Lithuania in the News
22nd October, 2006
Queen Elizabeth II's State Visit to Lithuania
Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh with President
and Mrs. Adamkus at the Presidential Palace
Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain visited Lithuania October 16 -18, 2006. For the State Visit, the first by a reigning British monarch, she was accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and arrived in Lithuania late in the evening on Monday October 16, departing Lithuania on October 18 for Latvia, the next stage of her Baltic States tour. After arriving in Vilnius for the longest leg of her tour, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were met at Vilnius airport by the Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas and after a brief welcoming ceremony they travelled to the Reval Hotel Lietuva, for a night’s rest ahead of a very busy schedule on Tuesday.
Early on Tuesday the Queen went to the Presidential Palace, where she was met by President Valdas Adamkus and Mrs Alma Adamkus, inspected the Guard of Honour, met a number of dignitaries and officials, and spent a couple of hours in conversation with President and Mrs Adamkus, a meeting which President Adamkus described as especially warm. The Queen
Queen Elizabeth inspecting
the Guard of Honour
showed that she was particularly well informed about Lithuania and Lithuanian history. From there it was on to the Antakalnis Cemetery, where the visitors laid wreaths "...to pay homage to the first tremor in the seismic shift that transformed the recent history of Eastern Europe. Before her in a semicircle lay 17 black marble gravestones that form a memorial to those who died when Lithuania became the first vassal state to declare its independence from the imploding Soviet Union in 1990" ("The Times" 18/10/06). The wooded Antakalnis Cemetery left a deep impression on the Queen and Prince Philip.
Later the Queen travelled to address the Lithuanian Parliament. Before her address she viewed an exhibition illustrating
Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh
laying wreaths at the Antakalnis Cemetery
Lithuanian parliamentary history. Her eye caught a medieval map, which showed Lithuania stretching form the Baltic to the Black Sea. She was also interested in the circumstances in which the Statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was promulgated in the 16th century. This statute was the first modern codification of laws anywhere in Europe. The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Česlovas Jurđënas, presented to the Queen a copy in three languages of the 1791 Constitution of the Lithuanian - Polish Commonwealth, the first such written constitution in all of Europe and the second in the world.
Addressing Parliament, Her Majesty declared that "You (the Baltic States) have emerged from the shadow of the Soviet Union and blossomed as sovereign states, taking up your rightful places in the international community and as respected members of the European Union and NATO. It is a transformation - political, economic and social - for which there are few parallels in the history of Europe"..."I hope my visit will demonstrate the importance we attach to the relationship which now exists between Britain and Lithuania"...."We salute your dynamism, your creativity and your commitment to freedom and
Queen Elizabeth addresses
the Lithuanian Parliament
democracy which has so much to offer to your partners and to the world. And Mr. Speaker, if I may quote from your national anthem as we walk together down the challenging path into our new century - May the light and the truth accompany our steps"
. Later in the afternoon the Queen hosted a reception in the Vilnius Town Hall for Lithuanians from all walks of life. Outside in the Town Hall Square the Queen mingled with people. She was presented with a posy by a young descendent of the Lithuanian pilot Romualdas Marcinkus, who flew with the RAF during World War II, was captured by the Germans, took part in the Great Escape from Stalag Luft III prison camp and was executed on Hitler’s orders. The Queen then went to Vilnius University, where she met students and academics and opened the "Science Café" forum for young Lithuanian students and researchers.
In the evening President Adamkus and Mrs Adamkus hosted a State banquet for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. There the Queen had the opportunity again to see soldiers dressed in authentic 14th century armour from the army of Lithuania’s Grand Duke Algirdas. They had been part of the Honour Guard during her visit to the Presidential Palace, and she was so impressed with them that she requested to see them again. Interestingly, Lithuanian and British historians have just discovered that the Queen Elizabeth II is, in fact, a distant descendant of Grand Duke Algirdas.
The symbolic significance of the Queen’s visit to the Baltic States cannot be overstated. "The Times" editorial declared that "...the Queen paid tribute to three dynamic countries", while according to "The Economist" "...they have gained a symbolic importance that means they cannot be abandoned."
Photos courtesy President of Lithuania website www.adamkus.lt and Lithuanian Parliament website www.seimas.lt

Further information:
President of Lithuanian website www.adamkus.lt
Lithuanian Parliament website www.seimas.lt
Lietuvos Rytas www.lrytas.lt 17,18/10/06
The Times www.timesonline.co.uk 17,18/10/06
The Economist www.economist.com 20/10/06