Czech Etiquette: How Not to Visit a Queen

From his greeting to his footwear, what went wrong during the Czech President’s Buckingham Palace visit Staff Jason Pirodsky

Written by StaffJason Pirodsky Published on 19.06.2017 14:06:27 (updated on 19.06.2017) Reading time: 1 minute

Czech President Miloš Zeman was given an audience with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace last Friday, a one-day visit, also attended by his wife Ivana and daughter Kate, which culminated in a London ceremony commemorating the Battle of Britain. How did the president do?

While a few presidential faux pas were expected given Zeman’s past hijinks on the political stage—bookies even announced odds on the likelihood the president would slip up—the visit was fairly uneventful. Unless, of course, you analyze it from the perspective of a fashion maven or etiquette taskmaster.

Ladislav Špaček, former spokesperson for Václav Havel warned in advance of last week’s visit: “Conversation is fundamentally launched by the Queen.”

As seen in the video below, this was one rule the Czech president, known for his self-proclaimed bonhomie, managed to flub in the first two seconds of the meeting.

Columnist Vilem Besser, writing for Czech news server Forum24, said of the awkward moment: “Zeman does not honor any principles, so after two seconds, when he entered the room, he spoke. Whooped directly at her. Instead of waiting for Her Majesty.”

Zeman proceeded to ask the Queen whether his assumption that she has experienced ten prime ministers was correct.  According to Besser, “That is exactly the same as if he had dropped a question on the Queen about what it is like to be ninety.”

Zeman also lost points for reportedly intercepting the monarch’s questions to his wife and daughter.

But the most glaring pitfall was the president’s choice of footwear described by one Czech style expert as blue suede shoes with white trim and “brutal Velcro bands.” The first lady’s conspicuous lack of fascinator did not go unnoticed either.

In all fairness, Zeman is not the first world leader to be accused of making a royal etiquette error: Michelle Obama raised eyebrows when she famously hugged the Queen in 2009.

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