As I mentioned in my recent post, “President Barack and Michelle Obama Give Queen Elizabeth an IPod,” the Obamas have visited Buckingham Palace and met with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. As the two couples mingled with other diplomats in London for the Group of 20 Meeting, First Lady Michelle Obama reached out and touched the Queen on her back. The Queen responded warmly, wrapping her right arm around Michelle’s waist. Those listening to the two women say that the Queen remarked on how tall Michelle is. They also were looking down and talking about their shoes.
Everyone’s buzzing about this historic moment: Michelle Obama touched the Queen! Royal protocol demands that no one touch the Queen. Even her royal consort, Prince Philip, must walk several paces behind her when the two are in public.
All this attention to the Obamas and their first visit to Europe as the First Couple takes me back to 1961 when President John Fitzgerald and Jacqueline (pronounced JAK LEEN’) Bouvier Kennedy made a state visit to France. Jackie Kennedy mesmerized the French with her style and elegance. She spoke fluent French and boasted a paternal French bloodline (Bouvier). Jackie was so charming that she even won the heart of President Charles DeGaulle, a man not easily conquered. At a dinner at the Elysee Palace, DeGaulle talked extensively to Jackie, then turned to President Kennedy and said, “Your wife knows more French history than any French woman.”
Jackie Kennedy so upstaged John on their trip overseas that the President joked, “I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris.” Upon the Kennedys’ return to America, their popularity soared. The American public – and the rest of the world – had fallen in love with Jackie. To this day, she remains an American idol.