Several readers have asked me about Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to bow to the Queen during the State Opening of Parliament. Some on social media have accused him of showing a lack of respect for Her Majesty, while others have lauded him for taking a stand against the monarchy.
The truth is much less exciting. Corbyn was simply following protocol. Traditionally, the Speaker, the Clerk, and the Serjeant-at-Arms are the only people from the Commons who bow. I suspect this is because they are in the front row and therefore more visible to the Queen–if Her Majesty can’t see you bow, the gesture becomes rather pointless. Similarly, the judges are usually the only ones in the House of Lords who bow since they’re sitting right in front of the Throne. Now it’s not unheard of for MPs to get caught up in the moment and bow even though it’s not necessary (e.g., Theresa May). But Corbyn can hardly be faulted for following protocol.