Did Michelle Obama break protocol by ‘hugging’ the Queen? Her Majesty's dressmaker sets the record straight

By Zach Harper

It’s a moment every royal watcher remembers from Barack Obama’s presidency – and one that stands almost unique in royal history: Former US First Lady Michelle Obama and the Queen’s “hug” during the Obamas’ 2009 State Visit to the UK.

Photos from Barack and Michelle’s trip to Buckingham Palace sparked a frenzy online and an off when the Obamas crossed the pond for the first time after moving into the White House in 2009. In one particular image, Michelle and the Queen were seen with their arms around each other. Is it okay to hug the Queen?

Her Majesty’s dresser and close confidante Angela Kelly has finally revealed that, yes, it’s perfectly appropriate in the right moment, and that was the case with Michelle and the Queen’s embrace.

Angela wrote about the event in her new book, The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, The Dresser and the Wardrobe . It has been written with the blessing of Her Majesty, and excerpts are being serialized in the new issue of HELLO! Canada, available Oct. 31 on newsstands across Canada and on Apple News.

Angela described this moment between Michelle and Her Majesty as a moment of “isnant and mutual warmth” between two “remarkable women.” Photo: © Shutterstock

“There are certain things that are understood to be accepted protocol when it comes to interacting with Her Majesty,” Angela wrote in the book. “Supposedly, you should never put your arm around the Queen, for example, but when human instincts kick in, sometimes this is absolutely the appropriate thing to do.

“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.”

Okay, but had Michelle and Her Majesty breached royal protocol with their sign of affection? Not at all, Angela wrote.

Barack and Michelle went on to meet the Queen many more times, including this 2011 visit to Buckingham Palace. Photo: © Toby Melville/AFP/Getty Images

“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 seemingly ‘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. 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. Anyone who is close to Her Majesty is not a threat and is certainly trusted.”

Michelle has spoken about the moment with the Queen at length, and even wrote about it in her own memoir, 2018’s Becoming. While Her Majesty has not discussed the incident, Michelle wrote that she didn’t believe the Queen had been taken aback or put off.

“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.”

You can read more about this event and other revelations from Angela in Issue 686 of HELLO! Canada, available Oct. 31 at newsstands across the country – and on tablets and iPhones through Apple News!