Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Mrs. Windsor and Mrs. Obama

So it looks like there's a bit of royal brouhaha about the Queen (of England etc.) putting her arm around Michelle Obama, and she reciprocating by putting her arm around the Queen. It's about a two-second interlude, but it is the Youtube moment of the G20 summit. Can any of our English or Australian subjects of the Queen tell me what the big deal is? As a citizen of a republic, I am culturally baffled. It's not as if anyone goosed her.


Anonymous said...

The 'royalty' reporter I heard on MSNBC reporting from London said sarcastically, "big deal" is muchado about nothing except to the Repubs who are trying to make an issue of it.

Pombat said...

One does not touch the Queen. It's as simple as that. As the figurehead of a nation, and indeed a wider Commonwealth, she is a literally untouchable figure.

There's a lot of non-touching etiquette involved with royalty, which has grown up over the millenia that we've had royals (Time has a nice brief piece here). For the Queen to forgo that etiquette, and touch Michelle Obama, was a bit surprising in itself (she's as bound by protocol as anyone else), and I don't think she really expected it to be reciprocated, but didn't seem to mind overly much - she seems fairly relaxed really (and apparently does a very good Tony Blair impersonation).

Had Michelle Obama initiated the touch, that would've been seen as a massive breach of protocol, especially by traditionalists. But then times are a'changing, and assuming we have another monarch, I'm reckoning they'll be a bit more relaxed about it all. Touching will probably end up as more of a security issue than a protocol one, much like with the Obamas in the US today.

The nice thing for the US is that the Queen was apparently very taken with Michelle Obama, and said something along the lines of 'do stay in touch' - she might not have any real power in terms of running the nation any more, but her liking something or someone can still have a bit of sway with the populace, sentimental as we are about her.

Spotted Handfish said...

There is some context here. Back in the 90's our Prime Minister of the day, Paul Keating, guided the Queen along a reception line with a light hand on the back. The news headline that I remember the next day was "The Lizard of Oz", indicating the massive breach of protocol in doing so. This may have influenced the reaction.

Having said that Paul had a reputation for gutter politics that may have swayed the British press. (He recently called John Howard "the little desiccated coconut" which Pombat alludes to, one of my favourites was saying that someone was a shiver waiting for a spine to run down.

Dr. Strangelove said...

I think the interaction between the Queen and Michelle Obama plays well over here. I also understand that Buckingham palace issued a press release saying emphatically that there was no offense and no breach of protocol.

The Law Talking Guy said...

My impression is that the Queen is fairly wily, and under no circumstances did she want to see some headline about "frosty reception" with the Obamas in The Daily Tabloid. So she gently touched Michelle, which completely overwhelmed any other impression that anyone else may have gotten about the visit.

It still amazes me though that in 2009 anyone would really care about "touching" the Queen. For anonymous strangers to reach out and touch a president is a security problem, to be sure, but we're not talking about a random crowd situation, but an invited guest where security is a non-issue.

Pombat said...

Well, she has been Queen for longer than any of us has been alive, so you'd have to think she knows a few things about the worldwide political stage - reckon you might be right!

And as far as your amazement that in 2009 anyone would care about touching the Queen - it's like burning your flag - it's not something that people do. She's our monarch, and whilst Britain is as modern a place as any other, we still have our traditions and etiquette - stretching back for millenia - which include not touching royalty. Hard habit to break.

Raised By Republicans said...

Isn't the Royal Family trying to remake their image a bit? They may actually welcome the opportunity to say that they aren't put out by a minor breach of protocal.

I remember many years ago there was something of a flap over Nancy Reagan's refusal to walk several steps behind the Queen and the President.

Uptight about protocol may not really be the image the Post-Diana Monarchy wants to put forward.

The Law Talking Guy said...

I'm not sure I buy the burning the flag = touching the queen analogy. Burning the flag is intended to be disrespectful and provocative. It's more like drawing a cartoon of Mohammed: there is no reason for a rational person to believe a priori that such an act would be offensive in and of itself (without regard to the content of the cartoon, for example).

I feel like we're not getting the whole story though, Pombat. Are you, a Brit, actually offended? Are you annoyed but not offended? Do you recognize why someone might take offense, but you do not take offense yourself? Do think people ought to be offended even if nobody is?

Pombat said...

Burning the flag was the best analogy I could come up with for an American who said they just didn't get it. Some people would see touching the Queen as deliberately disrespectful and provocative though, because as I've said above, the royal person is not to be touched. Of course this is changing, what with Princes William and Harry out in the public eye, going to uni, being warned by their bodyguards not to sire any heirs just yet, actually serving in the armed forces and so on and so forth. It's worth remembering also that Prince Charles was the first royal to actually attend uni and earn his own degree - they've been slowly breaking out of their enforced cloistered existence.

As for me, I recognise why some people would take offence. And if a lot of people suddenly decided it was ok to prod and poke the Queen, I'd probably be quite shocked, maybe even a little offended (well, a slightly lesser word than offended, perhaps a touch perturbed?).

In this context, I don't see it as an offensive gesture - from what I've seen/read of the 'incident', the Queen touched Michelle Obama first, which makes it ok for her to reciprocate in kind regardless, and Michelle Obama is of a similar level - albeit a bit lower in British eyes due to being elected (well, her husband was), not royal - as the Queen in terms of where they sit in the power structures of the world, so I don't think her initiating a light touch such as this would've been an issue either (for me anyway).

I don't think anyone *should* be offended - the royals are more than capable of picking out their own place in the world, and as RbR said, they don't really want to be seen as uptight. Had the Queen physically recoiled, or issued an upset statement, then yeah, offence would be appropriate. But she didn't and hasn't, so it's clearly ok with her, and thus should be ok with all her subjects.