Queen Camilla and Brigitte Macron's awkward exchange goes viral, did French First Lady really break protocol?

King Charles and Queen Camilla united forces with Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the 1944 D-Day landings in Normandy. Here's how it went down.

Queen Camilla Brigitte Macron King Charles D-Day
© Chris Jackson / Staff
Queen Camilla Brigitte Macron King Charles D-Day

D-Day celebrations were in full swing yesterday (6 June), and King Charles did his bit as the monarch of the country as he traversed the channel with Queen Camilla by his side.

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The royal couple attended a commemorative event held at Ver-sur-Mer in Normandy France, and were welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte who is 25 years older than him.

The last time the four were seen together was when King Charles visited France in September 2023—his first overseas visit as monarch which was delayed by several months because of security issues.

King Charles' visit to Normandy

This time around, King Charles and Queen Camilla did not stay in the country for long, and attended only the event that was held at the British Normandy Memorial. As reported by CNN, King Charles is patron of the Royal British Legion and Normandy Memorial Trust, and hence addressed D-Day veterans with a special message.

He said:

How fortunate we were and the entire free world that a generation of men and women in the United Kingdom and other Allied nations did not flinch when the moment came to face that test,
We recall the lesson that comes to us again and again across the decades. Three nations must stand together to oppose tyranny.

Later on, there was also a ceremony to honour soldiers at Omaha beach which was attended by Emmanuel Macron as well as Joe Biden, who has recently been called out for his age and health condition by Washington insiders.

King Charles and Camilla did not attend, however Prince William went on behalf of the Royal Family.

All eyes on the leaders

Naturally, while the royal monarchs were in France—all eyes were fixed on every little interaction they had with Emmanuel Macron and his wife. French media were quick to point out that the royals were greeted 20 minutes late by the French couple.

However, that's not the faux-pas that is on everyone's mind.

Indeed, an awkward interaction between Queen Camilla and Brigitte Macron has been going viral on social media. One can only imagine how nerve wracking it could be meeting a real-life royal, with all the protocols that follow suite, and the French First Lady is being called out for perhaps over-stepping her bounds.

So, what happened between the two ladies?

Awkward interaction between Queen Camilla and Brigitte Macron

During the ceremony, the two powerful women, both in white dresses, walked together to lay wreaths at the memorial. As they stepped back, Brigitte Macron got closer to the Queen of England and appeared to want to hold her hand.

Unfortunately for her, Queen Camilla did not reciprocate to her warm gesture and stood awkwardly still. The French President's wife then proceeded to take her place next to the Queen and they both paid their respect in silence.

Eagled-eyed spectators caught the uncomfortable interaction that lasted merely seconds, and set it ablaze on the internet—millions have been watching and commenting on what could have happened between the two. One user said:

Awkward is Consort did not reciprocate

While another said:

You never touch the Queen

The video has many questioning whether or not Brigitte actually broke a royal protocol by trying to hold the Queen's hand. A user firmly stated on X:

This action broke royal protocol, as it is customary for members of the royal family to not hold hands with non-royals in public.

But is this true?

What is the royal protocol?

It turns out that there are no 'obligatory codes' that one has to follow when meeting a member of the Royal Family—whether you're the Queen or a Prince. It is stated on the Royal Family website:

There are no obligatory codes of behaviour when meeting The Queen or a member of the Royal Family, but many people wish to observe the traditional forms.

They add that men usually do a 'neck bow', while women curtsy. You can also shake their hand. However, certain gestures could be more or less welcome depending on the royal, their personality, and their relationship with the person they are interacting with.

Queen Elizabeth II, for instance, was seen a bit closer to Michelle Obama than usual when the former First Lady of the United States put her arm around the then-monarch during an official visit in 2009.

During the D-Day celebrations, King Charles himself went a step further and kissed Brigitte Macron on her hand when greeting her. It's easy to analyse these small gestures and put meaning behind them, however at the end of the day it could simply be an action, or blunder in the case of Brigitte, that happened in the spur of the moment and nothing more.

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Sources used:

The Daily Mail: Awkward moment Brigitte Macron tries to hold hands with Queen Camilla at D-Day memorial - after French president kept the royals waiting by arriving late

CNN: King Charles travels to mark D-Day anniversary while Prince William takes greater role

Royal Family website: Greeting a Member of The Royal Family

Viral interaction on X

Queen Elizabeth II reportedly attempted to break up King Charles and Camilla Queen Elizabeth II reportedly attempted to break up King Charles and Camilla