Lady Susan Hussey was an adviser and confidante to late Queen Elizabeth II. She was also the wife of Marmaduke Hussey, chairman of the BBC 1986-1996. All of them feature in the episode of the latest Netflix series of the Crown that covers the interview Diana Princess of Wales gave the disgraced former television presenter Martin Bashir in 1996, which infuriated Duke Hussey with his director-general for letting it run.

Lady Hussey was kept as an unpaid courtier to Queen Camilla when Charles became king on September 8, 2022 on the death of Elizabeth, but had to resign last week after allegedly quizzing a black woman, Ngozi Fulani, at a Buckingham Palace reception about where she came from.

The reception was an anti-domestic violence event and Ngozi Fulani was there as chief executive of Sistah Space, a charity that supports victims of domestic abuse of Afro-Caribbean heritage. Ms Fulani gave a verbatim account of Lady Hussey’s questions directed at finding out her heritage that included the classic: where do you really come from?

Was the question borne of racism or curiosity? That was the question amongst the English chattering classes last week surpassed only by the Harry and Meghan documentary on Netflix though the two bump into each other rather nicely.

There is nothing wrong with being asked where you are from if the person asking the question cannot tell your nationality from your appearance, which does not just mean skin colour but includes your name, style of dress, deportment and the way you choose to present yourself.

It is a most natural question to break the ice at receptions or other social gatherings, or even as a flirty pass on chance encounters in public spaces. A pass is unacceptable if uninvited but if invited, where are you from is want people ask instinctively.

The question is also asked rhetorically. It is the refrain in the lyrics of the pop song You Sexy Thing by Hot Chocolate revived in the film The Full Monty in 1997.

I believe in miracles

Where’re you from?

You sexy thing, sexy thing you

I believe in miracles since you came along

You sexy thing

Where did you come from baby

Where did you come from angel

Ms Fulani would probably take issue with the lyrics as oozing male chauvinism, but if you put political correctness to one side, the song is up there with Abba’s Dancing Queen as a top dance tune; it famously got Prince Charles’ foot tapping while on a pretend dole queue in a video he did for the Prince’s Trust in 1998.

Lady Hussey is alleged to have been racist because she kept asking Ms Fulani’s where she was from but has not given her version of the conversation or attempted to defend herself.

We know that Buckingham Palace accepted her resignation when the story broke, but that does not necessarily mean she accepts the verbatim account given by Ms Fulani since the Palace and Lady Hussey might have agreed she should resign to kill the story.

My take is that the whole incident is a storm in a teacup. I have Cypriot and British nationality. I was born in Cyprus, but I have been resident in UK since 1968. I have no problem telling anyone who asks that I come from Cyprus. Perhaps that’s because I was not born in UK, but even if I were born there say after my parents emigrated in UK from Cyprus, I would still have no problem revealing that my parents were from Cyprus but I was born in UK.

What’s the big deal? In America they have the opposite problem. My late brother studied in America in the 1960s and began to sound American as one does in the US. He told me that on being asked where he was from and replying Cyprus, he would often be asked in which state of the US Cyprus was located – Americans are notoriously parochial though I confess I have yet to meet an American I did not like.

Ngozi Fulani is a woman of colour born in England but she went to the Buckingham Palace reception dressed in African ethnic dress and if you present yourself as ethnic and the name you present on your badge is obviously African, you are likely to be asked about your ethnicity and it is a bit rich then to complain that you were asked where you were really from.

I don’t believe Lady Susan Hussey was being remotely racist in her encounter with Ngozi Fulani. I could discern nothing objectively racist in the version Ms Fulani herself put out on social media.

What happened in a nutshell was that Lady Hussey asked where she came from to which her answer could and should have been that she was born in UK, but that her parents came from Barbados and that would have been the end of the matter. Instead she ducked and dived that smacked of entrapment – to me she sounded like a guest with an agenda. It was as if she was goading her host into saying something not quite politically correct. Lady Hussey didn’t realise she was being played and continued making small talk by asking where she really came from in the sense of where Ngozi Fulani’s people came from to which the answer was from Barbados in the 1950s – why not just say that at the beginning?

Having been the queen’s adviser and friend for many years it seems Lady Hussey picked up the queen’s habit of solving the problem of having to make small talk with many people at speed by asking questions and a harmless way of doing that is to ask people where they come from.

HM must be turning in her grave.

Alper Ali Riza is a king’s counsel in the UK and a retired part-time judge