Casket with seeds and deviations from the protocol: how Queen Elizabeth II visited Boris Yeltsin


Casket with seeds and deviations from the protocol: how Queen Elizabeth II visited Boris Yeltsin

Elizabeth II paid her first and only visit to Russia in October 1994. According to the protocol, the queen can make an official visit to a country only once (so as not to give preferences to anyone), any other visits are considered just travels.

Her Majesty has repeatedly received invitations to come to our country – back in the years of Soviet power – but was in no hurry to accept them. One reason they said was the royal family’s reluctance to go where the last Russian emperor Nicholas II was killed. I must say that he was a cousin to the Emperor of Great Britain George V, Elizabeth's grandfather. After the collapse of the USSR, the relations between the two countries showed a warming, and the arrival of the queen was already a fairly logical development of events.

The news that Elizabeth II accepted the invitation of President Boris Yeltsin was immediately disseminated by the world media, this visit was immediately dubbed historical. We recall the interesting details of this trip.

Almost protocol

The visit of the monarch implies strict adherence to a whole set of rules, and the receiving party tried to avoid any violations. As the head of the Kremlin Protocol Service, Vladimir Shevchenko, said, gigantic work was done to prevent any emergency situations.

On October 17, Boris Yeltsin and his wife Naina welcomed Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in the St. George Hall of the Kremlin. The queen chose a yellow suit for this meeting, while the rest of the meeting participants were in dark outfits. The bouquet, prepared for the guest to present to Yeltsin, by the way, was designed in yellow colors – just in accordance with her image.

Naina Yeltsin, Queen Elizabeth II, Boris Yeltsin and Prince Philip
Naina Yeltsin, Queen Elizabeth II, Boris Yeltsin and Prince Philip

In the Kremlin, there was a slight departure from the protocol prohibiting touching the queen. Boris Yeltsin, whom the press describes as a person "prone to tactile contact," decided to show gallantry and reached for the collar of the queen's coat to help her undress. The reporter’s book, Boris Grishchenko, says that at that moment the president said with a broad smile:

Hello, Your Majesty, undress, please, it's not cold here!

The queen instantly reacted, just dodging the hands of a politician, and immediately sat down on the sofa. It is funny that a similar incident occurred in the previous meeting between Yeltsin and Elizabeth II in London: then, in 1992, a Russian politician generally tried to acquire the Queen, but she also deftly avoided this friendly gesture.


Elizabeth II presented gifts to the family of the Russian president, one of them is a commemorative plate with two portraits: the Queen herself and Boris Yeltsin. Another gift was a small rectangular box made of polished wood. In his presidential marathon, Yeltsin wrote:

I opened it, and it was a kind of children's fairy tale – there were a lot of drawers in the box. In boxes – bags with seeds. A whole collection of seeds from the royal garden … Naina, Lena and Tanya studied these exotic flowers seeds for a long time, grew them in a greenhouse, and planted them in the ground. Some, unfortunately, did not take root. But many flowers still grow. The royal family has forever left a memory in our family garden.

The casket and the plate were subsequently transferred by the president’s family to the Yeltsin Center Museum in Yekaterinburg – there they are now on display.

Seed box
Seed box

Recall that the Yeltsin Center was opened in 2015. The Boris Yeltsin Museum is one of the main attractions of the center. The exposition is dedicated to the first president of Russia and talks about his biography and about the life of the country in the 90s, using the latest technology.

In addition to the exhibition, there are also a library, a cinema hall, a cafe, a scientific amusement park and much more, as well as concerts, lectures and other events.

50 events

The Queen’s program in the Russian capital was very busy: it included about 50 official events. The crowned guest was waiting for a tour of the Kremlin's cathedrals, a meeting with the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II, a walk around the city, and a visit to the Bolshoi Theater.

The Queen and her husband attended the opening of the Old English Courtyard Museum on Varvarka, visited the construction of a new building of the British Embassy, ​​laid flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and visited one of the English schools. The students of that school recall the day of the Queen’s visit:

They told us that the queen would have to answer in English … The jitters of the teachers were visible, they all just stood on their ears.

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II, Queen Elizabeth II and Boris Yeltsin
Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II, Queen Elizabeth II and Boris Yeltsin

Former schoolchildren recall the entrance to the porch of a burgundy Rolls-Royce, on which Elizabeth II and Philip moved around the capital. The students greeted the guests, meeting them with posters, and presented a production specially prepared for them.

According to eyewitnesses, the queen behaved, as expected, with restraint. Ordinary people also seemed a little embarrassed at the sight of persons of this level. Although when the queen appeared in the city center, accompanied by officials and guards, people loudly chanted her name.

In the evening, a special banquet with ballet numbers from the best artists of the country was arranged especially for the queen and her husband. And at a dinner at the British embassy there was a funny incident, which was later described in his book Queen of the World by royal biographer Robert Hardman. The seating of the guests was done by the wife of the Russian ambassador, and she did not sit down the guests on the basis of rank.

In the neighborhood with Elizabeth II was the famous British doctor, Hugh Carpenter, in Moscow, who, without embarrassment, started a conversation with the queen. His wife, sitting opposite, with gestures tried to show her husband that he would talk less. The Queen was amused by the situation, and she jokingly suggested that she should "try this on Philippe."

Final banquet

The visit of Elizabeth II to St. Petersburg ended, where she and her husband visited the Peter and Paul Fortress, the Hermitage and the Mariinsky Theater. Former Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Russian Ambassador to Britain in 1994-1997, Anatoly Adamishin writes in his memoirs "English divertissement":

The queen visited the Peter and Paul Fortress, where she was shown the place of the future reburial of Nicholas II and members of his family. Elizabeth behaved underlined restraint. But after the assassination of the Romanovs, the British monarchs vowed never to come to Russia.

According to diplomatic rules, the British monarch, as the representative of the largest maritime power, must arrive in the country visited or leave it by sea – unless, of course, the state has a maritime border. So all four days of the stay of Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Britannia yacht was moored off the coast of St. Petersburg. And on the last day of the visit, a gala reception was held on board. The author of the book "English Divertissement" describes Yeltsin at this reception:

He was handsome and gallant. Separate exits beyond the orthodox protocol only added charm. As, for example, during lunch at the "Britain". Before his toast, he suddenly began loudly pounding his fist on the table in the pandan queen, who knocked with a wooden hammer before starting his speech. It stands in my eyes as Elizabeth got out of position, half-jokingly, half-seriously gasping and clasping her hands.

When the queen was escorted to the ship, Yeltsin did not want to let her go. Then he stayed on the pier, with his pleasant childish face, everyone was waiting for her to wave to him from above. Elizabeth immediately went to her room. B. N. didn’t leave, and then we, the Russian part, standing on the deck, began to wave and applaud him, and he answered us for a long time.

Almost ten years after a visit to Russia, at a meeting with Vladimir Putin, Elizabeth II said:

When I came to Russia in 1994, I remember how I told President Yeltsin that the majority of our lives with him were both sure that this visit will never take place. As I said then, I was very glad that we were wrong.

The Queen noted the “greatest changes” that have occurred in the country since her arrival, and called Russia “friend and partner.”

Photo Center of Boris N. Yeltsin / Office of the Press Service and Information of the President of Russia


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