Although there are no ‘obligatory codes of behavior’ when meeting the Queen – or any member of the royal family for that matter – people do tend to observe the traditional forms. Especially when the person in question is a dignitary or a diplomat.
While men bow from the neck, women tend to curtsy, and although it is common for people to shake hands with the royal family, you can only do so if a royal extends their hand to you first. Aside from a polite yet formal handshake, any other physical contact with the royals is definitely not ‘the done thing’.
So, when Canada’s Governor General David Johnston reached out a hand to hold on to the Queen’s arm, shocked onlookers could do nothing but stand and watch while be breached one of the unwritten rules of royal protocol with Her Majesty.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh has visited Canada House in London in honour the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation. As Her Majesty left the building, descending the red carpet covered steps of the building that overlooks Trafalgar Square, Johnston stepped forward to take her arm.
David Johnston breaking royal protocol outside Canada House in London
Following the unusual decision to break royal protocol, Johnston explained that after heavy rainfall in the capital over the last few days, he was concerned that the Queen may have slipped on the rain-soaked steps.
Explaining his decision to Canadian broadcaster CBC News after the event Johnston said, “Well I’m certainly conscious of the protocol.
“I just was anxious to be sure that there was no stumbling on the steps.
“It’s a little bit awkward, that descent from Canada House to Trafalgar Square, and there was a carpet that was a little slippy, and so I thought perhaps it was appropriate to breach protocol just to be sure that there was no stumble.”
At 91 years old, it’s forgivable that Johnston was concerned for Her Majesty’s welfare. In addition, neither The Queen nor the Duke of Edinburgh reacted to the breach of protocol. The royal couple merely smiled as they finished descending the steps and departed from Canada House in their waiting car.