| 8.6°C Belfast

Following 380 state visits, why does the Queen feel it’s so vital that she goes to the Republic?

Close

The 8th Royal Hussars lead the procession for King George V and Queen Mary down Grafton Street,Dublin during the Royal Visit in 1911

The 8th Royal Hussars lead the procession for King George V and Queen Mary down Grafton Street,Dublin during the Royal Visit in 1911

King George V, arriving at Belfast City Hall accompanied by Queen Mary to the opening of the first Ulster Parliament. 22/6/1921.

King George V, arriving at Belfast City Hall accompanied by Queen Mary to the opening of the first Ulster Parliament. 22/6/1921.

King George V1 (VI) : Coronation on May 12th 1937. The Royal family robed and crowned on the balacony of Buckingham Palace after the coronation, with the princesses.

King George V1 (VI) : Coronation on May 12th 1937. The Royal family robed and crowned on the balacony of Buckingham Palace after the coronation, with the princesses.

PRESIDENT MARY ROBINSON AND QUEEN ELIZABETH

PRESIDENT MARY ROBINSON AND QUEEN ELIZABETH

KING GEORGE V1865-1936

KING GEORGE V1865-1936

George V with Queen Mary visiting Ireland in 1911, the last reigning monarchs to visit.Queen Victoria visiting Dublin in 1900

George V with Queen Mary visiting Ireland in 1911, the last reigning monarchs to visit.Queen Victoria visiting Dublin in 1900

Princess Elizabeth of York in 1927

Princess Elizabeth of York in 1927

The Royal Collection / PA

George V with Queen Mary visiting Ireland in 1911, the last reigning monarchs to visit.Queen Victoria visiting Dublin in 1900

George V with Queen Mary visiting Ireland in 1911, the last reigning monarchs to visit.Queen Victoria visiting Dublin in 1900

Queen Elizabeth II meets Dame Helen Mirren at a reception to celebrate young people in the performing arts, at Buckingham Palace

Queen Elizabeth II meets Dame Helen Mirren at a reception to celebrate young people in the performing arts, at Buckingham Palace

Dominic Lipinski

WINSTON CHURCHILL MEETS QUEEN ELIZABETH II

WINSTON CHURCHILL MEETS QUEEN ELIZABETH II

Picture dated 1935 showing Princess Elizabeth sitting in the studio of Hungarian sculptor Sigismund de Strobl (background).

Picture dated 1935 showing Princess Elizabeth sitting in the studio of Hungarian sculptor Sigismund de Strobl (background).

THE ROYAL COLLECTION

NI visit 1949.  The young Princess Elizabeth visits Northern Ireland.

NI visit 1949. The young Princess Elizabeth visits Northern Ireland.

Princess Elizabeth with her grandparents King George V and Queen Mary; and Snip the King's Cairn terrier, 1928.

Princess Elizabeth with her grandparents King George V and Queen Mary; and Snip the King's Cairn terrier, 1928.

The Royal Collection 2007 Her

Princess Elizabeth of York in 1927

Princess Elizabeth of York in 1927

The Royal Collection / PA

20/11/1947 Princess Elizabeth, now Queen, and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, now the Duke of Edinburgh with their eight bridesmaids in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace, on their wedding day.

20/11/1947 Princess Elizabeth, now Queen, and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, now the Duke of Edinburgh with their eight bridesmaids in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace, on their wedding day.

PA Wire

King George V, at Belfast City Hall accompanied by Queen Mary to the opening of the first Ulster Parliament. 22/6/1921.

King George V, at Belfast City Hall accompanied by Queen Mary to the opening of the first Ulster Parliament. 22/6/1921.

Belfast Telegraph

Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret riding a rocking horse at St. Paul's Waldenbury in August 1932

Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret riding a rocking horse at St. Paul's Waldenbury in August 1932

The Royal Collection / PA

Princess Elizabeth of York with lilies in 1929

Princess Elizabeth of York with lilies in 1929

The Royal Collection / PA

Princess Elizabeth (who became Queen Elizabeth II). The Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Princess Elizabeth (who became Queen Elizabeth II). The Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Princess Elizabeth (who became Queen Elizabeth II) playing with Victorian glasses. The Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Princess Elizabeth (who became Queen Elizabeth II) playing with Victorian glasses. The Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

The Duchess of York with Princess Elizabeth (who became Queen Elizabeth II). The Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

The Duchess of York with Princess Elizabeth (who became Queen Elizabeth II). The Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth:Coronation 1953/Visit to Northern Ireland. In Ballymena.

Queen Elizabeth:Coronation 1953/Visit to Northern Ireland. In Ballymena.

Queen Elizabeth:Coronation 1953/Ulster Celebrations. Coronation Book Display. 4/6/1953

Queen Elizabeth:Coronation 1953/Ulster Celebrations. Coronation Book Display. 4/6/1953

Queen Elizabeth:Coronation 1953/Ulster Celebrations. Beechill, Lisburn. 30/5/1953

Queen Elizabeth:Coronation 1953/Ulster Celebrations. Beechill, Lisburn. 30/5/1953

Queen Elizabeth:Coronation 1953/Ulster Celebrations. Loopland Drive Party.

Queen Elizabeth:Coronation 1953/Ulster Celebrations. Loopland Drive Party.

2/6/1953, of the coronation in Westminster Abbey of Britainís Queen Elizabeth II. 50 years on the anniversary will be marked later Monday June 2, 2003, with a service in the Abbey, attended by members of the Royal family, invited guests and 1,000 members of the public.

2/6/1953, of the coronation in Westminster Abbey of Britainís Queen Elizabeth II. 50 years on the anniversary will be marked later Monday June 2, 2003, with a service in the Abbey, attended by members of the Royal family, invited guests and 1,000 members of the public.

2/6/1953. Bishops pay homage to Queen Elizabeth II, at her coronation.

2/6/1953. Bishops pay homage to Queen Elizabeth II, at her coronation.

The 8th Royal Hussars lead the procession for King George V and Queen Mary down Grafton Street,Dublin during the Royal Visit in 1911

After 59 years on the throne — Elizabeth II is now the second-longest-serving monarch in British history, and she will in all probability live to outdo her great-great-grandmother, Victoria, who clocked up 63 years — the Queen has been to nearly every country in the world.

She has completed some 380 state visits in her time.

But the Republic of Ireland really is something new: as is now well known, no British monarch has set foot in Dublin since George V, the Queen’s great-grandfather, in 1911. Because of “political sensitivities” no British monarch could set foot in Dublin until now. The planning of this state visit has been at least three years in the making: the invitation was indeed first formally extended to the Queen by President Mary Robinson back in 1993 but progress had to wait on the Good Friday Agreement and the healing peace process which has taken place since then.

As I understand it, the Queen herself has been keen to make this trip, and she herself chose to make it a four-day visit, rather than the more usual two-day gig. She has a full, rich, and imaginative itinerary, which includes an appearance at the GAA’s Croke Park, and the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin’s Parnell Square, founded to honour generations of Irish patriots who were usually viewed by the Crown as rebels.

I believe it will be a piquant and stimulating event, which for both the Queen and Prince Philip, will seem just a little different from so many state visits they might have made to other foreign or Commonwealth countries. For most British people, the Republic of Ireland is not exactly a “foreign” country: it is something like a slightly exotic cousin — a historic part of the family, but apart, as well.

The family link is relevant: it is reckoned that some 10% of people in Britain have an Irish parent or grandparent. Being a Dubliner married to an Englishman myself, I’m familiar with this context: our London-born sons had loads of friends who, like them, had one British and one Irish parent and a strong, fond link with “the auld country” was always maintained. How often did “The Fields of Athenry” ring out on St Patrick’s Day?

Yet in coming into Dublin, in particular, the Queen will find herself in somewhat familiar surroundings. It is often said by architectural experts, that Dublin is essentially “an English city built on a Danish foundation”: for it was the Danes, who defeated our last High King, Brian Boru, in 1014, who laid out Dublin, and it came to its full elegance under the Hanoverian Georges.

The Queen will be lodging at a stately mansion associated with the Guinness family, Farmleigh, but she will spend time at the President’s residence, now known as Aras an Uachtarain, but originally the Vice-Regal Lodge. It’s a splendid Palladian edifice dating from 1782, for which an extra wing was built for Queen Victoria, and an extra wing added for George V. (President McAleese once told me rather delightedly that she likes to sleep in George V’s bed). Victoria felt especially at home here in the Phoenix Park, where she could trot around the grounds in her pony and cart.

The famous sites of Dublin which the present Queen will see were almost all put in place under the English — and later, British — Crown, from Dublin Castle (King John in 1204), through Trinity College (Elizabeth I in 1592) to the Taoiseach’s Office in Merrion Street: the foundation stone laid by her great-grandfather Edward VII in 1904 (very popular in Ireland as a man of the turf) and the building formally opened by George V.

All around are the glories of Georgian Dublin: Leinster House (built 1745), Merrion Square, Mountjoy Square, Eccles Street (of James Joyce fame), Henrietta Street, and Parnell Square itself with its lovely Rotunda. Leinster House, now the home of the Dail and the Seanad, also contains the only statue left in Dublin of a member of the British royal family: that of Prince Albert, Victoria’s consort, discreetly still standing on a plinth in the back lawn. All the rest have been, one way or another, knocked off their pedestals — but when the Lord Mayor of Dublin meets the Queen, it may be observed that that Mayoral chain of office still contains the image of William of Orange.

So Dublin will have many familiar resonances for Her Majesty, and I’m sure she will be far too tactful to go around pointing out various landmarks, saying: “Oh yes, I think we gave you that one” (though perhaps Prince Philip might, if provoked!)

Once she travels outside of Dublin, she will be much more into authentic Irish foundations, such as the Rock of Cashel in Co Tipperary, associated with the kings of Munster and the Irish monastic traditions. But, by the way, Elizabeth II can claim Brian Boru among her own ancestors (the Dublin geneaologist Monica Henchy has traced the connection, via the kings of Scotland), so the intermingling of history is still a factor.

When she gets to the English Market in Cork — one of Europe’s best food markets, which has contributed to Cork’s growing reputation as the gastronomic county of Ireland — it may also be recalled to her that the English Market was set up in the 18th century in imitation of similar markets in England, notably in the Leeds area.

If the Queen keeps a diary it will be surely as fascinating an archive for the future as the diary of Queen Victoria, which was immense, rich and copious (or even the diary kept by George V, which was less fluent and opinionated, but still a very good record of his life, including his visits to Dublin and Belfast). How fascinating it would be to get a peep at Elizabeth II’s record of the state visit to the Irish Republic which she was committed to making.

Queen Victoria’s diary was in a very different time — her reign being from 1837 to 1901 — but she caught something vivid and true about Ireland in her observations. Though she would have been fiercely critical of “rebel” inclinations of any kind, she was very responsible to the people. “This warm-hearted people,” she wrote repeatedly.

At that time, all of Ireland was, of course, within the United Kingdom, so it was a home trip. Yet she saw that Ireland was both like Britain, and different. There was something almost Italian in the effusive way the people, especially in the south, expressed themselves. I am sure that most of us hope that next week’s unique visit will bring to the Queen and Prince Philip both something familiar and something beguilingly different, and that, like Victoria, she will leave the country saying the whole experience was unforgettable.

Mary Kenny is a writer, journalist, public speaker and the author of Crown and Shamrock – Love and Hate between Ireland and the British Monarchy. www.mary-kenny.com

Sixty years of meeting presidents, pontiffs and politicians

  • The Queen has met many American presidents while on state visits to the US, from President Dwight D Eisenhower in 1957 up to President Bush in 1991. She also welcomed the Obamas to Buckingham Palace in 2009. President Barack Obama presented the Queen with an iPod while she gave a gift of a silver framed picture of Prince Philip and herself
  • Her Majesty has also been a frequent visitor to the former West Germany with royal excursions there in 1965 and 1987, returning in 1990 to a newly reunited country
  • In 1966 a smiling Queen Elizabeth presented the World Cup to a triumphant Bobby Moore after England’s historic 4-2 victory over West Germany at Wembley Stadium
  • The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited the South Wales village of Aberfan in 1966 to pay their respects after the colliery disaster. One hundred and fortyfour people, including 116 children, were killed when a tip of coal slid into the village engulfing a local school. The Queen received a posy from a three-year-old girl with the inscription “from the remaining children of Aberfan”. She was said to be close to tears
  • World War II veterans and former prisoners of war protested when Emperor Hirohito was received by the Queen on an official state visit in 1971. Emperor Hirohito’s reign lasted from 1926 until his death in 1989 and covered World War II. He was given back his Order of the Garter which had been taken from him during the war
  • The Queen has also met with various pontiffs at Vatican City, including Pope John XXIII in 1961, Pope John Paul II in 1980 and again in 2000
  • The Queen’s meeting of Pope Benedict XVI during his 2010 visit to Britain was mired in controversy due to the priest abuse scandal

Belfast Telegraph