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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Royal Protocol

Ever country has a protocol officer and part of their job is to specify how one is supposed to treat the Head of State. In America, for example, you must always refer to the President as Mr. President and unelected cabinet ministers are addressed as Mr./Madam Secretary [Office of the Chief of Protocol].

Visiting Heads of State are expected to conform to American protocol and when the President visits another country he is expected to conform to their rules of protocol. That's how international diplomacy works. It's a system that has evolved over several centuries to try and makes things easier when two different countries communicate. The idea is for countries to respect each other.

Postdiluvian at The Unexamined Life doesn't think that Americans need to respect the protocols and traditions of a foreign country [Is it OK to hug the Queen?]. Now, as it turns out, Michelle's hug was a breach of protocol but not that big a deal, even in England. It would be comparable to someone forgetting to say "Mr. President" when addressing Barack Obama.

That doesn't justify this kind of response ....
Now here’s the bottom line: you can have your “Queen” as a powerless (and utterly pointless) figurehead if you like. She can even keep her massive wealth that somehow came into her family’s possession over the centuries. But if you ever start this bullshit about “Royal Protocol” again, or whether or not it’s okay for people to touch her, you will be removing yourself from the realm of the Serious and joining the realm of Laughingstock, much like the concept of Monarchy did ages ago.
Americans often wonder why they have so much trouble making friends in "foreign" countries. I can't imagine why.


  1. As much as I disagree with the vestigial royalism, I would at least have some respect for the protocols. We have them even in non-royalist countries.

  2. One Canadian PM, John Turner, even patted the buttocks of Her Majesty the Queen of Canada, a couple of times, and his head didn't got chopped.

  3. I know how much you respect the Divine Right of Kings (and Queens).

  4. this was meant to be tongue in cheek but c'mon. all michelle obama did was touch the queen!

  5. Arthur said:
    One Canadian PM, John Turner, even patted the buttocks of Her Majesty the Queen of Canada

    No, not even close to being true.

    The buttocks in question belonged to Liberal Party President Iona Campagnolo and Vice-President Lise St. Martin-Tremblay.

  6. Is it a breach of protocol to misspell the US president's first name? I must admit, though, that "Barrack" has a wonderfully Kiplingesque ring.

  7. Didn't even make the news over here (England)!

    However, the key point is that when in Rome, you behave like Romans.

  8. Bayesian Bouffant, FCD says,

    I know how much you respect the Divine Right of Kings (and Queens).

    If I were a Head of State visiting the Pope in Rome, I'd respect the protocols that the Vatican stipulates.

    I think you know how much I worship the Pope.

    It will be interesting to see if Michelle Obama puts her arm around the Pope.

  9. "It will be interesting to see if Michelle Obama puts her arm around the Pope."

    If she does, let's hope shes slips a few condoms into his cassock (or whatever the proper name for his frock is)...

  10. From most of the reports I read, and someone said video of the incident backs this up, the Queen was actually the first to put her arm around Michelle. Michelle returning the favour then, I think, does not constitute a breach of protocol but I could be mistaken.

  11. When I heard about this on BBC right after it happened, the take on the story was that the interaction between the Queen and Michelle Obama was a sign of the two getting along extremely well. The Queen had put her own arm around Michelle, apparently admiring her shoes, and when Michelle returned the gesture the press took that as a good sign.
    So at least in Europe, it was "look how well everyone is getting along - they are comfortable enough with each other to break protocol!" and then nothing more was said on the topic.

  12. If you ask me the Yanks are still a bit jealous of all that history and tradition, maybe even a bit intimidated by it.

    But it's all for display purposes these days. The fuss in the papers was just journalists trying to generate a story out of what was otherwise an uneventful little gathering.

    If the US wants something to be really proud of its their written Constitution incorporating a Bill of Rights, something denied to Her Majesty's subjects by politicians of all stripes pretty much until now.