The Queen once ‘hid in a bush’ to avoid Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu

‘She made it quite plain she didn’t like that visit,’ former foreign secretary recalls

Sabrina Barr
Saturday 23 May 2020 15:13 BST
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Queen's coffin arrives at Buckingham Palace

The Queen once went to extreme measures to avoid a controversial house guest, hiding in the foliage of her Buckingham Palace gardens.

In 1978, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu travelled to the UK with his wife, Elena Ceaușescu, for a state visit.

It was a historic occasion, marking the first time a Communist head of state had made a state visit to the UK.

In the documentary Inside the Crowd: Secrets of the Royals, which aired on ITV in 2020, journalist Robert Hardman and former foreign secretary Lord David Owen recalled how one day during the visit, Queen Elizabeth II had an adverse reaction to coming across the Ceaușescus while taking her dogs for a walk.

“She once told a lunch guest who in turn told me of the occasion when [the Ceaușescus] were staying and she took the corgis out for a walk in the Palace garden,” Hardman said.

The journalist said that an idea sprung in the monarch’s mind when she spotted the couple “coming the other way”.

According to Hardman, the Queen thought: “I really can’t face talking to them”.

“So for the first and only time in her life, she actually hides in a bush in the Palace garden to avoid her own guests.”

Lord Owen laughed as he described the Queen’s encounter with the Ceaușescus in the documentary.

Queen Elizabeth II and Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu travelling to Buckingham Palace on 13 June 1978

“The Queen puts up with having many different people, but Ceaușescu was too much for her,” he said.

“She made it quite plain she didn’t like that visit,” the former foreign secretary added with a chuckle.

When Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu arrived for their state visit, they were greeted by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip at Victoria station in London.

They and the royal couple then rode to Buckingham Palace in an open-top carriage.

The Queen died peacefully at her Balmoral estate in Scotland on Thursday 8 September. It comes nearly 18 months after the death of Prince Philip, who died aged 99 in April 2021.

The Queen’s funeral will be held on Monday 19 September.

Follow the latest updates following the death of Queen Elizabeth II here

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