Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009

Michelle Obama's Buckingham Brush with Etiquette

"No one — including the ladies-in-waiting standing nearby — could believe their eyes. In 57 years, the Queen has never been seen to make that kind of gesture and it is certainly against all protocol to touch her."

— The Daily Mail, quoting a person who witnessed First Lady Michelle Obama touch the Queen of England (April 1)

The British tabloids went nuts when the First Lady briefly put her hand on the back of Queen Elizabeth II during the Obamas' official visit to England. It wasn't the first time royal etiquette had gotten a politician into trouble. In 2000, Australian Prime Minister John Howard got plenty of criticism for apparently putting his arm around the Queen to direct her through a crowd.

However, many said the First Lady's move wasn't a breach of protocol and that she made the gesture only after the Queen had placed her hand on the First Lady's back as part of their conversation. And Buckingham Palace dismissed the controversy, calling it a "mutual and spontaneous display of affection."