A memorial service for Count Alexander Benckendorff, the last Ambassador of the Russian Empire to the Court of St James's, was held on Wednesday at the Westminster Cathedral. Ambassador Benckendorff died in office on 11 January 100 years ago. In nearly 50 years of diplomatic service Benckendorff made a great contribution to the development of Russian-British political and military union as well as strengthening relations between the two countries, including during the First World War.
He enjoyed unquestioned authority among the diplomats, both in Britain and Russia. After his death he was buried in the crypt of Westminster Cathedral, becoming the only layman to be interred there. Born a Lutheran, Benckendorff was a convert to Catholicism and regularly attended Mass at the Cathedral from its opening in 1903.
The service, followed by a talk by historian Dominic Lieven and laying of wreaths at the diplomat's grave, was attended by the Russian Charge d'affaires, Alexander Kramarenko. The flowers used in the wreath laid on behalf of Westminster Cathedral were the same as those used at Benckendorff's Requiem Mass.
Read more about Count Alexander Benckendorff in an entry in the Cathedral blog from 2007 entitled The Russian in the Crypt: http://westminstercathedral.blogspot.co.uk/2007/12/russian-in-crypt.html