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US First Lady wins over the UK monarch

MICHELLE Obama has done what few others have managed - getting Queen Elizabeth II to break protocol.

On Wednesday United States President Barack Obama attended a reception for world leaders and their spouses hosted by the queen.

Mrs Obama clearly made an impression with the 82-year-old monarch - so much that the smiling Queen strayed from protocol and put her arm around the First Lady in a rare public show of affection.

It was the first time that Mrs Obama - who is nearly a foot taller - had met the Queen. The First Lady also embraced her.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said he could not remember the last time that the Queen had displayed such public affection with a first lady or dignitary.

"It was a mutual and spontaneous display of affection," he said. "We don't issue instructions on not touching the Queen."

When former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating put his arm around the queen in 1992, the tabloids dubbed him the "Lizard of Oz." When his successor, John Howard, was accused of doing the same, a spokesman insisted: "We firmly deny that there was any contact whatsoever." In 2007, then US President Bush gave the queen a sly wink during her visit to the US.

The Daily Mail said the "two women clearly took to each other."

Wednesday's reception was followed by a dinner at Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Downing Street home, where the leaders' spouses were joined by notable British women, including "Harry Potter" author J. K. Rowling and Olympic gold medal runner Kelly Holmes.

"Michelle walks in and she is as she seems, so warm, engaging, a beautiful, beautiful lady, and I quickly got my photo in the middle of her and Sarah Brown," Holmes said yesterday, referring to the British prime minister's wife.

Mrs Obama attended a rehearsal at the Royal Opera House yesterday with the other spouses and guests. The program included music by Handel and a dance performance by Ballet Black, a troupe set up to give performing opportunities to black and Asian classical dancers.


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