I assumed at the time that she - the relative - was joking. Clearly, thought I, the family I'm marrying into must possess a brilliant sense of humo(u)r, and that this was some kind of gotcha.
I waited for the punchline. The relative waited for my answer. The longer she did so - her face painted with puzzlement - the more painfully obvious it became that no punchline was coming. She legitimately wanted to know if I was buddies with Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.
"... ", said I.
"What about Prince William?", she persisted.
Did I have the heart to tell her the truth? Would I somehow become ostracized if I divulged that, in fact, I had not even so much as met a Royal family member?
I looked at my wife, who offered an awkward if knowing smile. It was the sort of smile that said "yeah, so, this is my family." It also said "Laurence, it's rude not to answer someone when they ask you a question."
"Sadly, I do not know The Queen," I conceded, after taking my first sip of American tap water. "But my brother touched Prince Charles on the shoulder once. Does that count?"
Now don't get me wrong: not everyone can be expected to know all the ins and outs of another country. Indeed, it took me four years to work out that America did not use the word "trowel". But, the idea that the Queen somehow bears an intimate friendship with every person in Great Britain - an island of roughly 62 million inhabitants - is, in the words of my new compatriots, messed up.
It's pretty much the same thing as asking the crew of Apollo 11: "so when you went to the moon, did you see the Mother Ship from Independence Day?"
Four years on, and I still periodically get the same question. Only now, after years of experience, I have learned to respond swiftly with the only comeback that truly makes sense, which is this: "so... do you know the president?"