Oh My! First Lady Commits a Royal No-No

Michelle Obama briefly touches Queen of England during visit

Ellie Goulding AM (22 of 36)
Alex Matthews

Oh, the horror! First Lady Michelle Obama may have committed a major gaffe when she broke the most basic rule of etiquette in the Royal company of the Queen: never ever touch Her Majesty. Ever.  Or maybe Michelle Obama was simply reciprocating a simple human touch.

Despite exhaustive briefings on how to conduct herself around Queen Elizabeth II in advance of the Obama's trip to Buckingham Palace, the First Lady seemingly threw protocol out of the window when she briefly put her arm around the Queen and touched her back.

But, unlike other dignitaries who have breached the policy in the past, Obama seems to have avoided the public humiliation associated with poor Buckingham Palace manners.

Time.com reported that the two were chatting at a reception when the faux pas occurred. The diminutive Queen and the statuesque Obama may have been comparing height when Her Majesty put her hand on the First Lady's back. Obama returned the warm gesture, placing her hand on the Queen's back for a few moments, The Times Online reported.

Queen Elizabeth did not react. In fact, she may have liked it.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman told the Associated Press he could not recall a time where the Queen was touchy feely with a first lady or dignitary.

"It was a mutual and spontaneous display of affection," he said. "We don't issue instructions on not touching the queen."

In 2007, former Australian Prime Minister John Howard was panned for apparently touching the Queen when trying to direct her through a crowd. His spokesman strongly denied the contact in a statement that tersely read: "We firmly deny that there was any contact whatsoever," according to The Times Online.

In 1992, another Aussie PM, Paul Keating, was named the "Lizard of Oz" after putting his arm around Her Highness.

According to Time, since it was the Queen who first touched Obama, the First Lady can perhaps be excused for reciprocating. In any case, the forbidden touch doesn't seem to rate after former president George W. Bush confounded observers when he winked at the Queen during their meeting.

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