How the British Royal Family demonstrated support for Ukraine during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II
Nearly two weeks ago, a 70-year-long chapter of history that was the reign of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain came to an end with the monarch’s passing at the Balmoral Castle on September 8, 2022, at the age of 96. During her seven decades as Queen, she was a figure of great historical importance, living through times of extraordinary change and witnessing turn-point global events. After she passed away, world political leaders showed their respect for the longest-reigning monarch in British history.
With Her Majesty’s state funeral taking place today, on September 19, 2022, the world bid a final farewell to Britain’s longest-reigning monarch Queen Elizabeth II. Despite the rule of being strictly neutral with respect to political matters, Queen Elizabeth II had demonstrated her support for Ukraine amid Russian armed aggression on numerous occasions.
We have collected the most interesting facts about the Royal Family’s subtle and not-so-subtle demonstrations of support for Ukraine and Ukrainians over the years.
Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II supported Ukrainian identity and cultural heritage throughout her reign, even before Ukraine restored its Independence in 1991.
For instance, in 1978, she visited the town of Vegreville, Alberta, Canada, where a giant sculpture of a pysanka, a Ukrainian-style Easter egg, was constructed. It was built to underline the crucial role of Ukrainian emigrants in the history of Canada. According to historian Ustyna Stefanchuk, Her Majesty came to the town to see the Ukrainian symbol with her own eyes. Vegreville egg is the second largest pysanka in the world and a popular tourist attraction in Canada.
Queen Elizabeth II was photographed near the pysanka monument in Vegreville accompanied by the city mayor on September 2, 1978.
In 1982, Her Majesty greeted Canada’s renowned Ukrainian Shumka Dancers at the National Arts Center in Ottawa during a gala concert dedicated to the adoption of the 1982 Constitution Act.
In 1984, she attended an opening ceremony for the Ukrainian Village park in Dauphin, Canada, which includes a restored Ukrainian homestead with a church, schools and traditional homes.
In 2005, Her Majesty noted the European aspirations of Ukrainians when making Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko the first international leader to receive the Chatham House Prize for “the improvement of international relations.” The Queen noted that the award showed “respect for the achievements of the Ukrainian people.” Yushchenko was given the award in the immediate aftermath of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, a mass campaign of civil resistance against fraudulent elections.
After Russia annexed Crimea and unleashed war on Donbas in the spring of 2014, Her Majesty the Queen mentioned Ukraine in her speech at the State Opening of Parliament in June 2014, highlighting Russia’s encroachment on Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
“The United Kingdom will work for peace and security on Europe’s borders, and for stable relations between Russia and Ukraine based on respect for national sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law,” the Queen said back then.
A year later her appeal became even stronger. “My government will maintain pressure on Russia to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and will insist on the full implementation of the Minsk agreement,” the Queen said in May 2015. Since then, Queen Elizabeth II routinely mentioned Ukraine in her speeches, supporting the country’s sovereignty.
When Russia launched a full-scale war in Ukraine in February 2022, Queen Elizabeth II made a generous donation to support the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. According to British tabloids, the Royal Family was speculated to have even secretly housed Ukrainian refugees, but it was never confirmed by the Royals — Daily Express wrote there was “firm wish for no publicity with royals wanting to keep their contribution private.”
Throughout her reign Queen Elizabeth II’s fashion became a subtle way of communication — and such was the case with her support for Ukraine.
For instance, on May 17, 2022, the Queen made a surprise appearance at the Paddington station during the opening of the long-awaited Elizabeth line. Her Majesty wore a sunshine yellow coat with a matching hat adorned with blue flowers, sporting the Ukrainian national colors.
Several weeks later, she wore a yellow dress with blue flowers while having tea with Paddington Bear on the occasion of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
During her meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in early March, journalists noted a large bouquet of blue and yellow flowers behind the Queen. Royal insiders have indicated that this was unlikely to be a coincidence.
King Charles III
New monarch King Charles III has also repeatedly showed his support for Ukraine, in particular during his 1996 visit to Ukrainian cities of Kyiv and Sevastopol.
In Kyiv, then-Prince Charles honored the memory of those who died in the Second World War in the Park of Eternal Glory. During his visit to the capital, His Majesty met with the mayor of Kyiv and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and paid a visit to a nursing home.
When in Crimea, Prince Charles visited the British Memorial in Balaklava. During the Crimean War of 1853−1856, British and French troops fought on the peninsula against the Russian Empire, which attempted to suppress the influence of the Ottoman Empire.
A few years before that, Charles danced the Ukrainian folk dance hopak with the Hoverla Ukrainian ensemble in the city of Derby, UK.
After Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla made a donation in support of Ukraine, and met with the Ukrainian community and refugees in the UK, Canada and Romania.
On March 1, 2022, Prince Charles spoke about the Russian war on Ukraine for the first time. He mentioned Ukraine, while honoring the memory of Sir David Amess, a British MP who was fatally stabbed in a terrorist attack in October 2021.
“What we saw in the terrible tragedy in Southend was an attack on democracy, on an open society, on freedom itself. We are seeing those same values under attack today in Ukraine in the most unconscionable way. In the stand we take here, we are in solidarity with all those who are resisting brutal aggression,” said Prince Charles.
That same month, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla showed their support to members of the Ukrainian community during a visit to the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family in London where they met with the Ukrainian community and volunteers. At the altar inside the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, Their Royal Highnesses lit a candle and laid sunflowers, the national flower of Ukraine.
Wearing blue and yellow “stand with Ukraine” ribbons, Charles and Camilla took part in a prayer with members of the Ukrainian community and met with volunteer groups helping Ukrainian refugees during their royal tour to Canada in May, 2022.
In May, Prince Charles made a surprise trip to Bucharest, Romania, to see firsthand the efforts being made to help the refugees who crossed the border from neighboring Ukraine
The Prince and Princess of Wales, and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex
Two days after the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Prince William and Kate Middleton released a joint statement of support for Ukraine.
“In October 2020 we had the privilege to meet President [Volodymyr] Zelensky and the First Lady to learn of their hope and optimism for Ukraine’s future. Today we stand with the President and all of Ukraine’s people as they bravely fight for that future,” they wrote on Twitter.
As Page Six reports, Kate Middleton also made a subtle show of support for Ukraine with her fashion choices on March 14, 2022, during a celebration of Commonwealth Day by wearing the same jewelry she previously had worn during Ukrainian President Zelenskyy’s 2020 visit to the UK with his wife, First Lady Olena Zelenska.
Kate Middleton during the audience with President of Ukraine in October 2020
Kate Middleton at the annual Commonwealth Day service in March 2022
The royal couple also visited the Ukrainian Cultural Center in London where volunteers collect and sort humanitarian aid for the affected Ukrainians.
“The Ukrainian Cultural Centre in London has become one of many hubs organising donations, material aid and supporting Ukrainians living locally. The work volunteers here are doing to ensure that help gets to where it is most needed is inspiring,” the couple said.
Prince Harry and Megan Markle have vocalized their support for Ukraine too. In March, they announced they had made donations to charities to “support the people of Ukraine”, while paying tribute to a Ukrainian Invictus Games athlete who was killed in the war.
During their speech at the Invictus Games’ opening ceremony in The Netherlands this year, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said everyone was “standing with” the Ukrainian team.
The Duke of Sussex also paid tribute to the courage of Team Ukraine. “Your bravery in choosing to come, and for being here tonight, cannot be overstated,” he said. “You said you came to be on this global stage, not simply to show your strength, but to tell your truth, the truth, of what is happening in your country. You know we stand with you. The world is united with you and still, you deserve more.”
One of the members of Invictus Games Ukrainian paramedic Yuliya Paevska wasn’t able to participate in competitions this year as she was captured by Russian forces. After her release, Prince Harry called her and inspired her to “continue fighting” for her country, Daily Mail reported. Yuliya Paevska said he spoke “strongly and sincerely” about the war in Ukraine. “He simply inspired me to continue to fight,” said Ms. Paievska. “He said that he supports Ukraine and all of us.”