Queen of the castle sets the standard as right royal crowd pleaser
They may only have had the most fleeting of glances. But the image of Her Majesty the Queen waving from the steps of Hillsborough Castle will live long in the memories of the hundreds of people who had gathered to cheer her on.
Although the weather in the Co Down village was relatively mild, poor conditions elsewhere meant the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh had to be flown in by helicopter from a previous engagement in Enniskillen. They landed out of sight from the 400-plus onlookers and were escorted on the final leg of their journey through Hillsborough which had been decked out with red, white and blue bunting and Union flags especially for the visit.
The royal couple were driven through the newly-named Jubilee Gates before the Queen unveiled a new statue in the front garden.
For the crowds, mainly women and children, who had been waiting patiently outside the castle gates for over an hour there was a real sense of anticipation. And as the royal Range Rovers snaked their way towards the castle there were loud cheers, applause and fervent waving of flags.
“I think the Queen is a wonderful person, for all the years that she has reigned over us,” said Helen Glass from Dromore.
“I used to live in a house across the road from Hillsborough Castle, so I have seen quite a few royals.
“Now that I have moved to Dromore I have to travel a bit further, but it’s worth it.
“I missed William and Kate when they were here (Northern Ireland) and I was disappointed about that, so I didn’t want to miss the Queen on her jubilee year.”
Occasionally the crowd broke into chants of “we want the Queen” and “long live the Queen” as well as a chorus of the national anthem. Gillian McKibben, from Lisburn, brought her two children Hannah (8) and Matthew (6) along for the spectacle.
She said: “We have never seen the Queen before so we thought it would be something different to do.
“After all, it’s not every day you get to see royalty and it will be nice for the children to remember.” Sales assistant Lynn Norwood, also from Lisburn, said: “My mum said I saw the Queen many years ago when I was a child at Lagan Valley Hospital but I was too young to remember.
“She has done so well over the jubilee and I just hope that she has a nice time in Northern Ireland.
“My daughter and grand-daughter are going to the garden party at Stormont and are hoping to see her there too. We are all big royal fans.”
Meanwhile, Hillsborough resident Hilary Seawright was among hundreds of locals who had turned out to welcome the royal couple.
“I saw the Queen at the Island Centre in Lisburn when she opened it a good few years ago,” she said. “Interest in the royals has really increased recently, especially with William and Kate, and it’s great to see the Queen looking so well.”
Joan Cummings, from Moira, said: “I travelled to Hillsborough with my eight-year-old daughter especially for the event. We have tickets for Stormont as well, which is great.
“I just thought it was important to bring my daughter here to see the Queen.
“I remember the Silver Jubilee with my mother and I hope that she will remember this event as fondly as I remember that.”
There were cheers when the Royal Standard went up over the magnificent Georgian house indicating that the Queen and Duke were in residence.
Minutes later smoke could be seen billowing from a chimney — as if to confirm that the 85-year-old monarch had put her feet up for the night, leaving some well- wishers hoping that Her Majesty would conduct a walkabout slightly disappointed.