PM's royal blunder with arm round Prince William

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been caught carrying out that most heinous of protocol blunders: handling royalty.

It happened at Federal Parliament on Thursday when he put his arm to Prince William’s back.

When Harper’s Bazaar posted a picture of the moment on Instagram and Twitter, more than 400 people liked it and dozens more posted comments.

"What is it with our PMs touching up royalty!" Instagram user solarshoes wrote, while others drew parallels with Paul Keating’s gaffe in 1992, during the Queen's tour of Australia.

It is not the first time the Abbott guiding arm has been extended.

It was hard at work on Manly beach on Good Friday, when Mr Abbott squired William around the sand to meet a bunch of local surf life savers.

Apparently, touching a prince is not deemed as bad as touching a sovereign but people meeting the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are advised not to speak until spoken to, and not to extend a hand to shake but rather wait for a royal one to come their way before shaking it.

Australian prime ministers have a lamentable record when it comes to handling members of the royal family.

In 1992, Mr Keating sent the British media into a frenzy when he was photographed putting his arm around the Queen.

His helping arm made its appearance outside Federal Parliament and drove the Brits made: They dubbed him "The Lizard of Oz".

Eight years later, the next prime minister, John Howard, was accused of the same loutish behaviour after being photographed with his arm around the Queen. A Queen’s man to his bootstraps, he strenuously denied contact had been made.

If it is a protocol blunder for commoners to handle royalty, their regal touch has been keenly sought over the centuries.

In the Middle Ages, it was believed the touch of the ruler of England or France could cure diseases due to the divine right of sovereigns. Medical practitioners of the time called it adenochirapsology. Few could pronounce it, so it did not take off as a branch of medicine.

Mr Abbott has been contacted for comment.

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