BY ANDREW ALDERSON
The Queen and Michelle Obama have forged a firm friendship in the weeks since they met at the G20 summit, the London Telegraph reports.
In a sign of their close relationship, Her Majesty allowed Mrs Obama and her two children to have a rare guided tour of Buckingham Palace during their visit to London last week.
Mrs Obama, and her daughters, Malia, and Sasha, were shown around the Queen’s official London residence and its 40 acres of gardens on Wednesday – the final day of the family’s sightseeing trip to the capital.
It was a birthday treat for Sasha Obama, who was eight on that day. It is understood they were warmly greeted by the Queen at the end of their hour-long visit.
According to insiders, the Queen and Mrs Obama have become confidantes after finding they share a number of interests, including a fondness for the countryside, gardening and clothes.
The Queen and Mrs Obama hit it off when President Barack Obama and his wife were on an official visit to Britain for the G20 summit.
In a spontaneous show of affection, the two women affectionately hugged each other during a photo call.
Such intimacy from the Queen towards a foreign dignitary is believed to be unprecedented.
It is usually deemed a breach of protocol for a visitor to lay a hand on Her Majesty, but there is no doubt that the Queen was entirely at ease – and even actively embraced Mrs Obama.
Before saying their goodbyes in early April, the Queen was overheard telling America’s First Lady: “Now we have met, would you please keep in touch?”
According to sources, the two women have, indeed, stayed in contact over the past two and a half months.
It is understood they have exchanged letters: although the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip, is an active emailer, she usually prefers handwritten correspondence with her friends.
It is also thought the two women have spoken by phone.
It is the warmth of their new friendship that led to Mrs Obama contacting the Queen to inquire whether she would allow her daughters to see Buckingham Palace, which has been the official residence of the sovereign since the mid 19th century, when Queen Victoria was on the throne.
The Queen and Prince Philip live in the private apartments on the north side of the palace. In all, the building has 19 State rooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms and lavatories.
Buckingham Palace refused to comment on the Queen’s relationship with Mrs Obama or whether she had visited Buckingham Palace last week.
But informed sources are convinced that the friendship will be lasting, despite the significant age difference between the two women, the Queen is 83 and Mrs Obama is 45, and their very different levels of experience and backgrounds.
The Queen has ruled for 57 years and is the head of one of the world’s best known Royal families. Mrs Obama has been America’s First Lady – the wife of the country’s first black President -for just five months.
She was born to a working class family from Chicago, Illinois, and her great, great grandfather was a slave.
Mrs Obama, a graduate of Harvard Law School, has spent a week on a sightseeing tour of Europe with her two children, Malia, 10, and Sasha.
Last weekend the entire Obama family went to France for the D-Day commemoration. They went sightseeing in Paris, visiting Notre Dame, the Pompidou Centre and a restaurant near the Eiffel Tower.
It is understood that, when the President flew back to Washington on Sunday, his wife and daughters took in more of the Paris sights.
On Monday morning, they are thought to have flown by private jet to London.
Later on Monday, Mrs Obama and her daughters visited the Houses of Parliament.
The family enjoyed a fish and chips supper on Monday evening at The Audley pub in London’s Mayfair.
On Tuesday, the Obamas visited Westminster Abbey, where they were given a tour by the Very Rev Dr John Hall, the Dean of Westminster.
They were shown Poets’ Corner, the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, the Coronation Chair and Henry VII’s Lady Chapel. In the evening, they saw a performance of the Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre.
On Wednesday, and in the rain, the Obamas went to the film set of Harry Potter in Neasden, north west London, as another birthday treat for Sasha.
It is understood they had a party with some of the cast and crew.
At some point, the family, who were staying at the official residence of the US Ambassador to London, slipped away discreetly to see the Queen – the perfect end to their three-day sightseeing trip.
See Related: ROYALS