Queen: Whoopi Goldberg discusses Michelle Obama hug
The former US First Lady said she was left stunned by the warmth and kindness of Prince Philip and the Queen, whom she met for the first time at Buckingham Palace following the 2008 US Presidential Elections. Ahead of her first meeting with the royals in 2009, Mrs Obama said she and her husband, former US President Barack Obama, were still getting used to the “pomp and circumstances” of the White House.
She told People magazine: “Early in my husband’s Presidency, Barack and I had the honor of meeting Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness Prince Philip.
“Back then, we were still getting used to the pomp and circumstance of the White House — and my mind could barely grasp the grandeur of Buckingham Palace.”
However, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh immediately put at ease the Obamas, the former First Lady said.
She recalled: “But the Queen and Prince Philip were warmer and kinder than I ever would have imagined from the briefings we’d received or the lifetime of stories I grew up reading in the newspaper or viewing on the nightly news.
Michelle Obama opened up on her first meeting with the Queen
Michelle and Barack Obama meeting the Queen in 2009
“They treated us with the kind of good humour and generosity that is rare in any person, let alone royalty — and put us at ease, even in the most intimidating circumstances.”
Mr and Mrs Obama spoke about the kindness of the elderly royals in a poignant statement they issued in April to mark the death of Prince Philip.
Referring to their first meeting at Buckingham Palace, the statement said: “As two Americans unaccustomed to palaces and pomp, we didn’t know what to expect.
“We shouldn’t have worried. The Queen and Prince Philip immediately put us at ease with their grace and generosity, turning a ceremonial occasion into something far more natural, even comfortable.”
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Prince George meeting Barack Obama in 2016
Speaking about the Duke of Edinburgh, the statement then said: “Prince Philip, in particular, was kind and warm, with a sharp wit and unfailing good humor.
“It was our first introduction to the man behind the title, and in the years since, our admiration for him has only grown. We will miss him dearly.”
In 2009, Mrs Obama famously violated royal protocol by putting an arm around the Queen during the reception of the G20 summit.
But the monarch did not seem bothered by this natural gesture and, with equally flagrant disregard for the royal convention, also wrapped her arm around Mrs Obama’s waist.
Prince Philip driving the Queen, Michelle and Barack Obama to Windsor Castle in 2016
Michelle and Barack Obama arriving to Windsor in 2016
Her Majesty’s confidant and personal advisor Angela Kelly confirmed in her book in 2019 the Queen welcomed the spontaneous gesture.
She wrote in her book ‘The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe’: “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.”
She added: “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.”
The Queen acceded to the throne in 1952
During that same visit, Mr Obama gave the Queen a 21st-century-style gift, an iPod including videos and pictures taken during the monarch’s visits to the US in 1957 and 2007 as well as the President’s 2008 convention speech and 2009 inaugural address.
Mr and Mrs Obama visited the Queen and Prince Philip also in 2011 and 2016.
During their last visit to the UK as a presidential couple, the Obamas were welcomed to Windsor by the monarch and the Duke – who, then 94, turned chauffeur and ferried the Obamas to the Berkshire castle.
Despite this being their third official visit to the Queen and Prince Philip, Mrs Obama later confessed she was still nervous about the royal protocol.
But, as she revealed two years later, the monarch told her not to worry about it.
Michelle and Barack Obama visited the Queen and Prince Philip also in 2011
During a speaking engagement in London in 2018, Mrs Obama said: “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.'”
During that same visit to the UK in 2016, Mr and Mrs Obama met Prince George at Kensington Palace.
During the presidential encounter, the little royal was pictured wrapped up in check pyjamas and white dressing gown.
A Kensington Palace spokesman said: “Prince George stayed up to meet the president and first lady when they arrived at Kensington Palace.
“He was able to show the president and first lady a rocking horse – given to George when he was born – and a stuffed toy – given to George when Princess Charlotte was born – that had been previously given to him by president and Mrs Obama.”