Two Faux Pas Mark Obama’s First Day in London

Two Faux Pas Mark Obama’s First Day in London

On his first day in London, Obama writes the wrong date in Westminster Abbey guest book and breaks protocol at state dinner.

Published May 25, 2011

Finally, a proper toast. Though plagued by faux pas during his royal visit, President Obama did eventually manage to toast Queen Elizabeth II properly. (Photo: AP Photo/Lewis Whyld, Pool)

Only the hardest of hearts aren’t feeling at least a little bit sorry for President Obama, who made not one but two gaffes during his first full day in London.


When he signed the guest book at Westminster Abbey Tuesday, the president incorrectly dated his entry "24 May 2008." It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to imagine that deep in his heart he may have been longing for a more innocent time when he was a presidential aspirant who was treated like a rock star the world over, rather than a sometimes weary commander-in-chief whose unenviable first term has been marked by a constant stream of disasters—natural and manmade.


Later that night during the state dinner at Buckingham Palace, Obama began his toast to Elizabeth II and the orchestra accidentally began playing Britain’s national anthem “God Save the Queen.” Instead of pausing until the music stopped, the president pressed on, only to be ignored by the queen when he turned and raised his glass to her. According to protocol, everyone must stand still while the anthem is played as everyone did except poor Obama. Talk about an awkward moment.


The queen just looked straight ahead and one could virtually feel his cheeks burning as he put his glass back down before saluting her again once the music had ended. Given the “genuine warmth” that a palace spokesman said exists between the royals and Obama, couldn’t she have done him a solid and bent the rule?


Some might say that our supremely coolheaded and self-confident leader deserves to be knocked down a peg or two now and then, including Scotland Yard, the British police force. It is customary both in the U.S. and abroad for leaders to be given a security codename. Obama’s British codename is Chalaque, the Daily Mail reports, which is a Punjabi word that means “someone who is too clever for his own good.” It also can mean “cheeky, crafty and cunning.”


Which definition do you think they had in mind?

Written by Joyce Jones


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