Prince Harry has sparked a conversation about the differences between American and British humour, and respect for royal traditions, after recalling the “yawning silence” that followed Meghan Markle’s joke about her first Trooping the Colour.
The Duke of Sussex recounted the awkward encounter, which took place in 2018 at the official June celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday, in his new memoir Spare. In the book, Harry recalled how his and Meghan’s attendance at the royal ceremony had marked the duchess’ first time attending the event, and one of their “first public appearances as newlyweds”.
According to Harry, who had joined Meghan and the rest of his family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to greet the crowd of well-wishers, everyone present had been “in a good mood, upbeat” on the celebratory day.
However, the mood allegedly changed after Meghan was asked by her sister-in-law Kate Middleton, the Princess of Wales, what she’d thought about the event.
“But then: Kate asked Meg what she thought of her first Trooping the Colour. And Meg joked: Colourful,” Harry wrote. “And a yawning silence threatened to swallow us all whole.”
The excerpt has since sparked a debate on social media, where some have questioned why Meghan’s comment, which was made as a joke, according to Prince Harry, was met with silence by the royal family.
“I actually thought it was quite funny! I wonder why it fell so flat,” one person tweeted, while another said: “I have no idea why they were so offended by that. I thought British people liked humour?”
Someone else said that they spilt their drink out of amusement over Harry’s recollection and the duchess’ response. “I honestly spilled my drink reading this. Meghan couldn’t find any other adjective to use? LOL,” they wrote.
According to another fan, the royal family’s silence in response to Meghan’s joke seemed to suggest “there was already frost in the air”. “I’d imagine from day one, really, with that ripped jeans, barefoot attempted hug,” they added, a reference to Meghan’s recollection about meeting the Prince and Princess of Wales for the first time.
“Nothing worse than snobby, insufferable bores who have no sense of humour!!” someone else tweeted about the family’s reaction.
However, many others were critical of Meghan’s response to Kate, with some suggesting that the joke had shut down the Princess of Wales’ attempt at conversation.
“When someone asks you an open question, it’s an invitation for a conversation. If you give a one-word answer, you are closing that conversation,” one person alleged, while another said: “I thought it was a very sarcastic answer as well. Nothing to invite a warm friendly chat.”
Someone else claimed the duchess’ joke was “inappropriate” and “crass,” and that it was not surprising the royal family responded the way they did.
“The response has bored mean girls written all over it - even with Harry’s positive spin. No wonder it was met with a yawning silence,” another person tweeted.
The excerpt also prompted criticism of Meghan from those who claimed the joke was in poor taste considering the significance of the event.
“Was her comment supposed to be funny? Is that all she could come up with? It’s a magnificent display of tradition and history, lively and utterly spectacular. Dignified and awesome,” one person said, while another critic wrote: “I’m insulted by her response and I’m an American! How do you care so little about the family you’ve married into, to not even bother to learn its history?”
The criticism sparked by Harry’s recollection also extended to the duke himself, as some claimed that the blame for Meghan’s “gaffe” falls on the royal, who should have “emphasised” the importance of the event to his new wife.
“Not a fan of Meghan, but this gaffe is on Harry. He should have emphasised to her the importance and meaningfulness,” one person alleged. “As an American, she wouldn’t have understood the significance. I really do think she was nervous and just trying to be lighthearted, not belittling it. At least this time.”
Elsewhere in the excerpt, Harry recalled Meghan’s first solo royal trip with the Queen, which took place days after Trooping the Colour. According to Harry, the duchess and the late monarch had gotten on “famously” and “bonded over their love of dogs”.
Despite the awkwardness that followed the duchess’ joke in 2018, the couple also attended the Trooping the Colour in 2019, and most recently, in 2022, when they reunited with the royal family during their first trip back to England since they stepped down as senior royals.
The Independent has contacted a representative for the Sussexes for comment.