First Lady Michelle Obama made headlines back in 2009 by giving the Queen of England a hug, a friendly move that also raised eyebrows as an apparent flagrant disregard for convention.
The Queen, in an equally eyebrow-raising gesture, responded with her own hug, seeming to ignore her own royal protocol that forbids (or at least strongly deters) physical contact with the monarch.
In her memoir Becoming, released Tuesday, Obama finally revealed the very relatable reason for the pair’s hug—sore feet. In an excerpt from the book, which was published by The Telegraph this week, the two world leaders had spent a long day and evening at the G-20 reception at Buckingham Palace and as fashionable women they had been wearing high heels for the duration.
The author wrote that she and the Queen struck up a conversation with the then-First Lady by noting, “You’re so tall,” to which Obama responded by pointing out her tall Jimmy Choo heels. The Queen then “gestured with some frustration at her own black pumps” and said: “These shoes are unpleasant, are they not?”
They quickly found found common ground and comfort in commiserating about their sore feet. “Forget that she sometimes wore a diamond crown and that I’d flown to London on the presidential jet: we were just two tired ladies oppressed by our shoes,” wrote Obama. “I then did what’s instinctive to me anytime I feel connected to a new person, which is to express my feelings outwardly. I laid a hand affectionately across her shoulder.”
She then said that the gesture – though criticized – was welcome.
“I couldn’t have known it in the moment, but I was committing what would be deemed an epic faux pas,” Obama wrote. “But I tried not to let the criticism rattle me. If I hadn’t done the proper thing at Buckingham Palace, I had at least done the human thing,” she added. “I daresay that the Queen was okay with it, too, because when I touched her, she only pulled closer, resting a gloved hand lightly on the small of my back.”