Tuesday, Apr. 28, 2009

A Royal Embrace, A Russian Entente

Day 72
April 1, 2009

"(It was) a mutual and spontaneous display of affection and appreciation."

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman, describing First Lady Michelle Obama's embrace of the Queen during the First Family's visit, which many criticized as being against protocol

"I can only agree that relations between our countries have been complicated ... They were drifting."

Dmitry Medvedev, President of Russia, during a press availability with President Barack Obama in London

It's a jam-packed first full day in London for the First Couple, who are cheered by Prime Minister Gordon Brown's staff as they arrive at 10 Downing Street. Obama spends the morning meeting with leaders, including China's President, Hu Jintao, and Russia's Medvedev, who agrees to reopen discussions about cutting nuclear warheads. Medvedev still seems wary of a stronger relationship with the U.S., but Obama announces he'll be visiting Moscow in July.

The First Lady, meanwhile, has her own agenda, as she visits a hospital in West London with Sarah Brown. She also gets to dine with author J.K. Rowling and actors from the Harry Potter films, along with the rest of the G-20 spouses, as the leaders participate in a working dinner of their own.

Her glowing reviews are briefly interrupted, however, when she apparently makes a faux pas by briefly putting her hand on the back of Queen Elizabeth II while chatting at a reception at Buckingham Palace. Royal etiquette is supposed to be etched in stone — "Whatever you do, don't touch the Queen!" — but many observers defend Obama, pointing out that the Queen did graze the First Lady's back first. In any case, a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman politely brushes off the embrace, insisting there was no breach of protocol whatsoever; maybe it was the Obamas' gift of an iPod — with video footage of her last trip to the U.S. — that won over the Queen.

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