Charming Michelle Obama breaks royal protocol

3rd April 2009, Comments 0 comments

The US first lady clearly made an impression with Queen Elizabeth II — so much that the smiling queen strayed from protocol and put her arm around the first lady in a rare public show of affection.

LONDON – Michelle Obama dared touch Queen Elizabeth II, but the US first lady has made such an impact in Britain that she was spared the media savaging that has gone with previous breaches of royal protocol.

The pair met at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday. The British monarch put her arm around the waist of President's Barack Obama's wife. The much taller first lady responded by putting an arm around the queen.

On the rare occasions that the breach has happened in the past, British newspapers poured scorn, fury and accusations of disrespect on the perpetrators.

Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating was dubbed the republican "Lizard of Oz" after he put his arm around the queen in 1992. French President Jacques Chirac nearly came in for the same treatment when he nearly touched the queen in 2004.

A picture of Wednesday's incident made the front page of The Times and was featured in other media. But the focus was on the obvious warmth between the two women which highlighted the way the Obamas have charmed Britain on this first presidential visit.

"Protocol seems to be dispensed with when the Obamas come to town," said The Times.

"The US president and his wife appeared very relaxed in the company of the queen and the duke of Edinburgh (Prince Philip) from the start.

"As they moved closer and continued to chat, the queen put her hand on the back of Mrs Obama, who did the same for a few moments.

"Before she departed, Mrs Obama told the queen: 'I really enjoyed our meeting'."

President Obama, who gave the monarch an i-Pod as a gift, said beforehand that his wife was looking forward to meeting the queen. "Michelle has been really thinking that through because I think in the imagination of people throughout America, I think what the queen stands for and her decency and her civility, what she represents, that's very important," he said.

The BBC reported that Queen Elizabeth said to Michelle Obama: "Now we've met, will you please keep in touch?"

French president Chirac went to comical lengths to avoid touching Queen Elizabeth during one meeting in 2004, springing from one side to the other as he tried to guide the sovereign to the right spot without making contact.

But he was nonetheless roasted in Britain's newspapers for coming within a whisker of manhandling the monarch.

AFP / Expatica

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