Handling HRH: Why touching the Queen is considered poor form
The Palace insists she doesn't mind, but putting a mitt on the monarch still outrages the tabloids
ONE of the best-known facts about the Queen, besides her fondness for Corgis, racehorses and a well-mixed Dubonnet cocktail, is that touching her is forbidden. A brief handshake is permitted, of course. But warm hugs or enthusiastic high-fives are considered a breach of protocol.
So, spare a thought for Kerry Bickerstaff, the shop manager who appeared to guide the 87-year-old monarch into a Newhaven fish market yesterday by placing a hand on the royal back.
The Daily Mail says Bickerstaff may have "breached centuries-old protocol", although it admits the photographic evidence is not conclusive. "From some angles, it might appear she [Bickerstaff] caught the fabric of the monarch's cerise coat as they walked side by side," the paper says.
Friends of 37-year-old Bickerstaff insist she "crooked her arm" around HRH, but there was no actual contact. A Buckingham Palace spokesman agreed, suggesting that even if Bickerstaff had touched the Queen, the monarch would not have taken offence.
Even so, such declarations are unlikely to dispel the popular notion that the Queen – much like a Ming vase or the Bayeux tapestry – may be wonderful to look at, but it's not a good idea to touch. Here are four moments when that wisdom went out the window:
Australian PM Paul Keating, 1992
Labor PM Paul Keating was a divisive figure in Australia even before he put his hand on the Queen's lower back as he guided her through a crowd at Canberra's Parliament House. The British tabloids were incensed, labelling the staunch republican 'The Lizard of Oz'. Writing in the London Evening Standard, Brian Sewell recommended that all Australian expatriates – Clive James included – should be sent back to their "treasonable" homeland.
Tony Blair, 1998
The Labour PM had the right idea when he took the Queen's hand at the topping out ceremony for London's Millennium Dome. Unfortunately, he went too far, pumping the royal limb with such enthusiasm during the singing of Auld Lang Syne that HRH's expression became a rictus of "frozen distaste".
Racehorse owner Don Romeo, 2010:
The Queen loves horses, but probably didn't enjoy the firm hand Romeo planted on her back as she handed over a trophy at the Queen's Plate Stakes in Toronto. The Mail says his "breach of protocol" was swiftly corrected by his jockey, Eurico Da Silva, who "executed two bows so low that his head was level with the Queen's waist".
Michelle Obama, 2012
When America's First Lady "hugged" the Queen at a G20 event at Buckingham Palace, the Mail described it as "utterly astonishing". Obama "even rubbed the Queen's shoulder", howled the tabloid, while an onlooker said: "We couldn't believe what we were seeing." ·