MOSCOW, OCT. 17 -- Britain's Queen Elizabeth II arrived in Russia today for a visit that draws a symbolic close to seven decades of royal frostiness toward Russia over the assassination of Czar Nicholas II, the queen's distant cousin, whose execution with his family by Bolshevik revolutionaries in 1918 ended the monarchy here.
The royal visit, which British officials consider one of the queen's most important foreign trips, was overshadowed before it began by a furor in England over a new biography of Prince Charles, the queen's son and heir.
Aides traveling with the queen spent much of today playing down the controversy caused by the book, in which Charles says he never loved his wife and suffered from a lack of affection and a domineering father.
Russians, however, seemed less interested in the newest palace dust-up than in the glamor of having royalty here again. Newspaper and television coverage of the first visit by a British monarch began several days ago and continued at a fast pace today, with particular focus on the glitter and the generally warm feelings most Britons have toward the queen.
Russia is in the midst of a mini-monarchist boom, with some polls showing that as many as 18 percent of Russians favor a return to monarchy. A monarchist party was established recently, and a teenage descendant of Nicholas II who lives in Europe and is said to be an heir to the Romanov throne has been treated with growing respect here, even in official circles.
Whether Elizabeth will say anything publicly during about the last czar is unclear, but she will visit the church in St. Petersburg where czars are buried. This spring, the bones of Nicholas II, recently uncovered from a pit near Yekaterinburg where his Bolshevik killers tossed them in 1918, are to be interred there as well.
Elizabeth's grandfather, King George V, and Nicholas were first cousins and looked like identical twins. Although the two monarchs were friendly, the British government refused Nicholas political asylum after he was overthrown in 1917, apparently because George feared a surge of anti-monarchist sentiment in England. Nicholas and his family were shot several months later.
Lingering hostility over the fate of Nicholas had prevented a royal trip until now, despite an invitation by the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. But the dramatic political and economic changes of the past few years apparently changed minds in London, and Buckingham Palace responded positively to an invitation by President Boris Yeltsin, who ended communist rule here in 1991. Other members of the royal family have already visited Russia -- including Charles and Prince Philip, the queen's consort and Charles's father.
Today, Yeltsin told reporters: "For Russia, this visit is the utmost recognition that our country is on the road to democracy."
In an interview published today in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Prince Philip -- whose own kinship to the last czar devolves through Greek royalty -- said the grisly death of the Romanovs was part of his family history. "But I don't look at this as a family occasion," he said. "We went through this whole drama of the collapse of the Marxist state, and now we see the gradual recombining of countries... . There is tremendous potential."
British officials said the queen's four-day visit is not intended to focus on old wounds but is designed to acquaint the 68-year-old queen with today's Russia. Her schedule here and in St. Petersburg is full of ceremonial events at the Kremlin, where she and Prince Philip are staying; cultural forays around town; and meetings with Russians of all stripes.