Queen Elizabeth II has returned home from her historic visit to Ireland.
Her Majesty’s speech during her visit moved many, but her mere presence was what spoke the loudest. No British monarch has visited the shores of the Emerald Isle in 100 years. The last British sovereign to set foot on Irish soil was the Queen’s grandfather, King George V, who visited Ireland in 1911 with his consort, Queen Mary.
It is fitting, then, that the Queen should be the next monarch to visit the Republic of Éire. King George and Queen Mary had a profound effect on a young Elizabeth. Though no one knew it at the time, the training Princess Elizabeth received from her august grandparents would stand her in good stead as queen.
Dressed in green and smiling brightly, the Queen shook hands with Irish President Mary McAleese. President McAleese did not curtsy, which in my view is appropriate. To do so would have resulted in a tricky political issue at such an historic moment.
The Queen visited the Garden of Remembrance, the memorial garden in Dublin dedicated to the memory of “all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish Freedom”, where she laid a wreath; she toured the Guinness Storehouse; the National Stud at Kildare (of course!); and met with traders at the English Market in Cork.
The Queen also acknowledged the “sad and regrettable” mistakes of Britain’s relationship with Ireland during her state dinner in Dublin. Below, an excerpt of her speech:
‘A hUachtarain agus a chairde (President and friends).
Madam President, Prince Philip and I are delighted to be here, and to experience at first hand Ireland’s world-famous hospitality.
Together we have much to celebrate: the ties between our people, the shared values, and the economic, business and cultural links that make us so much more than just neighbours, that make us firm friends and equal partners.
The lessons from the peace process are clear; whatever life throws at us, our individual responses will be all the stronger for working together and sharing the load.
There are other stories written daily across these islands which do not find their voice in solemn pages of history books, or newspaper headlines, but which are at the heart of our shared narrative. Many British families have members who live in this country, as many Irish families have close relatives in the United Kingdom.
These families share the two islands; they have visited each other and have come home to each other over the years. They are the ordinary people who yearned for the peace and understanding we now have between our two nations and between the communities within those two nations; a living testament to how much in common we have.
These ties of family, friendship and affection are our most precious resource. They are the lifeblood of the partnership across these islands, a golden thread that runs through all our joint successes so far, and all we will go on to achieve.
They are a reminder that we have much to do together to build a future for all our grandchildren: the kind of future our grandparents could only dream of.
So we celebrate together the widespread spirit of goodwill and deep mutual understanding that has served to make the relationship more harmonious, close as good neighbours should always be.
Good luck in Ireland today, President Obama. You have a tough act to follow.
Historic Visit – An Irish View