Meghan Markle has the sparkle
- Credit: PA
It can’t be easy taking on British citizenship at the same time a becoming a member of the royal family...
We are told Prince Harry’s fiancée, American actor Meghan Markle, intends to become a UK citizen. The prince’s spokesman Jason Knauf said Ms Markle “will go through the process of (becoming a citizen), which some of you may know takes a number of years”.
As yet we don’t know whether she will also retain her US citizenship and take dual nationality.
Speaking as a citizen of the UK for nearly 63 years, I can speak with some authority on this matter and I know that not only will Ms Markle need to apprise herself about what makes us tick, she will have the added challenge of being in the public eye and, as a royal visitor, being asked oblique questions.
Americans tend to obfuscate less than us, their transatlantic cousins. In attempting to behave in a polite and genteel manner, we can appear to be speaking in code..
I worry that the simple invitation to go to the toilet may be lost under layers of deference.
For example: “Would you like to powder your nose” might, wrongly be interpreted as an inference that a nose is shiny and the make-up needs attention.
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“Do you need the ladies?” If you don’t know this means the ladies’ loo, then you might get quite the wrong idea.
“Would you like to inspect the plumbing?” is only a realistic option in a DIY store while a visit to the “little girls’ room” might raise the spectre of those tiny junior school toilets.
It’s not going to be easy.
Then there is the traditional UK tea ceremony. The seemingly simple question: “Would you like a cup of tea,” is over-layered with so much social nicety and historic Britishness that Ms Markle would do well to avoid any inference that she would prefer a coffee.
This can cause a narrowing of eyes and a good deal of bluster as the host organisation will almost certainly have only a jar of instant. Coffee pod machines are becoming more popular but a spoonful of Gold Blend is still the norm in many places. I’m not saying it’s not a good but it’s not designer blended by a skilled barista.
It’s okay to refuse a cup of tea if you had one a few minutes earlier but when a royal visitor sees the eager expectation in the eyes of her hosts, it is difficult to refuse.
By and large, there will not be a wide choice of tea available. I expect someone from Prince’s press office will phone in advance if you need to get in one of those new-fangled green teas or one infused with flowers or fruit. But if the cup of tea offer is impromptu the likelihood is we’re talking PG Tips or Yorkshire. Within the range of tea bags the choices tend to be limited to strong or weak, milk or black, sugar or not.
A plate of biscuits will appear unannounced, chocolate ones nearest the royal visitor. It is, of course, okay to dunk. I’m not sure that royalty can get things wrong when it comes to matters of etiquette, they merely change accepted norms.
East Anglia, although it does not, currently, have its own citizenship test (maybe it should), has its own take. There is some terminology that the new princess may need to work on. “Parky out,” as we all know, refers to the weather being cold outside but a person of the American persuasion may find such a reference a little concerning.
Being asked if she’s finicky may cause a raised eyebrow if the newly-royal personage is unaware that this means fussy, most often about food. “I hope you’re not finicky,” is often a warning that there’s going to be something unusual for lunch ? Larose and medlars, maybe?
“It’s a bit on the huh,” should be self-explanatory. The leaning tower of Pisa is the obvious example.
In fact, Ms Markle, should she arrive a few minutes late (hold-ups on M25) to an engagement in East Anglia might like to consider mentioning this by using the term “on the drag”, another of those great phrases that could be badly misunderstood in other parts of the country but makes perfect sense here.
It’s not easy being British. I’ve been doing it since 1955 and would not claim to be any sort of expert. But at least I haven’t had to face Christmas lunch with the royal family with all that entails in terms of etiquette. I wonder if they watch the Queen’s speech?
Ms Markle, bride -to-be of the man fifth in line to the British throne, we salute you. But then, Amor, as they say, Omnia Vincit ? love conquers all.