This week’s column: how to propose

I happen to know that Prince Harry’s been talking to his pals about his wedding to Meghan Markle, so I thought it time that we address the proposal. How to propose versus how not to propose. Because, Harry, old bean, it’s all very well going round and discussing your nuptials with people but what if you bend down on the wrong knee – appalling faux-pas – when you ask her to marry you and she says no as a result?

Don’t panic chaps. Just joking. There is no wrong knee (*technically* it’s traditional to go down on the left, but if she’s fussing about which knee you’re on at the critical moment think quite hard about whether you want to marry this harridan). There are definitely better ways to propose than others, though. And since I am neither engaged nor married I can speak with unclouded authority on the subject.

First things first, Harry, here’s a rule from my dad on the topic of proposals. And this rule is ‘never get engaged in bed.’ Dad had other, more typically parental rules when my siblings and I were growing up – ‘don’t take drugs’, ‘work hard at school’, ‘wear shoes to the table’ and so on. But this engagement rule was right up there. His theory is that a proposal in bed, at a moment of heightened emotions, could be confusing. Neither of you may be thinking properly, insisted Dad. So, best to do it at least partly clothed.

So, if not in bed, where? Well, Sloaney, loafer-wearing men are often fond of grand but potentially disastrous gestures when it comes to proposals. Take my friend Hugo, who wanted to propose on a chair-lift while skiing in the Alps a couple of years ago. He practised the removing of the ring box from his ski-suit while on a chair-lift the day before he intended to propose, but instead of a ring box Hugo used a packet of Rizla papers. Fumbling with his gloves, he dropped the Rizlas and they fluttered several feet beneath him into the snow. Happily, the following day he proposed on the side of a ski run instead and all was well.

Another pal, Charlie, proposed while on a fishing holiday. He tied his diamond ring on to the end of his fishing line, flicked the line back into a tree behind him and pretended his fishing fly had become stuck on a twig. He asked his beloved, presumably sitting bored on the riverbank, to disentangle the line from the tree, whereupon she found the ring. Again, a sweet idea and Charlie pulled it off, but flinging diamond rings about the place on fishing rods is also fairly high-risk.

The ultimate prize for dicey engagement tactics goes to a Russian man called Alexey who, a few years ago, decided to fake his own death before proposing to his girlfriend. Alexey hired a stuntman, a make-up artist, a screenwriter and a director to stage his grand plan – to ‘die’ in a car crash and be loaded into an ambulance, before springing back out from this ambulance with balloons, flowers, and an engagement ring for his weeping girlfriend, hovering somewhere nearby. ‘I wanted her to realize how empty her life would be without me,’ Alexey said at the time. As plans go, this one has an air of Bertie Worcester about it. Still, Alexey’s girlfriend – poor sap – fell for it and said yes. Although I suspect she remains a bit cross about it.

So, Harry, no naked proposals in bed, no risky proposals where you may lose the ring, no faking your own death. And while we’re at it no proposing in restaurants because I observed this in a restaurant in Oslo a couple of years ago and the woman said yes but she looked pretty embarrassed about it and also – being selfish for a tick – everyone else’s food went cold as we had to aaaaah and cheer them on.

If Meghan has started agitating about this engagement (leaving magazines around the place lying open at engagement ring advert, as various girlfriends of mine have before), don’t do what another Sloane did recently either. His girlfriend was enormously keen to get engaged, so, one afternoon, they went for a romantic walk, he got down on one knee and – ta da – pulled a whole Camembert out of his pocket as a joke. This – perhaps unsurprisingly – backfired, she ran off weeping and ended their relationship until a few weeks later when the Sloane persuaded her to meet in a London park and, like some kind of cheese-crazed magician, produced another Camembert from his pocket. Luckily, this one had a diamond ring sticking out of it and she said yes. Even still, Harry, probably best leave cheese out of it.