When it came to speaking with the late Queen Elizabeth, using your words correctly was important.
Unsurprisingly, given that she went on to be Britain’s longest reigning monarch, understanding customs and traditions were paramount to Her Majesty – even if you were family.
And Prince Harry found this out the hard way, when poor phrasing during one of the most important conversations of his life resulted in a “cryptic” answer back from the Queen.
Harry picked a bad time for it, too. It was when he went to his grandmother to ask her permission to propose to Meghan Markle.
The first six people in the line of succession must ask the reigning monarch their permission to get married. The Duke of Sussex was sixth at the time – and now he’s moved up to fifth, since his father became King.
So, a smitten Harry went to the late Queen to share his intention of making Meghan Markle his wife. And in his memoir, Spare, we learnt more about how it all went down, including the slight gaffe which led to the Queen’s “cryptic” response.
Spare by Prince Harry, £14 at Amazon
Reflecting upon his experience of life as a member of the Royal Family, Prince Harry gives fascinating insights and revelations all in his own words. This best-seller reflects upon everything from the loss of Princess Diana to Prince Harry's love story with Meghan Markle.View Deal
In the book, Harry says he decided to wait until the family were on a shooting trip in Sandringham before raising the subject, hoping it would put the late Queen in a “good mood.”
Once he had time alone with his grandmother, he plucked up the courage to get the life-changing conversation rolling… and this is where it goes slightly awry.
Harry writes that he said to the late Queen, “I've been told that I have to ask your permission before I can propose.”
Perhaps picking up on the tone, he explains that the Queen then replied, “You have to?”
Maybe it was the intonation that this was a forced gesture, Harry continued and said that’s what he had been told was necessary.
He then writes about a lingering silence before the Queen eventually replied with, “Well then, I suppose I have to say yes.”
Not quite the enthusiastic answer a nervous Prince Harry wanted to hear. Writing in Spare, he reveals, “I didn't get it. Was she being sarcastic? Ironic? Deliberately cryptic? Was she indulging in a bit of wordplay?"
"I'd never known Granny to do any wordplay and this would be a bizarre moment (not to mention widely inconvenient) for her to start, but maybe she just saw the chance to play off my unfortunate use of the word 'have' and couldn't resist.”
Indeed, it was likely the Queen was just being playful and riffing on Harry’s own word choices, because he realised she was of course saying yes. And his initial confusion left him feeling like a “muppet.”
We know, of course, that Harry did go on to pop the question.
In their Netflix series, they shared how the engagement went down. Harry shared that he popped the question on “just a standard, typical night for us.” Meghan added, “Just a cosy night... what were we doing? Roasting chicken and... And it was just... just an amazing surprise, it was so sweet and natural and very romantic. He got on one knee.”
Meghan's engagement ring was made of three stones, a style known as a trilogy ring. The cushion-cut centre diamond of her engagement ring was estimated to be roughly three carats and was sourced from Botswana. The smaller diamonds came from the personal collection of Princess Diana.