The Queen's awkward reaction to Russian astronaut stroking her knee revealed

Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin reportedly stroked the Queen's leg during a breakfast at Buckingham Place to check if the monarch was 'real'

The Queen's awkward reaction to Russian astronaut stroking her knee revealed
(Image credit: Getty)

The Queen had an uncomfortable interaction with a Russian astronaut over breakfast at Buckingham Palace, according to a royal expert. 

The Queen was left in a state of 'astonishment' after a Russian astronaut touched her leg without consent, royal expert Andrew Morton has claimed. 

Her Majesty reportedly suffered the uncomfortable experience during a formal breakfast with Yuri Gagarin, the first man to enter space, in July 1961. 

The Soviet pilot had been invited to Buckingham Palace shortly after he returned to Earth to officially meet the monarch and her astronomy-loving husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. It's understood that the engagement was held at the royal headquarters' intimate White Drawing Room, which has long been used for hosting small gatherings and audiences. 

Queen and astronaut

Yuri Gagarin on his way to Buckingham Palace in 1961 

(Image credit: Alamy)

Introductions started off strong, according to Morton, with 27-year-old Yuri being seated right next to the Queen for the prestigious meal. The pair reportedly chatted about all things space travel, a subject that has long been of interest to the monarch, and even shared some banter about the confusing amount of cutlery at the dining table. 

"My dear Mr. Gagarin, I was brought up in this palace - but believe me, I still don’t know in which order I should use all these forks and knives," the Queen apparently reassured him. 

Unfortunately, Yuri's lack of table etiquette wasn't the end of his royal blunders. The record-setting astronaut also touched the Queen's thigh - an act that, at best, is considered foolish and at worst, highly disrespectful. 


(Image credit: Getty)

"To the Queen’s utter astonishment, he dipped his hand to stroke her leg just above the knee," Morton writes for the Mail Online. 

This shocking story was first recounted in Lev Danilkin's 2011 biography about Yuri, who died in a jet crash in 1968. 

"As a village lad, he only knew about kings and queens from fairy tales," Vladimir Lebedev, a psychologist who worked with Yuri, says in the book. "Yura [Gagarin's nickname] told me he wanted so much to be sure it was a real queen that he touched her under the table, slightly above the knee."

Luckily for Yuri, the Queen was gracious enough to keep her composure. 

"With admirable sang froid, she managed to keep a smile on her face as she sipped her coffee," Morton writes. 

Always the professional, our Queen. 

Emma Dooney
Lifestyle News Writer

Hailing from the lovely city of Dublin, Emma mainly covers the Royal Family and the entertainment world, as well as the occasional health and wellness feature. Always up for a good conversation, she has a passion for interviewing everyone from A-list celebrities to the local GP - or just about anyone who will chat to her, really.

Emma holds an MA in International Journalism from City, University of London, and a BA in English Literature from Trinity College Dublin.