The Royal Pastry Etiquette That's Questionable At Best

When Grant Harrold offers tips on eating pastry like a royal, you should pay attention. Harrold, who shares advice as @the_royal_butler on Instagram, has firsthand experience serving the royal family. From 2005 to 2011, he was the butler to King Charles III and Queen Camilla, although at the time they were still known as the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. Still, royal is royal, and Harrold has also notably served Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, making him well-versed in proper etiquette. His expertise has even earned him more than half a million followers on Instagram.

However, that very expertise was called into question after Harrold posted an Instagram proclamation regarding pastry. According to Harrold, breakfast diners should never take more than one pastry — and only after first offering them to others. Many commenters appeared up in arms over the implications of this etiquette rule, questioning not whether the British royal family was obligated to follow it, but whether anyone else should.

The pushback was particularly intense, it should be noted, from some of the royal family's former colonial subjects.

Royal pastry etiquette

One commenter on Grant Harrold's pastry etiquette post wrote that the former royal butler was "doing it all wrong," adding that "in India, table etiquette does not define a specific limit on how many pieces you can eat." In Harrold's defense, he was not discussing etiquette in India, which gained independence from British rule in 1947; he was solely focused on etiquette for the royal family of Great Britain.

"Food is food," another commenter — presumably not a member of the royal family, and thus not actually obligated to follow the rule — wrote. "Just eat it. No one does that anymore."

Other commenters objected to Harrold's example in the accompanying video, which showed him picking up a pastry and then returning it to the breakfast basket. "Would Her Late Majesty have approved?" one poster asked, referring to what seemed like an obvious faux pas, even by non-royal standards.

Is pastry etiquette universal?

Given that Grant Harrold has not only served the royal family but also helped establish The Royal School of Etiquette, it's likely that his views on pastry consumption meet royal standards. But what about the rest of us? Are Americans, who have been free of British rule since 1776, obligated to offer the pastry basket to others before taking one? And must we limit ourselves to just one? After all, some mini pastries are bite-sized; do those count as one as well?

If you find yourself in a situation where a pastry basket is being passed around, we'd advise following Harrold's guidance and taking only one, regardless of its size. It's the polite thing to do. However, since morning pastry baskets are rare in the U.S., this seems like an unlikely scenario. In most instances, such as at a bakery or restaurant, feel free to order as many pastries as you desire.

There are, however, some general etiquette guidelines for eating pastries. For example, eclairs and cream puffs should ideally be eaten with a fork and knife — although be careful, lest the cream filling spurt out. Other popular pastries, like butter croissants and Danishes, can be safely consumed using just your fingers. That might not be how royalty eat them, mind you, but it's acceptable for the rest of us.