Kate Middleton greets guests at royal carol concert
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Zara and Mike Tindall may not carry official royal titles, but they are very much part of the British Royal Family. Over the past few months, the couple has attended several royal engagements where they have been greeted warmly by other senior members. Express.co.uk spoke to body language expert Judi James about the interactions between Zara and Mike, and other royals.
Judi said: “Zara Tindall and her husband Mike always look like the most popular royals in the family, consistently giving and receiving the warmest and most tactile greeting signals that look spontaneous and authentic.
“Their position in the Royal Family gives them an advantage in terms of their body language reactions.
“While the other royals are bound by protocol, status pecking order and tradition, Zara and Mike, as non-royals, can move and behave more freely.
“They might be well down the line in terms of royal rank but their social, pack rank is higher than many of their close relatives.”
She added: “Not only is Zara the daughter of one of the leading and most formidable royals, she and Mike are also sporting heroes in the real world, giving them an alpha status that is earned rather than bestowed by birth.
“This combination has produced high displays of emotion and spontaneity from Zara, which could have felt threatening to the more traditionalist royals.
“Their warm and open responses though show how Zara must be immeasurably popular with them and how trusted, too.
“When Zara hugs the royals reciprocate or at least show signs of pleasure.”
Judi commented: “Even the normally non-tactile Prince Charles will stand beaming happily when Zara performs dominant greeting signals and hugs on him.
“If she were in any way unpopular we would see some polite avoidance or cessation signals from the top royals but, as we can see here, they will often reciprocate in kind, increasing the intensity and the closeness traits of their own rituals to register approval and appreciation.
“Watching the royals meet during the recent Christmas service the masks they are all wearing do suggest their body language might be more cautious, and that the royal parents of very young children could possibly be holding back slightly.
“What we see when Zara hits the group containing her husband and the Cambridges though is a speed of action with no pausing to evaluate or ask silent questions like ‘Shall we greet and how warmly?’”
She went on: “Greeting rituals do normally consist of some pre-touch pauses which, although they only last a few seconds, allow the participants to exchange body language signals of intent.
“Arms might be held out slightly or kept stiffly at sides; smiles might look authentic or fake; a hand might be raised to signal the type of greeting and how close and how tactile it might be.
“But the rituals between Zara and William and Kate appear to be well-honed and honest.
“There are three signals that William uses to signal close friendship and liking.
“Firstly he goes for the partial hug, which is a full-hug substitute and an intentional gesture, placing his hand on Zara’s back as soon as he sees her.
“Secondly his hand is held in an expression of closeness, with the fingers splayed and the thumb cocked to suggest genuine pleasure and affection.
“Thirdly, he shows us he is instantly aware of his wife’s pleasure at meeting up with Zara, using the hand on her back to speed up Zara’s approach to Kate.”
Judi then discussed the Duchess of Cambridge and said: “Kate’s pleasure signals as she is greeting Zara are even more intense.
“Firstly her hug is equally quick to appear and secondly she shoots her arm out to hook it fully around Zara’s shoulders.
“Her third signal is how she using it to pull Zara into a very intimate hug in terms of closeness, with the cheek-to-cheek touch showing strong affection.
“Kate’s fourth signal is even more emphatic. While in the hug she performs an intensifying or add-on ritual in this greeting, holding Zara in the hug a little longer than normal and squeezing her extra tight to signal the strongest of bonds.
“We can also see in another ritual between Kate and Zara here how Zara performs a clinging hug, throwing both arms around Kate’s waist and tilting her head up to place her chin on Kate’s shoulder, rather like a small child hugging its mother.”
So how does this compare to other royals? Judi explained: “Compared to William and Kate’s greeting rituals with Beatrice and Eugenie we can see huge differences in the levels of love, closeness and friendship signalling.
“William stretched an arm out to Eugenie but his hand only reaches her upper arm.
“There is no attempt to close the large spatial gap between them and Eugenie even performs some quick pats on William’s waist.
“Quick patting during a greeting ritual is usually a ‘break’ signal, meaning Eugenie could be telling him here that she doesn’t need their greeting to get any more tactile or affectionate.
“Kate does hook an arm around Beatrice’s shoulder for a partial hug but the women’s faces seem to fall apart naturally, which could be down to social reserve or wariness about covid.
“Mike looks so easygoing with William and Kate and the way he uses extended eye contact with Kate plus the way he and William seem to fall into some instant banter suggests the Cambridges might quietly idolize Zara’s ex-rugby star husband.
“But it is children who always produce the most honest body language, meaning it was Mia’s obvious delight when she spotted Charlotte walking rather seriously down the aisle at Prince Philip’s memorial and her attempts to catch her eye and wave that really showed the strong bonds between both families.
“It was a natural and spontaneous moment that suggested she was not only happy to see Charlotte but that she expected the same happiness in response,” the expert concluded.
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