Michelle Obama On That Time She Broke Royal Protocol With Queen Elizabeth

Written by on April 15, 2019

Michelle Obama is still answering for the time she supposedly breached royal protocol by hugging Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace in 2009. 

The former first lady spoke about the amusing incident on Sunday in London while on the European book tour for her memoir, “Becoming.” 

“Yikes! Sorry, guys,” she joked during her talk, adding that for subsequent events as first lady, she learned to hold her hands together so that she wouldn’t make the same “human” mistake again.

“I don’t know that I could have done anything differently because it was a natural human reaction,” she said on Sunday.

Writing about the impromptu hug in her memoir, Obama noted that the queen had seemed fine with the moment. 

First lady Michelle Obama walks with Queen Elizabeth at a reception at Buckingham Palace on April 1, 2009.

First lady Michelle Obama walks with Queen Elizabeth at a reception at Buckingham Palace on April 1, 2009.

“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 wrote. 

She added, “I daresay that the Queen was okay with it, too, because when I touched her, she only pulled closer, resting a gloved hand lightly on the small of my back.”

At the time, an anonymous spokesperson for Buckingham Palace insisted that the moment was perfectly fine with Her Majesty and not a breach of royal protocol. 

“It was a mutual and spontaneous display of affection,” the spokesperson said at the time. “We don’t issue instructions on not touching the queen.”

President Barack Obama and the first lady pose with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip during an audience at Buckingham Palace

President Barack Obama and the first lady pose with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip during an audience at Buckingham Palace on April 1, 2009

LeBron James was similarly accused of breaching royal protocol when he met with Prince William and Kate Middleton at a basketball game in New York City in 2014, as part of the royal couple’s visit to the U.S. 

“King James” put his arm around the Duchess of Cambridge in one of the photos, but once again the palace said there was no harm, no foul. 

“The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge very much enjoyed their time in the US, including attending the NBA game and meeting LeBron,” Laura King, senior communications officer for Buckingham Palace, told the Northeast Ohio Media Group in 2014. 

“When members of the Royal Family meet people they want them to feel as comfortable as possible,”  King added. “There is no such thing as Royal protocol.” 

Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge pose with LeBron James as they attend a Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Brooklyn N

Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge pose with LeBron James as they attend a Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Brooklyn Nets game on Dec. 8, 2014.

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