Forward thinking – ambassadors no longer have
walk backwards when leaving The Queen’s presenc
In a break with tradition, ambassadors and high commissioners no longer need to walk backwards when exiting the room after presenting their credentials to the Queen.
The centuries-old practice of servants and guests leaving the room in reverse after seeing the monarch has been dropped by the Palace due to health and safety concerns.
The protocol, observed as a sign of respect, was often a source of pre-credentials jitters, especially among London’s corps of high-heeled female heads of mission. Royal aides also feared it could lead to someone injuring themselves – and potentially suing Buckingham Palace.
But the tradition will not die out entirely. Two officials will still be expected to walk backwards as they exit the Queen’s presence: Charles Gray, the Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps, and Wing Commander Andy Calame, the Queen’s equerry. Their successors will receive training to walk backwards safely in the monarch’s presence.
The tradition of walking backwards is believed to date back to medieval times and was reintroduced by the Stuart monarchs. Its popularity waned in the 19th century but was reinvigorated by King Edward VII.
However, the Queen is thought not to be too concerned with the ritual, as a source close to the Palace recently said in a national newspaper: “I think The Queen takes the view that it is far better for a person to walk normally than to fall over.”