England.

We're confused about who we are and how we came to be here.

Have we been cowed to a point where aristocracy looks attractive? A
French-Canadian friend of mine told me his perception of Americans is they
are afraid. They are afraid of everything. He said he views US news as an
unreal action drama. Everything is violent and destructive and it feeds the

"Here we lock our doors when we leave home," he said. "You lock your doors
when you are inside the house!"

But of course, we do. That is a gap in our world views and perception of

Perhaps it is encouraging that we can still muster up suitable respect for a
"little old lady who doesn't say much" instead of a chasing down befuddled,
confused performers trapped in their own publicity machine.

And the question is it celebrity for celebrity's sake or symptomatic of a
country desperately searching for connection and belonging in a world
increasingly hostile to us? Who are we? How *did* we get to here today?

Bobbie Kolehouse

Even if one believed that the queen were an exemplary individual, the "bowing and scraping" would be inappropriate for an American.

What should be our mode of behavior in her presence? She is a human
being, a visitor to our shores and the official head of a state with
which we are closely allied, all of which entitles her to our courtesy,
our smiles and our friendly welcome -- but no more. This was clearly
demonstrated from the very start of our republic. George Washington
refused royal-sounding titles. Later, after his Vice President, John
Adams, and his Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, were sworn in as
the second President and Vice President respectively, Washington
insisted that they should precede him outdoors to meet the public,
emphasizing that he had only "borrowed" the presidency, and that there
was no more honorable title than simply "citizen". For us to forget the
lessons of our founders is to make light of the price paid by so many of
our ancestors to win, and to preserve, our liberty as individuals.

Except in the presence of our Maker, Americans should not bow our heads,
but hold them high.
Jim Weiss

When John Adams was appointed the Ambassador to England in 1785 he reported "the Door was shut and I was left with his Majesty and the Secretary of State alone. I made the three Reverences, one at the Door, another about half Way & the third before the Presence, according to the Usage established at this and all the Northern Courts of Europe"

As he left he exited the King's Closet, stepping backward, according to custom, and making a final reverence at the door.

I cannot think of any founding father that was more anti-English than John Adams. But I assume that the term "reverences (his words) mean he bowed to the King who America had fought for her independence. Maybe he just had better manners than the people of the 21st century.

Your obedient servant,

William F. Chaney

You are absolutely, unequivocally correct. This monarchy worship is unnerving and is one more American conservative behavior fluke that is not based in reality, necessity or even common sense. I am in fact indignant over the whole thing. I grew up in Glenside, Pennsylvania, directly outside of Philadelphia. Just before I was born in 1952, construction workers clearing land for a road widening project found the bodies of about a dozen dead Indians and American Continental soldiers on Jenkintown Road in Glenside. A VFW stands on that site now. It appears that the soldiers and British allied Indians got into a firefight on what is now that road and what was then a deer path early in the Revolutionary War. It is referred to as the Battle of Edgehill but was actually an unnamed skirmish. The bodies were delivered to the U.S. Army and these men were buried with honor. I am not exactly sure what happened to the Indians. There is a plaque in front of that VFW to this day honoring those men who fought British interests so that we could have our own interests paramount here North America, not Britains. Growing up in Philadelphia, I have always held these men in high regard. I do not understand the whole British Monarchy love-fest thing that goes on here, especially in the South. It is embarrassing and disrespectful to American values and especially to men like those who died for all of us at the Battle of Edgehill. Tom Barnes

By Marc Fisher |  May 8, 2007; 2:15 PM ET
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Did you run out things to write about? The monarchy is admired by a lot of people and Americans do not need reminding that they are not the Queen's subjects. They know that! Jeeze, lighten up.

Posted by: Lawal Momodu | May 8, 2007 5:07 PM

"No matter how silly the idea of having a queen might be to us, as Americans we must be gracious and considerate hosts."
-Lt. Frank Drebin, in "The Naked Gun"

Posted by: Bob's My Uncle | May 8, 2007 5:40 PM

riMarc, it looks like you made several people choke on their Bubble and Squeek. The Brits seems to forget that we, U.S. citizens, have one thing that many people in other countires envy: Freedom of Speech. Long Live Freedom of Speech! May it be many more years before Lizzy returns!

Posted by: Pip Pip | May 8, 2007 7:04 PM


You are just jealous that Elizabeth is a bigger Queen then you are.

Posted by: Paul | May 8, 2007 7:39 PM

Apparently the British press weren't all that impressed either;

Posted by: Hannah | May 8, 2007 8:23 PM

Those who objected to Mr. Fisher's column are missing a point. This is not an issue of courtesy; of course we all should be courteous to a head of state (and others as well). But we do not bow or curtsy to royalty of any country, or otherwise perform acts of subservience, because those particular acts are required o and performed by only subjects of the relevant realm. The English, for example, do not show obeisance to the Emperor of Japan, not because they do not wish to show respect (there are certainly many other ways to do so), but because the Emperor of Japan is not the monarch of English citizens.

In fact, those that see the bow and curtsy as trivial signs of respect, and therefore acceptable by non-subjects, misapprehend the gravity of such acts when performed by a true subject of the monarch. They are simply not mere courtesies, as some state.

I happen to agree with Mr. Fisher that it is unseemly for citizens of a constitutional democracy to intentionally place themselves in a subordinate position to anyone based on the latter's social station. That, to me, would be enough to condemn the practice. But it is also objectionable because it wholly misapprehends the subject-monarch relationship. Happily, we don't have a monarch, so we don't have any obligation to bow or curtsy to any American citizen. Assuming no one would argue with that state of affairs, to say that we should act subordinate to someone else's monarch is just bizarre.

Posted by: TK | May 8, 2007 11:40 PM

Mr. Fisher's original column seems to be based on a misapprehension: namely, that the present Queen has the kind of political power in Britain and her other realms that George III had. But Elizabeth is a constitutional monarch: she has no political power and is in fact a symbol of the democratic state, of the constitution and the rule of law. The Queen herself has said that "a Monarch is not a Person, but a Symbol."

The great advantage of having a non-political head of state is that citizens can honour their nation and its hard-won democratic traditions while keeping firmly in mind that the head of government is merely the temporary employee of the citizens, subject to removal at any time and due no more respect than he or she can earn. I think Tom Paine of the lovely town of Lewes, England, would very much approve of that, were he alive today.

Posted by: A. Taylor | May 9, 2007 3:00 PM

I'm with the "Lighten up" crowd. A lovely gesture of courtesy to an older woman who is also Queen of England is a reminder of a time when people were courteous and gentlemanly, before the onset of barbarian culture. What in the world, or who in the world did it hurt or threaten.? I personally admire the Queen who certainly represents what our totally weird and dumb president should aspire to.

Posted by: Linda Becker | May 10, 2007 11:32 AM

Why bow to a lady who refuses to honor her own grandsons with the truth about the death of their humanitarian mother? Why curtsey to a mother who raised a bunch a parasitic twits? The reality of royalty is not in its sparkle of the blood diamonds that adorn her heavy brooches or antique tiaras..The reality of royalty is about lies, blood and deception. I am thankful for my ancestor patriots who fought against this tryanny....We must honor their sacrifice by never for once forgetting we are citizens of freedom and not subjects of a foreign Crown....

Posted by: Mary MacKellar | May 10, 2007 11:45 AM

If the Brit queen bows to me, then I will bow to her at the same time. Of course I know this is not likely to happen.

Posted by: Mickey | May 10, 2007 5:33 PM

Linda Becker: I'm with you about courtesy. Let me point out, however, that there is no "Queen of England", and there hasn't been one for hundreds of years. She's Queen of Australia. And Queen of Canada. And Queen of the United Kingdom. Etc. But she's not Queen of England.

Mary MacKellar: You're still living in the 18th century. King George is going to get you. Boo!

Posted by: A. Taylor | May 11, 2007 2:52 AM

I would never curtsey to the Queen, although I have great respect for and interest in the monarchy. But I agree, it's a specific act of symbolic subjugation that I, as a republican, would never perform for any head of state, much less that of another country. I hold the apparently heretical idea that as a citizen, I outrank even the President, so I wouldn't even curtsey to him or her.

I think the monarchy is fascinating but I'd rather be an American and enjoy it from across the pond.

Posted by: XYZ | May 11, 2007 10:05 AM

In his offering on this topic, Tom Barnes noted that he isn't "exactly sure what happened to the indians." Well, Mr. Barnes, the US Army spent the next century expressing our "values" by slaughtering them in the hundreds. It was logical to do so, however, because the good citizens of this country had "interests" in taking from the Indians anything of value.

The indians didn't feel anymore inclined to bow to the Great White Father than we did to the Queen. Perspectives change depending on which end of the gun you are looking at.

Enjoy your spate of rightous indignation, Mr. Barnes, and stand firm in your vow to never bow before the elderly lady in the funny hat. It is disrespectful for Americans to genuflect before a queen, yet we had no trouble at all demanding that the natives of this country bow before us.

Posted by: TSchleeter | May 12, 2007 2:23 PM

Linda Becker is absolutely right. We should show the queen common courtesy. But only because Linda Becker likes her. Our "totally weird and dumb president" doesn't deserve any such courtesy because Linda Becker doesn't like him.

Posted by: Sven | May 27, 2007 8:28 AM

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