A beloved figure by many on both sides of the Atlantic, former US First Lady Michelle Obama recently commented on the time she ‘broke protocol’ when she first met The Queen in 2009 – her first year as First Lady.
When she and President Obama travelled to Buckingham Palace a few months after the President was inaugurated, Michelle greeted The Queen and put her arm around her for a photo. Touching The Queen is a supposed no-no, and the ‘protocol breach’ was spread across the news.
While in the UK on Sunday for her book tour for her autobiography Becoming, Mrs Obama joked, “Yikes! Sorry, guys!”
She admitted that it was a natural reaction (and how many Americans take photos). The former First Lady obviously meant no harm or insult, “I don’t know that I could have done anything differently because it was a natural human reaction.”
Mrs Obama said she learned to keep her hands together in other such meetings so as not to make the same ‘human’ mistake.
She did touch on the subject in her memoir remarking, “I then did what’s instinctive to me anytime I feel connected to a new person, which is to express my feelings outwardly. I laid a hand affectionately across her shoulder.”
Her Majesty did not appear to mind the incident with Michelle noting, “I daresay that The Queen was okay with it, too, because when I touched her, she only pulled closer, resting a gloved hand lightly on the small of my back.”
Back in 2009, a Buckingham Palace spokesperson revealed that The Queen was not bothered and there were no rules on touching when meeting Her Majesty.
“It was a mutual and spontaneous display of affection. We don’t issue instructions on not touching The Queen,” they said.
President and Mrs Obama were later hosted by Her Majesty on a state visit in 2011. They have a close relationship with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry – notably visiting them at Kensington Palace in 2016. Prince Harry and Mrs Obama have become good friends and have worked together on the Invictus Games.