As Queen Elizabeth returns to England after her first visit to the U.S. since 1976, there has been some speculation about the rules of etiquette when meeting the British monarch.

Does one bow or curtsy? Is “your royal highness” the correct way to address her?

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine’s Web site — the queen toured the state’s capital and Colonial Williamsburg on May 4 — suggests that people stand when the queen enters a room and stop eating whenever she does. It also states that men in the United Kingdom bow when they meet her and women curtsy.

But “etiquette,” said Buckingham Palace spokesman David Pogson, “is a term we don’t use here.”

Turns out, though a general measure of respect is expected when addressing the queen as with any head of state, there really are no hard and fast rules for what to do or say when meeting her. The palace asks a host, such as Kaine, “just to treat the queen as you would any other guest,” Pogson said.

For members of the public, there is “certainly no need,” to bow or curtsy when meeting her, though many people do, and it’s perfectly fine to offer her a handshake, he said.

Her formal title, if you need it, is “her majesty the queen” or “your majesty,” but other than that, “there’s absolutely no formality whatsoever,” Pogson said.

“The queen is perfectly relaxed and happy” to meet members of the public, he said. So go ahead, say hi.

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