LONDON — It’s generally quite difficult to upstage the queen of England, but President Trump might have managed to do so.
Trump and Queen Elizabeth II met Friday as part of his working visit to the United Kingdom. As the red carpet was rolled out at Windsor Castle, thousands gathered at a “Stop Trump” rally in London’s Trafalgar Square. Some hours before, an inflatable balloon depicting the president as a big orange baby flew in the air alongside the Houses of Parliament.
While Friday’s protest and an array of sarcastic signs caused quite a stir, Trump’s walk with the queen during an inspection of guardsmen quickly became a hot topic.
Described as “cringeworthy” and “uncomfortable” viewing on social media, footage of their walk together came under intense scrutiny. While touring the castle grounds, Trump maintained a relatively brisk walk, which saw the queen, at times, fall behind him as he led the way.
Some observers instantly became defensive of the queen, who turned 92 this year. “Did Donald Trump just WALK IN FRONT OF THE QUEEN?!?!?!” asked one clearly offended user. “I detested how Trump dared walk in front of the Queen today,” wrote another.
At one point, the queen can be seen gesturing to Trump, although it’s unclear what exactly she may have been referring to. On social media, some speculated that Trump was being instructed on which side of her he should walk.
If that was the case, the president didn’t grasp the message.
Others online also debated whether Trump and first lady Melania Trump broke with royal protocol when they opted to shake hands with the queen instead of bowing or curtsying. While some were displeased, this is an optional gesture, and choosing not to do so does not break with royal protocol. Although bowing is not a hard and fast rule, some believe it to be mandatory. Trump, who is known for his lengthy, powerful and intense handshakes, had many a little worried about what would happen when he met the world’s longest-serving monarch.
The queen, who is rarely seen embracing others, is not known for public displays of affection. She surprised many people in 2012 when she was seen placing an arm affectionately around Michelle Obama. Obama reciprocated, and the two stood arm in arm for a short while.
At the time, author Charles Mosley described the interaction as “astounding” and told CNN: “The big deal is that the queen is an almost sacred person. In monarchies, there’s a sacredness that surrounds the sovereign, which is perhaps not known in republics.”
Back in 1992, former Australian prime minister Paul Keating was heavily criticized for placing his hand on the monarch’s lower back. British newspapers at the time referred to him as the “Lizard of Oz” after his uncouth behavior.
The queen wore all blue for Friday’s meeting with the Trumps and seemed to be in good spirits — despite the presidential eclipse.