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Lithuanians welcome British Queen as "local girl"

dpa German Press Agency
Published: Tuesday October 17, 2006

Vilnius- The visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Lithuania was given an unexpected twist on Tuesday by the announcement that the Queen herself has Lithuanian blood flowing in her veins. "A historical surprise for a VIP guest: Queen Elizabeth II will be told about blood ties with Lithuania," the country's leading daily, Lietuovs Rytas, trumpeted on its front page.

According to new research, the Queen is descended through 20 generations from Lithuania's 14th-century ruler the Grand Duke Gediminas. The link runs via the Polish royal family, the Hohenzollerns and Hannover, the paper reported.

The discovery - finalised on Saturday, according to British ambassador Colin Roberts - is the work of British historian Stephen Rowell and Lithuanian professor Alfredas Bumblauskas.

It has made headlines across the country. Lithuania became a republic in 1918 when it broke away from the Russian Empire, but its people have never forgotten its aristocratic past.

The state was founded in 1236 by Grand Duke - later King - Mindaugas, one of Europe's last pagan rulers. He and his descendants held power over much of modern Ukraine and Belarus, and streets are still named after them in practically every town in the country.

Lithuania was eventually partitioned and annexed by Russia, Prussia and Austria, but monarchy still has a special significance here. The Queen's visit has been met with unprecedented interest.

"She's much more important than any president. She's the queen," artist Arune Tornau, director of the Vilnius Children's School of Art, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

The Queen has no lack of distinguished ancestors. Her family tree includes, among others, William the Conqueror, Robert the Bruce and Harald Bluetooth, the Viking king of Denmark.

According to mediaeval legends, the kings of Britain are ultimately descended from the Greek goddess Aphrodite.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency