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Queen Accepts Invitation to Visit Soviet Union

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From Reuters

Queen Elizabeth II will make the first visit to the Soviet Union by a British monarch since the 1917 Bolshevik revolution after accepting an invitation today from Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

Buckingham Palace said she agreed to a visit but indicated to the Soviet leader over lunch at Windsor Castle that it could take some years to arrange.

Thanked for Invitation

A statement said the queen thanked Gorbachev and explained that her program was fixed several years in advance. She “hoped it would be possible to take up the invitation in due course.”

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The Soviet leader’s invitation came at the end of his visit to London, which British officials said established relations between the two countries at their warmest level since World War II.

It was made in the splendor of the state dining room over a meal that royal press secretary Robin Janvrin said was “relaxed, happy and very successful.”

The palace had let it be known in advance that the queen, already the most traveled monarch in Britain’s history, was eager to go to Moscow.

Her acceptance ended an estrangement between the British throne and the Soviet state since the murder of Czar Nicholas II and his family during the revolution.

The queen and her husband, Prince Philip, have family ties with the Romanov dynasty, which provided Russia’s last czars.

The last British ruler to visit Russia was King Edward VII, the queen’s great-grandfather, whose yacht moored at Tallinn in Estonia in 1911 although he did not set foot ashore.

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In 1924, her grandfather, King George V, implored Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald never to put him into the position of having “to shake hands with the murderers of my relatives.”

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who vetoed the prospect of a visit to Moscow by the queen when it was floated last December, has apparently agreed in view of the steady improvement in ties with the Soviet Union.

The idea has seized the imagination of the British public, which reacted with enthusiasm to Gorbachev’s visit.

Gorbachev drove to Windsor for the final event of his stay, arriving to a discreet display of royal pomp and a relaxed greeting from the queen, who told him: “It was nice of you to come.”

Coldstream Guards Maj. Nicholas Parsons, speaking fluent Russian, invited the Soviet leader to inspect a guard of honor ranged on the lawn inside the castle quadrangle.

Television cameras were allowed a rare glimpse of the interior of the royal retreat as the queen led the Gorbachevs up the Grand Staircase into the vast St. George’s Hall, pointing out its treasures as they walked.

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The cameras were not allowed to follow the group into the dining room, where they were joined by guests who included Thatcher, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Robert A. K. Runcie, and Prince Edward.

A total of 34 guests sat down to a meal that began with cornets of smoked salmon stuffed with crab and moved on to fillets of beef, duck and artichoke baked in pastry.

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