No touching, jokes or pirouettes: when Canadians offended royal protocol

Dalton McGuinty was warned not to crack jokes in the Queen's presence, but couldn't help himself. He also appears to touch the Queen in the photo above, another serious no-no. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Justin Trudeau cracked a joke at his meeting with Queen Elizabeth Wednesday, and while some royal purists might frown upon such frivolity, it doesn’t even rank with some other incidents.

“I will say, you were much taller than me the last time we met,” Trudeau told the monarch, who he’d met previously when his father was Canada’s PM.

The queen laughed politely, and the meeting continued behind closed doors (where she might have chastised him, although it’s unlikely).

READ MORE: Justin Trudeau steps out of father’s shadow

Any politicians or persons meeting the queen typically get briefed on royal protocol, such as how to address the queen (“Your Majesty” at first, “Ma’am” after), how to bow, and other niceties.

Sometimes those instructions are forgotten or otherwise overlooked. Here are a few of those cases:

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Pirouette at the palace

 Trudeau’s father once flipped the bird at protesters and allegedly dropped an f-bomb in Parliament, but arguably his most outrageous moment came at Buckingham Palace.

During a visit in May 1977, Pierre Trudeau was walking behind the Queen enroute to dinner when he executed a pirouette, apparently an expression of disdain for the pomp and circumstance of the monarchy.

WATCH: A picture worth a thousand words: photographer recaptures Trudeau’s ‘pirouette’ moment nearly 40 years later

Doug Ball/The Canadian Press


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Hands off the queen!

One common infraction peasants tend to make is actually daring to – gasp – touch the royal personage.

Quebec cycling star Louis Garneau got into some hot water in 2002 when he threw his arm around the Queen’s shoulders for a photo outside Rideau Hall. UK newspapers expressed outrage and the incident tends to overshadow Garneau’s career; despite winning an Order of Canada and representing Canada at the 1984 Olympics, his Wikipedia page is almost entirely about his breach of royal protocol.

READ MORE: British press aghast after LeBron James puts his arm around Duchess

Ontario cabinet minister James Snow made the same mistake during a royal visit in 1984. Several UK papers reported the Queen was “furious” at Snow, but the monarch’s office later issued a statement assuring Snow of her “complete displeasure with the … suggestions that she was upset.”

We are not amused

Former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty’s memoir recalls an incident where he deliberately flouted royal protocol to crack a joke that didn’t get the reception he’d hoped for.

McGuinty says his protocol office warned him not to crack jokes, but he couldn’t resist telling a crowd, “I have spent the past three days with Her Majesty and I cannot get over the size of the crowds I have been drawing.”

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Not surprisingly, the stoic queen didn’t LOL at the joke, and the premier was “a bit disappointed.” However, he claims she later reassured him, saying “That was a good joke.”

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