The former First Lady Michelle Obama made headlines back in 2009 when she broke royal protocol by placing her arm around Queen Elizabeth during a visit to the United Kingdom. Instead of shying away, however, the Queen allowed Michelle to do this and even responded by putting a gloved hand on Michelle’s back.
The Express reported that back in 2018, Michelle opened up about this encounter.
“If I hadn’t done the proper thing at Buckingham Palace, I had at least done the human thing,” she said. “I daresay the Queen was OK with it too, because when I touched her, she pulled closer, resting a gloved hand lightly on the small of my back.”
In her memoir “Becoming,” Michelle said that the encounter followed on from a short discussion with the Queen.
“The Queen glanced down at the pair of black Jimmy Choos I was wearing,” she recalled. “She shook her head. ‘These shoes are unpleasant, are they not?’ She gestured with some frustration at her own black pumps. I confessed then to the Queen that my feet were hurting. She confessed that hers hurt, too.”
“We looked at each other then with identical expressions, like, when is all this standing around with world leaders going to finally wrap up?” she added. “And with this, she busted out with a fully charming laugh.”
Michelle then explained that when she placed her arm around the Queen, she was unaware that she was “committing what would be deemed an epic faux pas”.
“I did what’s instinctive to me any time I feel connected to a new person…[We were just] two tired ladies oppressed by our shoes,” she explained.
American journalist Ashley Pearson said that this exchange helped forge a close working relationship between the Queen and Michelle.
“There was a stage later on where Queen Elizabeth invited Michelle to sit in the back of her Range Rover with her,” Pearson said. “And when Michelle hesitated, the Queen said to Michelle, ‘Have they warned you that you can’t do this?’ And when she said, ‘Yes’, the Queen said, ‘Rubbish – you can sit wherever you want.’
“So it seems like, despite everybody in the world freaking out that Michelle put her arm around the Queen, the Queen was charmed – very much so – by Michelle Obama,” she continued.