Rules You’d Have to Follow at a Royal Dinner

By: Beth Moreton | Published: Mar 22, 2024

Most people have never had the fortune to have dinner with the royals.

Though it’s likely not in the cards for many of us, if you were to have dinner with the royal family, there are many strict rules that you would have to follow.

Foie Gras Was Banned by King Charles

Years before he became king, Charles banned foie gras from the royal menu.

A plate of foie gras with some green leaves and cranberry sauce.

Source: Nikodem Nijaki/Wikimedia Commons

Charles has long been known for his passion for animals and the environment, and foie gras is among those concerns. Foie gras is fatty liver and is made by force-feeding ducks and geese, something Charles is against.

You Won't Be Eating Shellfish

If shellfish is your favorite food, you can expect it to never appear on the menu at any event the royals happen to be at.

A seafood platter, including prawns and oysters.

Source: Frits Hoogesteger/Wikimedia Commons

As shellfish can carry a great risk of food poisoning, they prefer not to eat it. Marie Claire states that as they have busy work schedules, getting food poisoning would mean having to cancel their schedules, which the royals would rather avoid.

Your Outfit Needs to Be Formal

Attending a royal dinner isn’t like any other dinner, so you must look your best.

Prince Philip, Laura Bush, Queen Elizabeth, and George W. Bush at a state event. They are all in formal wear, with the men in black suits, white ties, and shirts, and the women are wearing long dresses. There are some guards in navy uniforms in the background.

Source: Eric Draper/Wikimedia Commons

The Independent states that the dress code for royal dinners is white tie, which is similar to black tie, except men are expected to wear a white bow tie and a wing collar, and women are expected to wear a long formal evening gown. 

The Etiquette for Holding a Teacup

It has long been assumed that royals will hold their teacup by sticking their little finger out when doing so, but this isn’t actually true.

Queen Elizabeth II sat in a room drinking a cup of tea.

Source: TeaTime/YouTube

Not only must you not stick your little finger out, but the Express states that the way royals hold their teacup is by the thumb and index finger pinching and supporting the top of the handle, and the middle finger supports the bottom of the handle. The other two fingers should be tucked under the teacup. 

Garlic Is a No-No

Many people love a bit of garlic in their food. But regardless of whether the royals like it or not, their food will not be seasoned with garlic of any kind.

Cloves of garlic piled on top of each other.

Source: Jonathunder/Wikimedia Commons

Garlic is known for giving people smelly breath, and with the many people royals will meet on a daily basis, they would prefer to meet them without their breath smelling of garlic.


The Correct Way to Hold Cutlery

Many people have different ways they might hold and use their cutlery, but the royal way is the only way at a fancy dinner.

A person holding a knife and fork, showing how the royals hold them. The fork is in their left hand and the knife is in their right hand. There is a bowl and other pieces of cutlery set on the table.

Source: The Royal Butler/YouTube

Royals will hold their fork in their left hand and their knife in their right hand. The tines of the fork need to be facing down, and you should eat with your elbows against your side, according to The Mirror


How to Position Your Cutlery

Not only is there a certain way to hold your cutlery, but royals also have a particular way to signal to palace staff when they are pausing eating and when they are finished eating entirely.

Cutlery in a bowl, demonstrating what to do when you have paused eating. There is more cutlery on either side of the bowl.

Source: The Royal Butler/YouTube

You can’t just say that you’re finished or are still eating. If you need to pause to have a drink or speak to someone, you should position your cutlery slightly tilted like a loose triangle. If you are completely finished, you should position your cutlery in the 6 o’clock position, with the top of the cutlery positioned at 12 and the handles at 6, according to Food Republic


Napkins Have to Be Folded in a Certain Way

Think you can turn up to a royal dinner and either not use your napkin or just throw it onto your lap without a second thought? Think again.

A white napkin folded in half and laid out on a wooden table.

Source: The Royal Butler/YouTube

Former royal butler, Grant Harrold, told Express that royals should fold their napkin in half, with the crease facing toward men and away from women. This is so if you need to dab your mouth, you can do so and then keep the stain out of sight. 


Do Not Be Late

Being on time is very important to royals, and lateness to a royal dinner will not be tolerated.

A clock on a white wall, with the time being 3:20.

Source: Artem Riasnianskyi/Unsplash

If you are only going to be running no more than 10 minutes late, then that is okay. However, if you’re going to be turning up any later than that, you will have to let the palace know. 


When the Monarch Is Finished, You Are Finished

The monarch sets the pace of the meal, and when they are finished eating, so are you.

King Charles hosting a state dinner. There are many guests present, with Royal butlers and guards behind them. There are flowers and lights on the tables.

Source: The Telegraph/YouTube

Even if you are only halfway through your meal, if the monarch has finished theirs, you are finished too. People also cannot start eating until the monarch has started eating. 


The Monarch Talks to Guests in Turn

You cannot just start talking to the monarch if you happen to be sitting next to them, as there are rules to be followed.

Queen Elizabeth talking to one of her guests at a state dinner. There are other guests sitting at the tame table.

Source: Mrs. Philibet/YouTube

The monarch will start by talking to the person on their right during the first course, and will then talk to the person on their left during the second course, according to the Telegraph


Thirteen People Will Not Sit Down to Eat

It might seem like a weird number to some, but the late queen in particular was reported to not allow 13 people to sit at a table, according to Yahoo! Life

A state dinner at Buckingham Palace. All of the guests are sat around one large table. There are royal butlers walking around the room and lights and flowers are on the table.

Source: Mrs. Philibet/YouTube

Many people are superstitious for many reasons about the number 13, and the queen was worried about upsetting someone by having 13 people at a table. For this reason, she would either have less than 13 or more than 13 people sitting at each table, but never 13 exactly.