It is simply not the done thing. Or to put it another way, you can look but you can’t touch.
So much so that Canada’s Governor General has felt the need to explained why he decided to breach royal protocol and touch the Queen, saying that he wanted to make sure she did not slip during an official engagement.
David Johnston was spotted supporting the 91-year-old by gently touching her elbow as she climbed the steps at Canada House in Trafalgar Square, on Wednesday.
He did the same thing as she left the building, which she visited with the Duke of Edinburgh in honour of the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation.
Speaking afterwards he told Canadian broadcaster CBC News: “Well I’m certainly conscious of the protocol. I just was anxious to be sure that there was no stumbling on the steps.”
Mr Johnston, who as a student inspired a character in the bestselling 1970 novel Love Story, added: “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.”
In its advice on how to greet a member of the Royal family Buckingham Palace’s website reminds people that 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”.
While touching the Monarch, beyond a handshake, is not explicitly mentioned it is generally accepted that members of the public do not do so.
Not that Mr Johnson is the first to beach royal etiquette with displays of friendship.
In 2009 Michelle Obama took the unusual step of putting her arm round the Queen, in response to the Monarch placing her hand on her back, while she attended a glittering reception at Buckingham Palace with her husband, ahead of the G20 summit. Buckingham Palace described it at the time as a “mutual and spontaneous display of affection and appreciation”.
In 1992 the then Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating placed his arm around the Queen while introducing her to subjects during her visit in 1992, earning himself the nickname ‘The Lizard of Oz’.
And in 2014 the basketball star LeBron James put his arm around the Duchess of Cambridge while presenting her with a jersey after a game in New York.
Buckingham Palace said it had no concern over the Governor’s General decision to lend the Queen his hand in support.
An aide said: “There’s no issue here. It was a simple human gesture”