First Lady apparently has the royal touch

LONDON – Queen Elizabeth, whose life is defined by royal protocol, didn’t appear to flinch when Michelle Obama seemed to depart from it. Thursday’s papers in Britain delighted in a grainy photo from a gathering at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday showing the American first lady with her arm around the queen.

Touching the royal person is normally a no-no. When Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating did it, in 1992, the British media dubbed him the “Lizard of Oz.”

But the queen wasn’t fazed by the first lady’s affectionate gesture. In fact, the British monarch apparently had slipped her arm around her visitor’s waist first, leading Obama to lay hers briefly across her royal hostess’ shoulders.

“The queen and the first lady seal a new special relationship,” said the Times of London, which splashed the photo on its front page.

Inside the paper was a similar shot of President Barack Obama with his arm on the back of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown as the two men left 10 Downing Street. That might have been a casually friendly gesture too, but at least one British commentator grumbled that it seemed Obama was ushering Brown out of his own room.

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