What the Queen told Michelle Obama about royal protocol

Danielle Stacey
Royal Correspondent
The Queen, Barack and Michelle Obama and the Duke of Edinburgh in 2016 (Photo: Getty)

Michelle Obama recalled the moment the Queen branded royal protocol “rubbish” during a Q&A session with author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at London’s Southbank Centre on Monday night.

The former First Lady, 54, revealed she was panicking about about following the rules of behaviour when the Queen collected her and Barack Obama from their helicopter during their last visit of his presidency in 2016. 

She said: “This is just how it feels to be at these high levels where people are talking protocol to protocol, that is how these big foreign exchanges are.

“People are talking to other people and then you’re briefed and you’re told ‘this is going to happen and don’t stand there and don’t touch there and this is precisely what is going on’.

Michelle worried about breaking royal protocol during their last meeting with the Queen (Photo: Getty)

“This was on our last visit and we went to Windsor Castle and we took Marine One, the helicopter, and we landed in a field and we were going to be driven by the Queen and picked up in the car.

“Our Secret Service doesn’t even let me ride around with Malia so up until that point we had never driven in a car driven by anyone else, so it was like ‘this is what’s going to happen, you’re going to get out and sit here and this is what is going to happen’.

“Of course your head is spinning because first of all I’m trying not to fall, which is a major thing that I think about in public. If you’re thinking about my thoughts when I come out on stage it’s ‘don’t’ fall’. One of my primary goals for the eight years was to never become a meme.

“So I had all this protocol buzzing in my head and I was like ‘don’t trip down the stairs and don’t touch anybody, whatever you do’ and so the Queen says ‘just get in, sit wherever’ and she’s telling you one thing and you’re remembering protocol and she says ‘Oh it’s all rubbish, just get in’.”

Michelle Obama speaking at London’s Southbank Centre (Photo: Getty)

Mrs Obama raised eyebrows when she hugged the Queen at a reception at Buckingham Palace ahead of the G20 summit in 2009.

In her new book Becoming, she revealed the pair bonded over their painful shoes during their first meeting.

She said: “I touched her. After all those protocol lessons, I was human.”

Mrs Obama, who appears on the cover of Good Housekeeping‘s January issue, has spoken about the advice she’d give to former actress and new royal Meghan Markle.

She said in the interview: “So my biggest piece of advice would be to take some time and don’t be in a hurry to do anything.”

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