Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Crowds Kept at Bay From Royal Presence

All the panoply of Russian ceremony was turned out for Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday as she toured the apartments of the tsars, was blessed by the Patriarch and was the guest of honor at the first black-tie banquet ever held in the Kremlin.


But the style of the day was more regal than popular as the queen and the Duke of Edinburgh stared down the virtually empty cobblestones of Red Square and met only tourists in what had been planned as an opportunity to meet ordinary Russians.


The queen told President Yeltsin that despite the "complicated history" behind them, she was witnessing the promise of a bright future between the two countries. The president told the British monarch that her state visit had "profound symbolic meaning" and "confirmed that a thousand-year old Russia is becoming a democratic state."


In Red Square, a visibly dismayed Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip ended up chatting to a small knot of Union Jack-waving British students and only a handful of Muscovites. Officials said the Russian side had decided to have a clear square at the last moment so Yeltsin could show the royal couple more of the square.


"Are you Russian?" Prince Philip hopefully asked one man with a Lenin-style ginger beard.


"I'm just visiting," replied an unmistakably English voice.


"You're half-way to being Russian with that beard," the Duke of Edinburgh remarked.


"It's ironic that she came here to talk to people but most of the crowd were foreigners," commented Glasgow University student Gillian Anderson.


"This is just like the old days. We can't get anywhere near our leaders," darkly observed Muscovite Anatoly Ryzhkov, who works for the government.


A presidential spokesman denied that the Russian authorities had changed the organization at the last minute and said: "The walkabout was all organized beforehand and went off completely successfully."


The queen began the day with a wreath-laying ceremony at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Her Rolls-Royce swept into the Kremlin at 10:30 A.M. to the booming resonance of the great Kremlin bell.


Running behind schedule, she came down the white steps of the recently restored Beautiful Porch an hour later and met Patriarch Alexy at the corner of the Cathedral of the Assumption.


The Patriarch interrupted a service dedicated to the Moscow saints to give the queen a speech of welcome, a blessing and an icon.


Then the sun burst onto Cathedral Square as the queen emerged, accompanied by the patriarch. He and the four bishops clad in golden robes and mitres glittered in the sunlight.


In the afternoon the queen visited the Tretyakov Gallery and later was given an exuberant welcome by the children of School No. 20 in central Moscow, where she saw an aerobics and karate class.


In the evening she exchanged her royal blue coat for a tiara at the Kremlin banquet with more than 100 guests.


Many Russians on the streets said they were intrigued and impressed by the visit of the queen, something which would have been unthinkable only a few years ago.


"She looks wonderful," said Valery Vogub, a fisherman from Murmansk, strolling across Red Square in late afternoon. "England keeps its traditions, but we got rid of ours."


"We're very envious," said Muscovite engineer Tatyana Fralova. "If only we had had a tsar like that, but we were unlucky with ours. A monarch brings more order to a country."


Even an opposition supporter, who identified himself only as Viktor, said the queen made a good contrast to the former Communist Yeltsin.


"It's shameful that such a charming, respected and educated person has to stand next to this uneducated, badly behaved so-called president," he said.


Controversy both at home and in Russia still nagged at the visit Tuesday. The London newspapers were preoccupied with a leak of a new book on Princess Diana and Buckingham Palace officials were energetically denying that the absence of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev detracted from the visit.


British Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd said he had talked with Kozyrev on Monday night and there was no dispute between them.


But Yeltsin's press secretary Vyacheslav Kostikov did little to dispel the confusion over Chernomyrdin when he said he "didn't know" why the prime minister had not come back to Moscow and that "our people" were looking into the matter.


On Wednesday, after laying the foundation stone at the new British Embassy, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip travel to the old imperial capital, St. Petersburg.