President Trump Breaks Royal Protocol, Touches Queen at State Dinner

There are certain royal protocol rules to follow when in the presence of the Queen and Donald Trump just made a major etiquette faux pas. During the state banquet dinner at Buckingham Palace, it appears that President Trump touched the Queen on the back as she stood for his toast.

President Donald Trump and Queen Elizabeth II attend a State Banquet at Buckingham Palace
President Donald Trump and Queen Elizabeth II | Dominic Lipinski- WPA Pool/Getty Images

What rule did Donald Trump break?

President Donald Trump was spotted lightly touching Queen Elizabeth II on the back during the dinner, a violation of royal protocol, which dictates that you can’t touch the Queen unless she first offers her hand to you.

The faux pas was made after Trump had delivered a speech, however, the Queen appeared unfazed by the situation. He addressed the attendees, noting, “From the Second World War to today, Her Majesty has stood as a constant symbol of these priceless traditions. She has embodied the spirit of dignity, duty, and patriotism that beats proudly in every British heart.”

He continued: “On behalf of all Americans, I offer a toast to the eternal friendship of our people, the vitality of our nations and to the long cherished and truly remarkable reign of Her Majesty, the Queen. Thank you.”

Michelle Obama broke this rule too

Trump isn’t the first person to make this error, as former First Lady Michelle Obama broke the rule in 2009, when she put her arm around the Queen. She spoke of the side hug in her 2018 autobiography Becoming, calling it an “epic faux pas.”

In her book, she explained: “As was always the case, we were briefed on the protocol ahead of time: We’d greet the Royals formally before getting into their vehicle to make the short drive. I’d sit in the front next to ninety-four-year-old Prince Philip, who would drive, and Barack would sit next to the Queen in the back seat.”

She continued: “After we’d touched down in a field on the palace grounds and said our hellos, however, the Queen abruptly threw a wrench into everything by gesturing for me to join her in the back seat of the Range Rover. I froze, trying to remember if anyone had prepared me for this scenario, whether it was more polite to go along with it or to insist that Barack take his proper seat by her side.”

Obama further noted, “The Queen immediately picked up on my hesitations and was having none of it. ‘Did they give you some rule about this?’ she said, dismissing all the fuss with a wave of her hand. ‘That’s rubbish. Sit wherever you want.'”

The Queen returned the gesture

Obama shared her take on the moment that was so criticized, noting: “Forget that she sometimes wore a diamond crown and that I’d flown to London on a presidential jet; we were two tired ladies oppressed by our shoes. I then did what’s instinctive to me anytime I feel connected to a new person, which is to express my feelings outwardly. I laid a hand affectionately across her shoulder.”

She continued: “But I tried not to let the criticism rattle me. If I hadn’t done the proper thing at Buckingham Palace, I had at least done the human thing. 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.”