Eyebrows were raised in 2009 when Mrs Obama was seen to put her arm around the Queen’s shoulders during a Buckingham Palace reception, and the monarch responded by putting her arm around the American’s waist as they stood side by side.
But in her memoir Becoming, Mrs Obama said her conversation with the Queen was about a subject on the mind of many women after a long day stood up in heels.
Many publications have reported that at first she was awestruck by Britain’s head of state, who she described as an “honest-to-goodness icon”. But the Queen, who is famed for her humour – which she uses to put nervous guests at ease, commented on how tall the then First Lady was before highlighting how her shoes must be painful.
Mrs Obama wrote: “The Queen then glanced down at the pair of black Jimmy Choos I was wearing. She shook her head. “‘These shoes are unpleasant, are they not?’ she said. She gestured with some frustration at her own black pumps.
“I confessed then to the Queen that my feet were hurting. She confessed that hers hurt, too. We looked at each other then with identical expressions, like, when is all this standing around with world leaders going to finally wrap up? And with this, she busted out with a fully charming laugh.”
Mrs Obama added that despite their positions, they were just “two tired ladies oppressed by our shoes”, and without thinking she put her arm around the Queen in a gesture of bonding. She wrote:
“I then did what’s instinctive to me any time I feel connected to a new person, which is to express my feelings outwardly. I laid a hand affectionately across her shoulder.
“I couldn’t have known it in the moment, but I was committing what would be deemed an epic faux pas.”