Being the queen of the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II has impeccable diplomatic skills. But even though she has had decades of experience being the head of state, she still has a breaking point.
Throughout her record-breaking 68-year reign, the Queen has hosted several heads of state at Buckingham Palace. These include Russian President Vladimir Putin, Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe, and Syrian leader Bashar-Al-Assad.
However, no one has tested her legendary patience like Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. He visited London with his wife, Elena, in 1978 for a four-day state visit. Just like usual state visits in the U.K., the British government arranged for a welcome soiree for Ceaușescu at Buckingham Palace.
Even before arriving in Britain, Ceaușescu, who led Romania from 1965 until 1989, had already caused quite an unpleasant stir among the U.K public. In a documentary titled The Queen: Inside the Crown, journalist Robert Hardman recounted that the press started raising questions to the foreign secretary about inviting Ceaușescu.
The Queen has always been mindful of executing her duty as a monarch. And so, she and Prince Philip greeted the Ceaușescus at the Victoria train station in London. Together, they rode an open-top carriage to travel to Buckingham Palace. Even though it started with a display of friendship and warmth, this visit eventually led to the Queen’s most less-than-regal moment ever.
According to Hardman, while the Queen was out in the palace gardens taking her beloved corgis for a walk, she saw the Ceaușescus coming the other way. Hardman said that the Queen didn’t feel like talking to them. So for the first time in her life, she hid in a bush in her palace gardens just to avoid her guests.
It’s unknown if Ceaușescu saw her from behind the foliage, though. Through what happened, it became clear that she disapproved of the state visit. In the same documentary, former British Foreign Secretary Lord David Owen said that Ceaușescu was too much for her even though she usually puts up with various people.
Ceaușescu was not the only one who spurred problems during a state occasion. The visit of President Mobutu of Zaire five years earlier also strained the Queen’s diplomatic skills. Hardman said that the Queen was unhappy when it was revealed that President Mobutu’s wife, Marie-Antoinette, snuck in a pet dog through customs.
During an economic summit back in May 1977, U.S. President Carter visited Buckingham Palace. The disaster happened while he was meeting the royals. He leaned over and smacked a kiss on the lips of the Queen’s mother. Novelist Sarah Gristwood revealed in the documentary that the Queen Mother abruptly stepped back and said that nobody has done that to her since her late husband, George VI.