What it is: Beaumont Etiquette’s ‘The Duchess Effect’ course
Who tried it: Brooke Showell, PEOPLE.com contributor
Why she did it: The royals are coming to town, and we all need moves like Kate Middleton
Confession: I actually enjoy hand-writing thank-you notes, read my 876-page Emily Post handbook and jump at any chance to play hostess. If the etiquette police were taking new recruits, I’d gladly sign up for basic training.
And now that Prince William and Princess Kate are en route to New York City, I thought it best to fine-tune my curtsy for when we bond over the Bergdorf Goodman holiday windows and they invite me to their New Year’s Eve party at Kensington Palace. These things do happen sometimes.
The guru: Myka Meier, an expert on British protocol and founder of Beaumont Etiquette, a consultancy on poise, posture, polish, and all other essential Ps and Qs, who created a course called The Duchess Effect, which teaches the ins and outs of “Kate-iquette” (that is, the training presumably imparted on The Princess Formerly Known as Kate). After all, Kate started out a regular girl from Bucklebury, fit in seamlessly with the royals and somehow has retained an ease that makes her the stylish best friend in everyone’s head. While most of us will never have the pressure of a royal tour, the skills (and hopefully the headpieces!) are totally transferable to this side of the pond.
The course: I met the soignée Meier at a private club in Manhattan to go through our princess paces. She walked me through a few of the things the Princess would do in a day’s work – and it was indeed work.
• Elegantly making an entrance into a room involves a tricky little maneuver to close the door behind you without ever turning your back to those you’re greeting. The key is in swiftly switching the doorknob from one hand to the other behind your back – without making a thud, all while smiling graciously. It’s harder than it looks – but sliding doors of our PEOPLE offices, I’m coming for you.
• Most of us can’t turn a clumsy fall into a quirk that makes everyone love you even more (a la Jennifer Lawrence). So to effortlessly glide up and down a flight of stairs, Meier taught me to keep my head up (hey, the floor’s not going anywhere), hand lightly grasping the railing and feet slightly pointed toward the banister. Kate would never clomp, and I’m determined to be equally light as air.
• Teacups are tricky, people. The handle should be at three o’clock, and it’s good form to pick up the cup with its saucer cupped underneath. Now I’m really regretting not buying saucers for my Queen’s Jubilee commemorative mugs. How will I ever serve WillKat a proper spot of Earl Grey?
• Sitting down in a chair sounds pretty basic, right? Oh, no it’s not. Meier enthused that Kate is especially adept at this skill, and expertly demonstrated her signature move that involves a quick little pivot and bend. Trust me, seeing something as simple as sitting done so masterfully ruins you from ever flopping again. After several run-throughs, I began to get the hang of the glide-toward-the-chair/pivot/sit trifecta (tip: quietly humming “God Save the Queen” helps). Once she’s seated, Kate’s feet remain firm on the floor, legs together and slightly angled (never crossed willy-nilly), perched slightly toward the edge of the seat, shoulders back, back straight, hands neatly folded in lap (see photo). I’d love to be known the world over for my ability to sit beautifully, so this is something I’ll continue to practice.
• Now, about that curtsy. When Will and Kate are in the U.S., it isn’t necessary for Americans to curtsy (though if you meet them on their home turf, bow down). But since there are so few opportunities in life when curtsying is even an option, why not at least make the gesture. Note this is not a Cinderella-like swoop to the ground, but more of a slight bend and dip. (Now that I’m basically a Kate-bot, I’m happy to demo this upon request.)
The verdict: There’s more to being a princess than how she eats soup (but for the record, it’s spoon away from you, and obviously forget about slurping). HRH is all about exuding warmth and hospitality, not being afraid to make a joke, and helping everyone around her feel comfortable. That should inspire us all to be a little more etiquette-full. I left feeling ready to rub elbows with Princess Beatrice, Baroness Schraeder, the Shahs of Sunset, Lady Gaga or any other nobility. On a scale of one to Prince George, I give it a George – with a cuddly wombat.