Myka Meier, author of Modern Etiquette Made Easy, breaks down what really happened with that so-called "awkward" greeting

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Awkward greetings happen to all of us — including the royals.

On Tuesday, Meghan Markle got the internet talking when she went in for a hug at the same moment that a woman greeted her with a royal-appropriate curtsy, resulting in a few seconds of lighthearted awkwardness. However, did the Duchess of Sussex — who has been known to buck some royal traditions — actually break protocol when she went in for a hug? A royal etiquette expert says no, it was just a case of bad timing.

“With royal protocol, it’s most respectful to wait until the royal extends a handshake, touch or a hug, and you follow their lead,” Myka Meier, author of Modern Etiquette Made Easy, tells PEOPLE. “While although Meghan was initially greeted with a curtsy, which would have been a respectful way to greet a member of the royal family in this situation, it’s clear Meghan was trying to show warmth through her offer to hug as a greeting.”

“In this case, Meghan initiated a hug and the woman [One Young World Summit co-founder Kate Robertson] followed suit, which was perfectly fine. Sometimes it is all a matter of missed timing, not necessarily a break in protocol, and perhaps an earlier curtness would have allowed for both a curtsy and a hug after, but only if the senior royal initiated it.”

It’s also worth noting that Meghan has known Robertson for several years through her work with One Young World, which explains the familiarity between the two women during their greeting.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex
Meghan Duchess of Sussex
Kate Robertson (left) and Meghan Markle
| Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Images

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It’s no surprise that Los Angeles-born Meghan would naturally go for the very American greeting of a hug, over a curtsy. However, according to Meier, it is possible to mix a curtsy with a hug or handshake, which is something that we’ve seen Kate Middleton do before.

“Often we see The Duchess of Cambridge curtsy and then give the Queen a second greeting, which is a perfect example of how you can do both with a bit of timing.”

From left: Kate Middleton, Prince William, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
| Credit: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

So, just remember: if you every find yourself about to greet a royal, just follow their lead — or get your curtsy out of the way when they are still out of hugging distance.