Dame Shirley Bassey just broke protocol in front of King Charles and reacted with an ‘instinctive’ move

Shirley Bassey broke protocol at a prestigious ceremony with King Charles at Windsor Castle though, thankfully, he didn't seem to mind

Composite of pictures of Shirley Ballas at Windsor Castle after being made a Companion of Honour in 2024 and King Charles during the Ceremony of the Keys in the Gardens of The Palace of Holyroodhouse in 2024
(Image credit: Image 1: Photo by ANDREW MATTHEWS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images// Image 2:Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)

Dame Shirley Bassey just broke protocol in front of King Charles during a special moment and she reacted with an ‘instinctive’ move. 

Meeting a member of the Royal Family is far from an everyday occurrence so it’s perhaps no surprise that a few protocols might be missed here and there. Dame Shirley Bassey has admitted she forgot one when she received her prestigious Order of the Companions of Honour on 9th July in recognition of her services to music. The Welsh singer was invested with this honour by King Charles himself in a ceremony at Windsor Castle and she was so nervous that instead of doing a small curtsy of greeting to the monarch, she grabbed his hand instead. According to Express.co.uk, Shirley explained that she’d realised in the moment that she’d forgotten the curtsy and reaching for his hand was "instinctive".

"I think it's more nerve-racking to receive the award from him than to sing in front of him," she said. "I mean, it's new, different, whereas singing I've been doing since I was a child. "I forgot to curtsy, but that's why I grabbed his hands because I forgot to curtsy. Instinctive."

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The moment she "grabbed" King Charles’s hand was captured in a picture that was shared as part of a series of snaps commemorating her investiture on the Royal Family’s Instagram account. From the look on His Majesty’s face, he didn’t seem to mind and looked thoroughly interested in talking to the singer instead.

The traditional forms of greeting the King and Queen, as per the Royal Family’s website, are a neck bow (from the head only) for men and a "small curtsy" for women. These forms of greeting have been seen from the likes of the Princess of Wales and Duchess of Edinburgh towards King Charles. However, whilst this is the traditional protocol for greeting, it’s also stated that there are "no obligatory codes of behaviour - just courtesy".

Shirley Bassey poses after being made a Companion of Honour during an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle

(Image credit: Photo by ANDREW MATTHEWS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s also understood that you shouldn’t initiate contact with the royals, but wait until they do so. Depending on who initiated the handshake, it’s possible that Dame Shirley might have technically broken protocol by holding his hands, but once again, King Charles took it in his stride.

"I asked him how he was, and he said he was fine and said: ‘You look wonderful,’" the singer explained. "He wished me all the best and then I grabbed him - I know I shouldn’t have done that. But I grabbed both his hands and said: ‘I wish you well.’"

This isn’t the first time he’s met Dame Shirley - as the first sweet snap in the Royal Family’s recent social media post shows. This picture shows them laughing together in 1978 and Shirley’s also sung for the Royal Family on several occasions, including for the late Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee, though she’s described singing for her at the Royal Variety Performance for the first time as her most glamorous moment.

Dame Shirley Bassey performs at The Diamond Jubilee Concert in front of Buckingham Palace in 2012

(Image credit: Photo by Rota/ Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)

"I've had 70 years of glamorous moments," she said. "I think the first time I sang for the Queen at the Royal Variety - my very first show. And then I did quite a few after and was very blasé about it."

All these years later she’s received another honour from the Royal Family after becoming a Dame in 1999. Dame Shirley was named in the New Year’s Honours List and at the time said she was “humbled” by the decision.

"I live to sing and love to perform. Entertaining audiences for over 70 years has been a privilege. My heart is full of emotion and I am truly humbled,” she declared.

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with eight years experience working in publishing. Her specialist areas include the British Royal Family, ranging from protocol to outfits. Alongside putting her royal knowledge to good use, Emma knows all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV and more. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, Emma enjoys cooking, long walks and watching yet more crime dramas!