Did France’s First Lady Commit a Royal Blunder?

King Charles III And Queen Camilla Attend The UK D-Day80 National Commemorative Event In Normandy
King Charles III And Queen Camilla Attend The UK D-Day80 National Commemorative Event In Normandy / Chris Jackson/GettyImages

June 6, 2024, may now be forever remembered for an out-of-character action by the French First Lady, something we wouldn’t otherwise associate with that date. On what was the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France, many people are instead talking about Emmanuel Macron’s wife, Brigitte and her supposed royal blunder towards Camilla, wife of King Charles III.

What did Madame Macron do to Camilla?

For a change, Madame Macron has grabbed the headlines rather than her husband, Emmanuel, the 25th President of France.

King Charles III, Emmanuel Macron, Queen Camilla, Brigitte Macron
King Charles III And Queen Camilla Attend The UK D-Day80 National Commemorative Event In Normandy / Pool/GettyImages

In an awkward moment captured on tape by the Daily Mail, Brigitte tried to hold Camilla’s hand during a royal visit to Normandy in honour of the invasion that liberated France from German occupation on June 6.

The video suggests that Camilla did not receive Macron’s gesture well. Following that seemingly awkward moment, both women bowed their heads in silence before walking back to their respective husbands. For the record, Charles planted a kiss on Brigitte's hand when the two met face-to-face at the memorial.

How did people on X react to the awkward moment?

As you can imagine, people on X had much to say about what we all witnessed in the video between Camilla and Brigitte. Most people didn’t seem to have a problem with the French First Lady’s actions, with many instead displeased with Camilla failing to reciprocate the gesture.

Here are a few of the tweets sent out following the video:

This will remain a point of contention and begs the question of what proper royal etiquette is and whether there are different forms of appropriate etiquette depending on who you are or your status. That said, it’s not the first time the media has blown up simple things like proper etiquette with the royal family.

Previous Royal Etiquette “Scandals”

What happened at the Normandy memorial is not the first time a supposed royal etiquette “scandal” was captured on video. We’ve seen our share of moments involving royals and public figures through the years.

Geri Halliwell, aka Ginger Spice, had an infamous moment in 1997 when her band, the Spice Girls, were one of the biggest names in music. An encounter with Charles, Prince of Wales at that time, made headlines, with Ginger reportedly being a little “cheeky”, as the Brits would say, with the future King. Rumour has it that the Spice Girl pinched his butt. In May 2016, she told The Times, “I didn’t pinch Prince Charles’ bum, as was reported.” “I patted it. Patting him on the bottom was against royal protocol, but we’re all human. There was a lot of nervous energy, young women, happy antics.”

Charles walking Meghan Markle down the aisle wasn’t technically against royal protocol, but it wasn’t in line with traditions. Prince Harry and Markle’s choice not to have fruitcakes, which we’re accustomed to seeing at royal weddings, was considered against tradition. For centuries, fruitcakes have become the food of choice for special occasions. Instead, the two went with a sponge cake with elderflower syrup.

A long time ago, the late Queen Elizabeth had Prince Phillip in the delivery room when giving birth. Royal women didn’t usually have their husbands in the room to witness those moments before.

Former tennis star Roger Federer didn’t bow to Kate Middleton when they met to watch a tennis match at Wimbledon in 2023.

In 2021, US President Joe Biden kept his sunglasses on when visiting Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle, taking them off halfway through the playing of the national anthem. Former President Donald Trump opted for a handshake rather than a bow when visiting Windsor Castle in 2018 while also walking in front of the Queen. According to the New York Times, that was a breach of protocol.

What is the Royal Protocol?

What exactly royal protocol is appears to be somewhat fuzzy, and there’s a fine line between protocol and tradition. It feels similar to bending a rule but not technically breaking it. For instance, there’s no official protocol to bow or curtsey when meeting a British royal. The royal family’s official website, however, says that “many people wish to observe the traditional forms.” When put like that, it suggests it’s purely a choice, but then the UK media blows it up, and it feels like a law has been broken.

The situation involving Macron and Camilla feels like just a difference in culture. I have never experienced UK greeting traditions, but I come from a French background. How you greet your family, friends, or strangers in France is very different from North American tradition. It’s not a requirement, but a kiss on both cheeks, regardless of your relationship with that person, is usually the way of greeting someone in France, whether male or female. French greeting customs are pretty affectionate, and in Macron’s case, it just felt like an automatic response because the French are very physically affectionate with one another.

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