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The test of a royal romance: how well Meghan Markle knows Prince Harry’s home

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Frank Augstein/Associated Press

LONDON — What did the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284 lay the basis for? Who or what is Vindolanda? Where is the National Horseracing Museum? Name two habits that may start a fight with your neighbor in Britain.

These and other rather esoteric questions are what Meghan Markle, the US actress recently engaged to Prince Harry, Queen Elizabeth II’s grandson and the fifth in line to the throne, will have to master in order to become a British citizen.

Most Britons, even a prime minister, find them almost impossible to answer.

Markle, who was raised in Los Angeles, plans to seek British citizenship after she marries Harry, Kensington Palace confirmed. It is a lengthy process that culminates in a torturous citizenship test that costs about $65 and is typically flunked by one-third to half of the applicants.


The announcement prompted some British news outlets to pounce on her apparent ignorance of “Britishisms” on a television show last year.

“She only managed to get a measly four out of 15 questions about Britain right,” The Mirror, a tabloid, said disapprovingly, adding that she did not know the British word for “sidewalk” and committed a cultural faux pas by venturing that Vegemite was more popular than Marmite.

The word is “pavement,” and Marmite, a yeasty paste spread for bread, is a national treasure. Vegemite is the Australian equivalent.

The citizenship exam “is really hard,” said Julian Knight, a member of Parliament and author of “The British Citizenship Test for Dummies.” “We have a really long history, and it could be really difficult to recall everything,” he said.

Markle has “got to be swotting,” he added, using British slang that, as she will some day come to understand, means “to study assiduously.”

She is refreshingly open about how little she knows about her future adoptive country, let alone the British royal family.


In her first interview with Harry, shortly after their engagement was announced Monday, Markle confessed that she had not been wholly aware of her fiancé’s royal lineage before meeting him. A mutual friend had set the pair up on a blind date, she said, adding, “The only thing I asked her was, ‘Was he nice?’ ”

The exam she will take is known officially as the “Life in the U.K. Test,” and it is required for anyone settling in the country or seeking to become a citizen (and, therefore, a subject of the queen).

Before taking the test, applicants must have been living continuously in Britain for at least five years and must pay an application fee of about 1,200 pounds — that’s $1,600 in the sort of currency Markle best understands.

A spokesman for Kensington Palace insisted that she intended to follow the process the same way as any other “American marrying a British citizen.”

Takers of the exam have 45 minutes to answer 24 multiple-choice questions about British traditions, customs, and history, all of which are based on information in an official handbook published by the Home Office.

Apart from Markle, there has been a spike of interest in the exam as debates over identity have mushroomed after Britain voted last year to withdraw from the European Union, a process known as Brexit.

That referendum focused mostly on immigration, and many voters who support Brexit say British culture is being diluted because of the bloc’s policy of open borders between member countries.