As the monarch of England, everyone is expected to either curtsy or bow to Queen Elizabeth II when meeting her. However, there were a couple of instances when Her Majesty bowed during her reign.

To Princess Diana’s Coffin

One of the few times that the Queen bowed happened during Princess Diana’s funeral. The gun carriage carrying Diana’s coffin finally emerged from Kensington Palace and wound its way through the silent streets going to the princess’ final resting place.

It eventually passed by the group of royals, which included the Queen Mother. That was when the unexpected happened. Those present were surprised to see Queen Elizabeth II bow down to her former daughter-in-law’s coffin. What was even more surprising was that it was only Her Majesty who bowed; none of the other royals in the group followed what she did.

Looking back at her gesture to Princess Diana, many were perplexed as to why the Queen did it. After all, she was not expected to bow down to anyone, not even to foreign royalty.

Some say that that it was because she was actually very grief-stricken with her passing, contrary to the public’s perception of her being cold and aloof due to her silence during this period. Others say that it was because she really respected Princess Diana despite her problems with Prince Charles. It was her way of expressing her thanks to the princess for being a good mother to Prince William and Prince Harry.

At The Cenotaph On Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day is a very solemn occasion as it marks the day when World War I ended, which is exactly at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month (November), in 1918. Thus, it is also the day where everyone pays their respects to those who fought for the country and paid it with their lives. In other words, it’s a time to show respect for all the soldiers who died during both world wars.

Given the solemnity of the occasion, it does not seem surprising to learn that the Queen bows at the Cenotaph. In fact, she does more than bow; she even walked down the steps backward during the 2016 ceremony.

What surprised observers was then it was not actually expected of the Queen to do so. While it’s customary for younger royals to walk backward so as not to turn their backs on the dead, older members of the royal family are excused, but they can still do so at their discretion. For instance, Queen Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip, just walked down the steps normally but, upon reaching the bottom, turned around and saluted the Cenotaph.

To The Ethiopian Emperor?

There’s a rather grainy photograph circulating online, which, if true, would have been the third time that the Queen bowed to someone. In the photo, two people, a male and a female, were shown bowing down to the Ethiopian monarch, Emperor Haile Selassie I, and his wife, Empress Menen Asfew.

 

Now there were many explanations as to why an English monarch would bow down to a monarch of another country. But a good one was offered by Trish Gwynn on Quora.

“He [Ethiopian Emperor] wasn’t just considered earthly royalty, as tradition says he is the direct descendant of the son of King Solomon and Queen of Sheba which makes him also a descendant of King David (from whom Jesus is also said to be descended from) therefore making emperor Selassie a kind of ‘spiritual royalty’, kin of Jesus essentially,” she said.

Some people, however, think that the picture is fake. “I understand images were produced and circulated at the time which apparently showed Queen Elizabeth II bowing to the Emperor but they have all since been discredited and identified as fake,” retired diplomat Stu Allen explained.

“There is US Government news real coverage of the event produced for the United Nations archive and this clearly shows what transpired. There was, in fact, no bow or curtsy given.”

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, make their way in the royal procession during day 1 of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse. Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse