Watch any coverage of the festivities surrounding the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this week, and there you’ll see it: the royal wave.
It’s the often imitated but never fully duplicated gesture that conveys regality, class and control all in one succinct movement.
“You can recognize a royal wave immediately,” said ABC News’ royal expert Victoria Arbiter. “It’s a vertical hand with a slight twist from the wrist, a classy affair that oozes decorum but doesn’t get too excitable.”
And that is what makes the royal wave so singularly British. While Americans have the fist bump and the high-five, the British have the slight hand twist, a move through which the royal family tells its subjects we’re part of you but don’t expect an invitation to tea at Buckingham Palace.
“That particular style of wave is pretty much restricted to members of the royal family,” Arbiter said of the flick of the wrist mastered by the queen in particular. “It denotes class, elegance, restraint and character.”
“The British don’t like to make a fuss, and I suppose the royal wave illustrates that beautifully,” she said.
With 60 years of practice under her sash, at more than 420 engagements per year, the queen is undoubtedly the master of the royal wave, a move she likely learned from her own grandmother, Queen Mary.
Next in line is Prince Charles, who doesn’t grab attention with big moves but mixes a military salute with his wave.
And then there’s the new, old royal guard. Like any other newlywed couple, Prince William and Kate Middleton are in sync, on the same wave length. Their wave is open fingers, open palms, offering an open look at the younger generation of royals.
And, of course, there’s Prince Harry, who like William and Kate, infuses his wave with a bit more energy than the generation before him.
“Their wave is probably a little less formal, as they’re aware of all the jokes,” Arbiter said of the younger royals. “They wave a little more freely, but it’s still fairly composed. More of a hand raise as opposed to the twist of the wrist.”