- In her new memoir, “Becoming,” Michelle Obama detailed the time she broke royal protocol by touching Queen Elizabeth II.
- Obama said that during their first meeting in April 2009, she and the Queen bonded over the pain of wearing heels.
- Obama said she placed a hand on the Queen’s shoulder – something she later learned was against the rules.
- But the monarch appeared to reciprocate the feeling, placing a hand on Obama’s back.
- During their final meeting, the Queen surprised Obama again when she told her to sit wherever she liked.
Michelle Obama certainly had a special relationship with Queen Elizabeth II during her husband’s eight years in office.
In her new memoir, “Becoming,” the former first lady detailed the two times she broke royal protocol while meeting with the Queen – and how the monarch never seemed to care.
One faux pas happened during their first meeting in April 2009. At a reception for G20 leaders at Buckingham Palace, Obama and the Queen bonded over their shared pain of standing in heels for hours.
“Forget that she sometimes wore a diamond crown and that I’d flown to London on a presidential jet; we were two tired ladies oppressed by our shoes,” Obama recalled. “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.”
Obama said she didn’t realise until later that she had committed “what would be deemed as an epic faux pas,” as one isn’t supposed to touch the Queen.
The moment was captured on camera, and pictures were published in papers around the world. Obama said it “revived some campaign-era speculation that I was generally uncouth and lacking the standard elegance of a First Lady.”
While Obama said she was initially concerned that she had “distracted from Barack’s efforts abroad,” looking back, she’s hardly sorry for cozying up to the monarch.
“I tried not to let the criticism rattle me,” Obama wrote. “If I hadn’t done the proper thing at Buckingham Palace, I had at least done the human thing.”
She added: “I daresay the Queen was ok with it, too, because when I touched her, she only pulled closer, resting a gloved hand lightly on the small of my back.”
The Obamas’ final audience with the Queen
In April 2016, the Obamas flew to the UK for one final state visit with the Queen.
The plan was to fly by helicopter from the US ambassador’s residence in London to Windsor Castle to meet with the Queen and Prince Philip, who would greet them in a field on the estate and drive them back to the palace.
It was a big deal for the Obamas, since it would be the first time they’d ride in a car not driven by Secret Service and without agents in the car. So every detail was planned.
Part of the plan was that Philip would drive, with Michelle sitting in the front seat and the Queen and Barack in the back.
But at the estate, the Queen “threw a wrench into everything by gesturing for me to join her in the back seat of the Range Rover,” Obama wrote.
“I froze, trying to remember if anyone had prepped me for this scenario, whether it was more polite to go along with it or to insist that Barack take his proper seat by her side.
“The Queen immediately picked up on my hesitation. And was having none of it.
“‘Did they give you some rule about this?’ she said, dismissing all the fuss with a wave of her hand. ‘That’s rubbish. Sit wherever you want.'”