Near Greatness

My Close Encounter With Queen Elizabeth

On my list of people I wanted to shake hands with, she was right up there — just under Elvis Costello

Photograph by Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth has 154,000 "Likes" on Facebook.

I think this is a stunningly modest number. Barack Obama has 41 million, for pete's sake, and according to recent polls, he's Joe Unpopular. I thought pretty much everybody loved the Queen, although I briefly "Unliked" her when she and I had a close encounter a couple years back.pete's sake, and according to recent polls, he's Joe Unpopular. I thought pretty much everybody loved the Queen, although I briefly "Unliked" her when she and I had a close encounter a couple years back.

I am not often stirred by celebrities, but when my husband Tom told me we were going to meet Queen Elizabeth, I got a thrill chill. On my list of people I wanted to shake hands with, she was right up there — just under Elvis Costello.

A movie Tom was working on at that time was going to have a Royal Premiere in London, meaning Her Maj was attending, husband in tow. We would meet them in the receiving line.

But here's the thing about meeting Liz. You don't just show up in your cardigan — Michelle O. learned that the hard way — and slap her on the back and launch the chitchat. There are rules that must be obeyed.

Before the screening, we were instructed on how to behave when the Queen greeted us. Ladies must curtsy, in a particular way that requires awkward knee bending and skirt adjustment. (Tip for ladies: This is especially tricky if you're wearing 3-inch-heeled ankle boots.)

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Men get off easy. They just have to bow from the neck. (Bowing from the waist is just so fifth century.)

Also, we were forbidden to speak to her unless she spoke to us first. (Sometimes I wish I had that rule.) And we were not to say anything personal. Even a remark as benign as, "You are looking very well, your Majesty," which Emma Thompson once made the mistake of saying, gets you sent to the tower.

All this preparation put me in a high state of protocol panic as we went to the theater in Leicester Square. However, upon our arrival we were told that, due to time constraints, I and the other irrelevant types would be standing behind our more significant escorts, thereby getting royally dissed.

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There would be no curtsy for me, no handshake, no asking her to friend me on Facebook. I tried unsuccessfully to curb my irritation. I hoped Liz couldn't read my mind when she floated by, because just as our eyes met, I was thinking her floor-length, poofy gown was from the Scarlett O'Hara school of making dresses from drapes.

I wondered if she had equally evil thoughts about my ankle boots.

Once she got through the receiving line and all other audience members were seated, the Queen was escorted in while trumpets bleated a fanfare. On her seat she found, as we all had, a bag of popcorn. Most likely she dumped it on the floor like the rest of us.

She was seated in the front row of the mezzanine, not too far from us, so I could see her put on her 3-D glasses, which was one of the most thrilling moments of my life. She wore them for an hour and 43 minutes without apparent discomfort.

Then she rose, and while the audience waited, she departed, dragging her Scarlett dress through the piles of discarded popcorn.

I wondered if she had found the evening squalid, the Seventies-ugly venue, the crass movie promotion, the 3-D, the popcorn. Or was she thrilled to get out of the castle for a change, happy chillin' in a big, dark room, seated near Liam Neeson? Her pleasant face had revealed nothing, and neither did her Facebook page later.

I "Liked" her again — she seemed like a good sport. Do you think they'd behead me if I "Poked" her?

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