Donald and Melania Trump arrived in the United Kingdom today for a state visit. The president and first lady "were met by The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall on the lawn before being welcomed by The Queen on the West Terrace of Buckingham Palace," according to a post to the royal family's Instagram account.
But the weight of the occasion, which comes after prime minister Teresa May announced her forthcoming resignation, was overshadowed by Trump's awkward encounter with her Majesty. The president seems to have abandoned regular protocol when it came to his first physical encounter with the monarch.
Perhaps unsure about how to greet the Queen after she extended her hand, the president appears to have clenched her first in what the Telegraph has described as a "thumb war" position. Other outlets and social media figures have called it a "fist-bump" or strange attempt at a "business power handshake."
Trump doesn't seem to have been very gentle, either — you can see his knuckles turn white.
Whatever it was, it must not have been pleasant for the 93-year-old Queen, who accepted it with her typical grace. Look closely, though, and you may note that her smile seems more straind than usual — maybe she's grinning through the pain. You can view the photo below.
For the record, there is no established protocol for foreign leaders who meet the Queen. While, according to the royal family website, her subjects may "observe the traditional forms" (curtsey, now, etc.), foreign heads of state may approach her as an equal. But a thumb war / fist bump is probably not appropriate.
@GlendajSharsted Neither bow nor curtsey is required of US citizens, a handshake is generally given with the Queen… https://t.co/SK1vILJPgb— Sammy (@Sammy) 1559568099.0
People across the world have taken to Twitter to remark at the awkwardness of the moment. Many are wondering whether the pair are actually members of a secret society that demonstrate their allegiances through movements of the hand.
Trump giving the Queen the Masonic handshake there #STAUNCH https://t.co/5e4i2LAkrj— AManCalledSun (@AManCalledSun) 1559573258.0
The Queen and Trump practicing their handshake https://t.co/8MX2I6rQ4N— Bernie Sanders stan account (@Bernie Sanders stan account) 1559568779.0
Many others consider the fist bump an odd choice.
Did Trump just fist bump the Queen? If not, it's a weird handshake. https://t.co/yO6hPXFJ2X— James Armstrong 🟠☀️🏳️🌈✊🏾 (@James Armstrong 🟠☀️🏳️🌈✊🏾) 1559563986.0
Don't know what kind of hand grip this is,but Kudos to the Queen for not letting Trump try to crush her fingers wit… https://t.co/yJetuqoRn6— LibertySister (@LibertySister) 1559565594.0
Some are worried about possible diplomatic and geopolitical consequences of this strong grip.
Isn’t it dangerous for Trump to meet England’s queen in person? His excuse for a handshake could injure her and start a war.— Arunski (@Arunski) 1559564898.0
Stay tuned for more news sure to come from Trump's state visit with the Queen of Canada.
For more on this strange handshake, you can read this article from USA Today.