The Exact Right Way To Hold Silverware, According To British Royal Etiquette

The American public will never tire of learning the intricacies of British royal life, from detailed descriptions of every royal wedding to odd traditions from days of yore (like telling the monarch's bees when the ruler dies), to Queen Victoria's passion for mangosteen. But few elements of the royal existence appear as elegant yet intimidating as dining etiquette.

Anyone who grew up watching "The Princess Diaries" (and remains haunted by the mint sorbet brain freeze scene) probably maintains a secret deep-seated fear that they will one day have to dine with royalty without making an absolute fool of themselves. And it's not an unfounded one if you've seen the viral TikTok explaining the painstaking Royal etiquette for eating peas with a fork – and those who are posh apply this knife-scooting to all foods, not just peas.

So if you happen to find yourself at tea with the King, make sure you have the basics of silverware handling down: a knife in the right hand, a fork in the left, and never the twain shall swap. While this bit of etiquette is technically out of fashion, many British still follow the royal rule.

Righty or lefty?

If you grew up in the United States, you probably handle your fork in your left hand and your knife in your right hand while you're cutting your food, and then switch your fork to the right hand to eat with. It's a logical move: Assuming that most people are right-handed, both the heavy work of cutting food with a knife — and the ease of delivery of that food afterward to your mouth — are put into the dominant hand. Though historically, the British keeping the knife in the right hand is a throwback to the days of swordsmanship when men were expected to always be armed in the dominant hand.

But not switching at all would be the more traditional move — and, yes, in fact, it's how most still Brits eat. The more important thing to keep in mind is the position of the index finger, which should be extended along both the knife and fork to steady the utensils while eating. Don't dip your finger past the handle of each, however, as that becomes crass. 

Other royal etiquette rules

There are plenty of other things to keep in mind when theoretically dining with royalty. Once you've got your utensil positioning down, you'll need to know where to put your knife and fork after you've finished your meal. You might be familiar with the "pause" or "resting" position, in which fork and knife are placed on top of your plate, tilted in, to form a loose triangle with a point at the top of your plate.

When you are finished, however, your fork and knife should be placed vertically on top of your plate, facing upwards, with the tines of the fork and tip of the knife at the top of the plate. Specifically, if dining with the King, you would need to remember to do this as soon as his Royal Highness does, as everyone follows his cues. Be sure never to cross your silverware, however, as it could be taken as a sign that you did not enjoy your dish, or that you're ready for your next course.