Angela Kelly, who is the Queen’s dressmaker and close confidant, explained that the monarch actually welcomed the warm gesture as recalled in her book The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe, which Hello! exclusively shared an excerpt of.
“The Queen has the ability to make everyone feel so relaxed that sometimes it feels instinctive to be tactile with her, just as Michelle Obama demonstrated during the State Visit with her husband, President Obama, in 2009,” wrote Kelly.
“Much has been made about the meeting between Michelle and her Majesty when an instant and mutual warmth was shared between these two remarkable women, and protocol was abandoned as they stood closely with their arms around each other’s backs,” she continued, noting that in that particular situation “there is no protocol that must be adhered to.”
“In reality, it was a natural instinct for the Queen to show affection and respect for another great woman,” Kelly added. “When fondness is felt or the host of a State Visit goes to guide her Majesty up some steps, it truly is about human kindness and this is something the Queen will always welcome warmly.”
Kelly’s comments echoed what Obama herself wrote in her 2018 memoir Becoming, in which she shared her belief that despite the intense public scrutiny that came with the gesture, she didn’t believe the monarch had been offended.
“If I hadn’t done the proper thing at Buckingham Palace, I had at least done the human thing,” she wrote. “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.”
According to Obama, the moment stemmed from a simple bond between the pair over their uncomfortable shoes.
“We looked at each other then with identical expressions, like, ‘When is all this standing around with world leaders going to finally wrap up? And with this, she busted out with a fully charming laugh,” she wrote. “Forget that she sometimes wore a diamond crown and that I’d flown to London on the presidential jet; we were just two tired ladies oppressed by our shoes. I then did what’s instinctive to me anytime I feel connected to a new person, which is to express my feelings outwardly.”
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Despite what many commonly believe, the royal family’s website states that “There are no obligatory codes of behavior when meeting The Queen or a member of the Royal Family, but many people wish to observe the traditional forms.”
If the individual wishes to observe the traditional forms, it is advised that men perform a “neck bow (from the head only)” while women do a “small curtsy.”
“Other people prefer simply to shake hands in the usual way,” the website notes.
The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe will be released on Oct. 29.