Touching the Queen

Did Michelle Obama make a major diplomatic mistake when she touched the Queen?  (This is much more interesting to think about than the economic agreements that came out of the G-20.)  Everyone is writing about it and talking about it.

 We start with Mika Brzezinski saying ” you don’t touch the Queen” and then today’s stories including this also from MSNBC

Mrs. Obama clearly made an impression with the 82-year-old monarch — so much that the smiling queen strayed slightly from protocol and briefly wrapped her arm around the first lady in a rare public show of affection.

It was the first time Mrs. Obama — who is nearly a foot taller — had met the queen. The first lady also wrapped her arm around the monarch’s shoulder and back.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman who asked not to be identified because of palace policy said he could not remember the last time 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.”

It was the first time Mrs. Obama — who is nearly a foot taller — had met the queen. The first lady also wrapped her arm around the monarch’s shoulder and back.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman who asked not to be identified because of palace policy said he could not remember the last time 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.”

Then the Guardian weighed in with the headline Michelle Obama’s G20 faux pas brings out Queen’s touchy-feely side.  The story continued

Whoever briefed Michelle Obama on the things one does and doesn’t do with one’s hands when one meets the Queen must be wondering what went wrong.

 

Within minutes of their first encounter at Buckingham Palace yesterday, America’s first lady broke royal protocol by doing the unthinkable: she gave the Queen a hug. The monarch, for her part, responded with equally flagrant disregard for convention by returning the gesture.

 

Proceedings had begun innocuously enough following the Obamas’ arrival at the palace – polite handshakes, a curtsey and chit chat with the Duke of Edinburgh, who asked the president how he’d managed to stay awake all day.

Then, at the “getting to know you drink”, there was an exchange of dialogue between Michelle Obama and the Queen (they seemed to compliment each other on their shoes). At this stage, with everything going so swimmingly, the first lady put her arm around the Queen. The monarch appeared awkward at first, but after this initial surprise and hesitation, she seemed to respond positively by putting her arm round Obama’s waist.

 

So it was not quite a major diplomatic incident. And does it reflect a softening of the royal protocol that forbids physical contact with the Queen beyond handshakes? The Queen is widely regarded as formal but close observers point out that a number of traditional rules for dealing with the monarch have been relaxed in recent times. Bowing, for example, is no longer required.

And the picture is priceless

Michelle Obama with her arm around the Queen during a reception at Buckingham Palace

The Queen who is tiny – around my size – and the tall Michelle.  I think Michelle was being herself and the Queen clearly appreciated her.

 

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