26 September 2007

Press Release Concerning the Official Visit of the Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, to Australia on 15-26 September 2007

Press Release Concerning the Official Visit of the Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, to Australia on 15-26 September 2007

On 15-26 September 2007 the Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, made an official visit to Australia which coincided with the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the establishment of relations between Russia and Australia (the arrival in Sydney on 16 June 1807 of the sailing ship “Neva”). Her Imperial Highness came at the invitation of the Russian Orthodox Church in Australia. This first ever visit to Australia by a Head of the Russian Imperial House was organized at the initiative of the Russian community in Australia, with the active participation of the Embassy of the Russian Federation, the Australian and New Zealand Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church and Australian authorities. On 14 September Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna flew from Madrid to London, and from there on 15 September to Melbourne.

The official visit began on 18 September 2007 after her arrival from Melbourne to the capital, Canberra. After a brief rest, H.I.H. paid a visit to St. John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Church. The rector of the church, Archpriest Alexander Morozow and the parishioners greeted the Grand Duchess with the traditional singing of “Many Years”. Later in the evening there was an official reception in honour of the Head of the Russian Imperial House at the Russian Embassy, during the course of which Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna bestowed on Ambassador A.V. Blokhin the Order of St. Anna, 2nd class, and on First Secretary A.A. Kozhin the Order of St. Anna, 3rd class. Representatives from the Australian parliament, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other government institutions were present at the reception, as well as representatives from the local Russian community.

On 19 September H.I.H. visited the Parliament of Australia, where meetings took place with the President of the Senate Alan Ferguson, the Speaker of the House of Representatives David Hawker, and the Chair of the Australia-Russia Parliamentary Group Senator Sandy Macdonald. Her Imperial Highness was accompanied by the First Secretary of the Russian Embassy A.A. Kozhin and by members of her immediate entourage. In the course of discussions H.I.H. expressed the support of the Russian Imperial House for the initiatives put in place by President V.V. Putin during his recent meetings in Sydney at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, the first time a president of Russia had paid an official visit to Australia. H.I.H. expressed satisfaction at the obvious strengthening of ties between Russia and Australia and called on the Australian government to work with Russia on the rebuilding of its economy. Discussions also touched on cooperation in the resolution of ecological problems and nuclear security.

After her visit to Parliament, Her Imperial Highness, along with the Russian Ambassador A.V. Blokhin, paid respect to the memory of Australian and Russian soldiers of the First and Second World Wars, laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the world-famous Australian War Memorial. The director of the memorial and museum, Major-General Steve Gower, formally greeted H.I.H. upon her arrival. Before leaving Canberra the Grand Duchess was invited to visit the National Gallery of Australia where she was shown the collection of ballet costumes of the famed émigré company “the Ballets Russes”. During her stay in Canberra the Grand Duchess asked to have dinner at the home of her long-time supporter Count D.N. Wouytch, General Representative of the Russian Assembly of the Nobility in Australia and son of Count N.E. Wouytch, former head of the Chancellery of the late Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich. In the evening of 19 September the Head of the Russian Imperial House flew to Sydney.

On 20 September in Sydney Her Imperial Highness had a meeting with the Governor of New South Wales, Professor Marie Bashir, at Government House, and then with the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore.

After these official meetings a formal dinner in honour of the Head of the Russian Imperial House was hosted by the Australian Monarchist League, at which Archbishop Hilarion, members of the Australian parliament, representatives of the local Russian community and Orthodox and Anglican clergy were present. The Grand Duchess gave a speech in English in which she highly praised various initiatives of the Russian president, V.V. Putin, and renewed a call to Australia to support Russia on the path to economic reform. She expressed the hope that her visit would serve as an additional factor in the strengthening of Australian-Russian relations and would bolster cooperation for their future mutual development. The National Chairman of the Australian Monarchist League, Philip Benwell, presented icons of the Mother of God and St. George the Great Martyr to H.I.H., as well as a portrait of her third cousin, H.M. Queen Elizabeth II. In the evening, the Grand Duchess visited Fabergé’s Sydney salon.

On 21 September, on the Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna attended Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of Ss. Peter and Paul in Strathfield. As per ancient church tradition, during the litanies and the rite of Great Entrance, the clergy prayed “for the most pious and right-believing Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna and all the Imperial House”. After the service the director of Her Imperial Highness’ Chancellery read the decree awarding Archbishop Hilarion the Imperial Order of St. Anna, 1st class, for his selfless involvement in preserving the Orthodox faith and traditional Russian culture in Australia, for his decisive role in establishing unity between the two parts of the Russian Orthodox Church, and as evidence of Her Imperial Highness’ favour. The Grand Duchess personally bestowed on His Eminence the insignia of the Order. Then Her Imperial Highness went to the Russian cemetery where she visited the monument to the sons and daughters of Russia who have found their eternal resting place in Australia, and prayed at the tomb of the famed Russian volcanologist, poet, and long-time head of the Australian section of the Russian Corps of the Imperial Armies and Navy, Colonel Vladimir Petroeschevsky, the faithful friend and supporter of Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich. Archbishop Hilarion, Archpriest Michael Protopopov and Protodeacon Boris Evstigneev served a litany. After the cemetery H.I.H. visited the home of Archbishop Hilarion, where she venerated the mitre of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, the late close friend and spiritual mentor of both her august father and grandfather. The Grand Duchess then went to Strathfield for a reception in her honour at the Russian Club. In attendance were Archbishop Hilarion; A.A. Kozhin, First Secretary of the Russian Embassy; Scott Farlow, Mayor of Strathfield; and John Murphy, Member of Federal Parliament. The latter two gave welcoming speeches. Other representatives of the Australian government and many members of the Russian community in Australia were also present. At the entrance to the Russian Club H.I.H. was met by officials of the club, representatives of its board and by P.S. and K.D. Tatarinoff and T.V. Chernishev. Welcoming speeches on behalf of the Russian community were offered by P.S. Tatarinoff, M.N. Churkin and A.A. Vasilieff.

During the second half of the day H.I.H. took a cruise on Sydney Harbour, one of the most beautiful natural shorelines of the Australian continent.

On 22 September the Head of the Russian Imperial House flew from Sydney to Brisbane, the capital of Queensland where, at the kind invitation of the governor Ms. Quentin Bryce, she stayed at Government House. Her Excellency and her spouse personally greeted the Grand Duchess on her arrival. On the same day Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna visited the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, where she acquainted herself with the many unique forms of Australian animal life, fed kangaroos by hand and was photographed with koalas, as is the tradition for visitors to the sanctuary. Her Imperial Highness then returned to Government House to attend an official reception given in her honour by the Governor of Queensland. In the evening Her Imperial Highness attended a dinner at the Queensland Club arranged in her honour by the Queensland Monarchist League.

On the morning of 23 September, after breakfast, Her Imperial Highness had a meeting and discussions with the Governor and her spouse. Then H.I.H. attended services at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brisbane, the first Russian Orthodox cathedral built in Australia, and participated in a procession with the newly-blessed icon of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. She then unveiled a memorial plaque in honour of the 200th anniversary of Russian-Australian relations and of the first Russian settlers in Queensland. The Head of the Russian Imperial House examined the regimental banners of the Ural Cossacks which had been saved by the Ataman, General V.S. Tolstoff, and preserved in the cathedral and which were about to be repatriated to Russia. Her Imperial Highness spoke with S.V. Tolstoff, the son of V.S. Tolstoff, and his wife, and expressed her pleasure at the return of these Cossack holy relics to Russia. H.I.H. then left to attend a reception organized by the Russian community of Brisbane at the Russian Community Centre. That same evening Her Imperial Highness flew to Melbourne, the capital of Victoria. On her arrival H.I.H. met the governor, Professor David de Kretser and his wife, who invited her to stay at Government House.

On 24 September a meeting was arranged for the Head of the Russian Imperial House with Councillor Fiona Snedden, Chair of the Business and International Relations Committee. At this meeting an exchange of commemorative written statements signed by H.I.H. and by the city officials of Melbourne took place. Then the Grand Duchess, accompanied by the First Secretary of the Russian Embassy A.A. Kozhin, placed a wreath at the tomb of the first Russian consul in Australia, A.D. Putiata, and visited the Holy Protection Cathedral. On the same day a luncheon was arranged in honour of Her Imperial Highness at the Athenaeum Club by the Australian Association of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta. In the evening Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna attended a dinner in one of the oldest clubs in Australia, The Melbourne Club, which was hosted by the Monarchist League of Victoria.

On 25 September the Head of the Russian Imperial House took part in a ceremony in memory of the Russian soldiers of the First World War, 1914-18, at the Shrine of Remembrance memorial complex. There was a guard of honour and H.I.H., together with the First Secretary of the Russian Embassy A.A. Kozhin, placed wreaths at the Shrine and the memorial plaque to Russian soldiers. Afterwards a luncheon was held in honour of Her Imperial Highness at Cranlana, the former home of the prominent Myer family, hosted by Lady Marigold Southey and her family. After lunch H.I.H. went to Our Lady’s Dormition Church where the rector, Archpriest Michael Protopopov, served an intercessory prayer service for the health of the Imperial Family. After the service Her Imperial Highness awarded Archpriest Protopopov, the chairman of the organizing committee that helped to bring Her Imperial Highness to Australia, the Monogram Medal of Her Imperial Highness, 1st class. Then the Head of the Russian Imperial House visited the Russian Welfare Society of St. John of Kronstadt, where she spoke with representatives of the Russian community and elderly Russian immigrants who live in the nursing home facility run by the Society. Her Imperial Highness attended part of a concert arranged for the elderly by local youth. In the evening the Head of the Russian Imperial House attended a dinner at Government House given in her honour by Governor David de Kretser.

On 26 September the head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, left Melbourne and arrived in Madrid on 27 September.

Throughout the course of her entire visit, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna repeatedly spoke of her support for the international initiatives and ventures being proposed by Russia and expressed her hope that the friendship and mutual cooperation between Russia and Australia today would continue and only strengthen over time. In honour of the first ever official visit of the Head of the House of Romanov to Australia personalized postage stamps were issued with the image of H.I.H. and the Russian state emblem, as well as a commemorative medal forged.

The attention given during her visit to Australia to the Head of the Russian Imperial House, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, a great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, is evidence of the continual development of Russian-Australian relations and of high international recognition of the important historical role of the Imperial Family in the world today.

A.N. Zakatov
Director of H.I.H.’s Chancellery


Due to a number of unfortunate inaccuracies which occurred in the original English language Press Release, as well as misspelling of names when translated from the Russian text, a revised and corrected version is hereby presented. The Chancellery wishes to express its regrets for any possible inconvenience which may have been caused to its visitors browsing this website.

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