Is the Queen really that bothered about breaches of royal protocol?

·Royal Correspondent
·5 min read

Watch: Queen Elizabeth meeting U.S. presidents through the years

The Queen is above apparent breaches of royal protocol and just wants to make her guests feel comfortable according to royal experts.

The news may come as comfort to president Joe Biden and first lady Dr Jill Biden, who are preparing to meet members of the Royal Family as they take part in the G7 summit in Cornwall.

Dr Biden said she and her husband were excited to have tea with the Queen at Windsor, saying: "Joe and I are both looking forward to meeting the Queen. 

"That’s an exciting part of the visit for us. We’ve looked forward to this for weeks and now it’s finally here. It’s a beautiful beginning."

The Queen has met 12 of the 14 presidents who have been in power in the US during her 69-year reign and will make it 13 this weekend when she welcomes the Bidens to Windsor Castle.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Britain's Queen Elizabeth inspect the Coldstream Guards during a visit to Windsor Castle in Windsor, Britain, July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Donald Trump and the Queen inspected the Coldstream Guards during a visit to Windsor Castle in 2018. (Reuters)

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In 2009, then first lady Michelle Obama got into hot water when she was accused of breaking protocol when she put out an arm to the Queen as the two were at a reception in Buckingham Palace.

But the Queen responded by putting her arm around Obama's back too.

In 2018, Donald Trump was accused of breaking protocol when he got ahead of the Queen as they inspected a guard of honour at Windsor Castle during his working visit.

While those gaffes might be playing over and over in the Bidens minds as they prepare to have tea, royal experts say there is actually little to be concerned about.

Her former press secretary Dickie Arbiter said: "As Trump was then a head of state he was of equal status to Her Majesty, ergo he didn't break protocol.

"That he might have got something wrong as many heads of state do is something else, but whatever, nothing to upset the apple cart.

"As for whether HM was fussed over glitches in form? The answer to that is no.

"Was she concerned FLOTUS put her arm around he? Again no."

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JULY 13:  U.S. President Donald Trump and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II inspect a Guard of Honour, formed of the Coldstream Guards at Windsor Castle on July 13, 2018 in Windsor, England.  Her Majesty welcomed the President and Mrs Trump at the dais in the Quadrangle of the Castle. A Guard of Honour, formed of the Coldstream Guards, gave a Royal Salute and the US National Anthem was played. The Queen and the President inspected the Guard of Honour before watching the military march past. The President and First Lady then joined Her Majesty for tea at the Castle.  (Photo by Richard Pohle  - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Donald Trump stepped in front of the Queen - something her own husband never did. (Getty Images)

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Royal biographer Penny Junor added: "She is above all of that. I don’t think she was remotely offended by either Trump or Michelle Obama. 

"I think her principal concern with any guest is making them feel comfortable."

Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine said: "The Queen, steeped in tradition after almost 70 years on the throne, has a very keen eye and will immediately notice that something is not as it should be.

"However, she fully appreciates that things do occasionally go wrong, but would never admonish her guests and make them feel uncomfortable. That's not her style.

"Yes, President Trump did walk in front of her while inspecting a guard of honour, but his host would not have been offended by the slip-up.

"Michelle Obama putting her arm around the Queen was unusual, but then HM reciprocated the gesture. Had she been annoyed she wouldn't have done that."

Obama addressed the incident of hugging the Queen herself in her book, Becoming, saying she didn't know about any protocol.

A video grab from television footage shows U.S. first lady Michelle Obama (C) standing with Britain's Queen Elizabeth during a reception for G20 leaders at Buckingham Palace in London April 1, 2009. World leaders arrived in London on Wednesday ahead of a G20 summit meeting under intense pressure to produce a morale-boosting response to the worst economic downturn since the 1930s.  REUTERS/POOL via Reuters Tv   (BRITAIN BUSINESS POLITICS ROYALS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Michelle Obama (C) standing with the Queen during a reception for G20 leaders at Buckingham Palace in London, April 2009. (Reuters)

She said they were "two tired ladies oppressed by our shoes". 

She added: "I did what's instinctive to me any time I feel connected to a new person."

The Queen's dresser Angela Kelly reflected on the incident with the Queen and Obama in her book, saying: "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.

"In reality it was a natural instinct for the Queen to show affection and respect for another great woman and really there is no protocol that must be adhered to." 

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and his wife Michelle (2nd R) pose for a photograph with Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, at Buckingham Palace in London April 1, 2009. Obama said on Wednesday there was
Barack Obama (left) and his wife Michelle (second right) with the Queen and Prince Philip, at Buckingham Palace in London in April 2009. (John Stillwell/Pool)

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Trump's breach in 2018 consisted of him managing to step in front of the Queen while they were inspecting a Guard of Honour at Windsor Castle.

Coverage at the time noted the BBC's do and don'ts guide for meeting the royals, which included a command not to turn your back on the Queen.

Trump was criticised the year afterward for touching the Queen during a state banquet as he put her hand on her when she stood to give a few words.

The Bidens are already good friends with the Queen's grandson, Prince Harry. They have been at his Invictus Games on a number of occasions, which might give them something to talk about over tea.

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