Europe

Queen eased Michelle Obama fears by ‘rubbishing’ claim she couldn’t sit next to monarch

Michelle Obama: Expert recalls Queen being ‘charmed’ in 2009

The 57-year-old and the Queen enjoyed a whirlwind friendship while Michelle’s husband Barack Obama was US President. During their eight years in Washington, the couple travelled across the globe, but their appearance at a G20 summit sparked controversy after Michelle appeared to ignore tradition and made a move to touch Her Majesty. Although critics condemned the now-bestselling author, insiders at Buckingham Palace softened the fury, with one claiming the pair were in fact “charmed by one another”.

The infamous incident, which saw the Queen also move to wrap her arm around Michelle, generated international debate, and in a similar episode on the same trip, Michelle appeared reluctant to break protocol a second time.

The Queen invited Barack and Michelle to go on a car journey with them as they attended Buckingham Palace back in 2009, with the FLOTUS herself given the special honour of sitting next to Her Majesty.

But speaking on 2020’s Amazon Prime documentary Michelle Obama: Life After the White House, journalist Ashley Pearson exposed how fearful Michelle had been.

Ms Pearson said: “There was a stage later on where Queen Elizabeth invited Michelle to sit in the back of her Range Rover with her.

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“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.”

Michelle’s move to touch the Queen’s arm originally didn’t break any legal rules, but it is widely accepted that people should not touch a member of the Royal Family, unless they start contact.

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The moment the Queen returned the compliment to touch Michelle was described by Hollywood icon Whoopi Goldberg as “marvellous”.

She explained that she “loved it”, adding: “I figure protocol does not change, but every now and then I think something happens where the Queen goes, ‘I’m going to mark this occasion… and nobody will ever forget this.'”

The Obamas’ relationship with the Royal Family would endure throughout their time in office, with the couple famously invited for a private dinner with the Queen and her husband Prince Philip.

In another encounter, the Obamas spent the evening with Kate, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, as well as their young son Prince George.

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George, just two years old at the time, surprised the Obamas after he met them while dressed in adorable pyjamas, in images broadcast across the globe.

But after Michelle’s previous faux pas, Barack joked that it was in fact George who had broken protocol this time during their 2016 visit.

Teasing George, Barack said it was clear people at Buckingham Palace were preparing for his departure from office, due to the young royal’s informal attire.

Barack told reporters after the UK visit: “It’s not just Congress. Even some foreign leaders, they have been looking ahead, anticipating my departure.

“Last week Prince George showed up to our meeting in his bathrobe. That was a slap in the face.

“A clear breach of protocol.”

The Prince was allowed to stay up late to meet the President and First Lady, who he showed the rocking horse they gave to him when he was born.

During the trip in April 2016, the Obamas also met then-Prime Minister David Cameron, who played golf with Barack, as they struck up another warm friendship.

Their ‘bromance’ was well documented, with Mr Cameron persuading Barack to enter the Brexit debate as the country prepared to vote on its place in the EU.

Yet it was while Mr Cameron was in the US that their relationship took a sweet turn, after the ex-Conservative leader said his Democrat counterpart tucked him up when he got tired one night.

Recalling the moment on 2019’s ITV documentary The Cameron Interview, Mr Cameron said: “It was 12 o’clock at night in the United States, so sort of four or five in the morning in the UK and he said, ‘You’re looking a bit exhausted, why don’t you go and lay down in my bed?’”

Mr Cameron said “thank you very much” and went to Barack’s bedroom and there was “this rather surreal scene as he tucked me up”.

Mr Cameron went on: “As he did it, he said, ‘I bet, erm, President Roosevelt never did this for Winston Churchill’.”

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