The intimate moment at Buckingham Palace, where the Queen was holding a reception for world leaders, came towards the end of the Obamas' first day in London – a day heralded by media and public alike as a roaring success.
The two women stood side by side and appeared to look down as they were chatting. As they did, TV cameras caught the Queen placing her hand on the back of Mrs. Obama, who returned the gesture for a brief moment.
While protocol for a formal gathering may dictate that no one touches the monarch, a spokesperson for the Queen told Inside Edition, "It's obvious that it was a mutual sign of affection and appreciated between the Queen and Michelle Obama. There is no offense. The reception was an informal occasion. There's no breach of protocol."
Moving forward, Buckingham Palace advises that with future encounters, "The only recommendation is that you do what you would naturally feel in that environment."
Earlier, the First Lady had curtsied to the Queen when they first met at an audience and swapped gifts of an iPod (from the Obamas to the royals) and framed photograph (vice-versa).
The President told Her Majesty, "Thank you so much for having us." To Prince Philip, he added: "It's a wonderful honor."
Mrs. Obama said a few moments later: "I really enjoyed our meeting."
Dinner MenuLater, the Obamas separated for a dinner at the prime minister's residence at 10 Downing Street, where they dined – in separate rooms – on a Jamie Oliver-prepared meal featuring "best of British" baked organic salmon, shoulder of Welsh lamb and a traditional Bakewell tart with homemade custard for dessert.
Thursday morning, as the President got down to the business of the G20 Summit, his wife headed for a tour of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. There, a gaggle of office workers watched as her motorcade swept into Bow Street. Some saw a memory of another era. "She is smart, beautiful, elegant and strong - like Jackie Kennedy," Mil Vukovic, a government relations manager at the Design Council, says.
"This is a new era of hope. People in the U.K. are looking up to both of them. They are a tremendous boost to the world."