Michelle Obama Breaks Royal Protocol Thursday, Apr 2 2009
After only one meeting, U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama seems to have made such a good impression on Queen Elizabeth II. So much so, she was given a pass when she broke royal protocol.
After the initial meeting with the Queen, President and Mrs. Obama went to an evening reception at Buckingham Palace for world leaders attending the G-20 summit.
During the reception, the First Lady had a chance to chat with the British monarch. At one point, the Queen put her arm around Michelle Obama’s waist.
In return, Mrs. Obama – nearly a foot taller – put her arm around Queen Elizabeth’s shoulders.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman who asked not to be identified because of palace policy said he could not remember the last time that the Queen had displayed such public affection with a first lady or dignitary.
“It was a mutual and spontaneous display of affection,” he said. “We don’t issue instructions on not touching the Queen.”
According to eyewitnesses, the exchange occurred as the Queen was waiting in the Throne Room following the official group picture with the national leaders for the G-20 Summit.
One said, ”There was a bit of a bottleneck as all of the leaders filed out so the Queen started chatting to Michelle Obama. She appeared to look up at her and make a comment about how tall she was.
“As she did, she put her arm around Mrs Obama and rested her gloved hand on the small of her back.”
Almost simultaneously, Mrs Obama put her arm around the Queen’s shoulders rather more firmly.
‘The pair then looked at their feet and appeared to be discussing their shoes.
“The Queen then dropped her arm and, a few seconds later, Michelle did the same. The entire exchange lasted around eight to ten seconds but was absolutely extraordinary.”
The last time anyone put their arms around Her Majesty was in 1992. The then Prime Minister of Australia, Paul Keating, was called the “Lizard of Oz” by the tabloids for doing so.