The Day Queen Elizabeth II Hid In a Bush To Avoid a Romanian Dictator

Although the royal calendar generally runs like clockwork, it's during tours and state visits that things tend to go off-script — and, like all members of the Royal Family, the Queen enjoys the times when events don’t go entirely according to plan. One of times came when Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu came to stay at Buckingham Palace in June 1978. In return for a pledge to boost Britain’s ailing economy with £300 million worth of aerospace contracts, he and his wife Elena were given the grandest welcome they had received anywhere, though not before the Queen had acted on the advice of President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing of France. He called the palace to warn the Queen about the conduct of Ceausescu’s entourage during a visit to Paris a few months before. After their departure, it was discovered that the Romanians had emptied their official accommodations of anything that could be unscrewed, including lamps, vases, ashtrays and bathroom fittings. Following this call, the Queen asked the Master of the Household to remove any remotely valuable and loose items from the royal guest quarters in the Belgian Suite. Later, describing Ceausescu as "that frightful little man," she quickly decided that she had seen quite enough of her visitors. While out walking her dogs in the Buckingham Palace garden the next day, she spotted the Ceausescus coming the other way and she hid behind a bush in her own garden to avoid them. Fortunately, the Queen’s self-control is such that unexpected events, no matter how startling, seldom throw her.