Despite the fractious history – often a violent and oppressive one – between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, the announcement of the passing of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth 11 was met with genuine sorrow here, and admiration for the ninety-six-year old monarch.
After 70 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth 11 will be remembered for her state visit to Ireland in 2011, accompanied by her late husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
It was a jam-packed visit of official engagements and an Irish audience marvelled how the couple, the Prince in his early 90s and the Queen in her mid-eighties, stood for so many official ceremonies.
Her Majesty wore many green ensembles as she visited Croke Park, Ireland’s premier sporting landmark which had its own bloodied experience of a tyrannical British realm, Trinity College, the Guinness Storehouse and the Irish War Memorial Garden, among others.
But for me and many others, it was her opening address at a gala reception in Dublin Castle that endeared her to the Irish people.
“A Uachtaráin, agus a chairde” she began (above) and it was clear she had practiced and properly pronounced these few Irish words. It was a significant moment in our history, and a major acknowledgement by the British royal of our culture and language.
She later visited the National Stud in Kildare, where she clearly enjoyed seeing the thoroughbred mares and foals in situ and the working equestrian farm at Tully. The royal couple also visited St Patrick’s Rock, Cashel and Cork city.
Uachtarán na hÉireann, Michael D Higgins spoke warmly of the 2011 state visit and how that visit proved a major healing factor in Anglo-Irish relations.
“On behalf of the people of Ireland, may I express my heartfelt sympathy to His Majesty King Charles 111 and to the Royal Family on their very great personal loss. May I offer my deepest condolences to the British people and to the members of the Commonwealth on the loss of a unique, committed and deeply respected Head of State.”
He described Queen Elizabeth’s “exceptional dignity, her commitment to her role and extraordinary sense of duty which were the hallmarks of her period as Queen, which will hold a unique place in British history.”
He continued: “Her reign of 70 years encompassed periods of enormous change, during which she represented a remarkable source of reassurance to the British people. This was a reassurance based on a realism of the significance of present events, rather than any narrow conception of history.
“This was so well reflected by a remarkable generosity of spirit which helped to foster a more inclusive relationship both with the British people themselves and with those with whom her country has experienced a complex, and often difficult, history.
“As President of Ireland, I recall the exceptional hospitality afforded to Sabina and myself by the Queen and the late Prince Philip on our four day State Visit to Britain in 2014. Together we celebrated the deeply personal interconnection between the Irish and British people, a connection embodied by the hundreds of thousands of families who have moved between our shores over the centuries.”
He noted, the Queen often spoke of how much she enjoyed her state visit to Ireland in 2011, the first such visit by a British monarch since Irish independence, and during which she “did not shy away from the shadows of the past. Her moving words and gestures of respect were deeply appreciated and admired by the people of Ireland and set out a new, forward looking relationship between our nations – one of respect, close partnership and sincere friendship.”
Taoiseach Mícheal Martin extended his condolences to the Royal family and the British people and stated her passing was indeed the end of an era.
“Her state visit to Ireland in 2011 marked a crucial step in the normalisation of relations with our nearest neighbour. That visit was a great success, largely because of the many gracious gestures and warm remarks made by the Queen during her time in Ireland.
“Her popularity with the Irish people was also very evident and clearly made a very positive impact on the Queen.” He described her as an “exceptional woman who led by quiet and dignified example…. Our world is a poorer place for her passing but a far richer and better place as a result of her long life and enduring contribution.”
US President Joe Biden stated he called to the British Embassy in Washington to extend his condolences and described her “an extremely gracious, decent” person. Flags will be raised at half mast at the White House in respect of the Queen’s passing. The reign of King Charles 111 has already officially begun, making it not just a major UK historical moment but a significant moment in global history.
While she carried out her duties over a 70 year period, she was also a wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother and had many family crises to endure, not least the sudden death of Princess Diana, several Royal marriage break-ups and the controversy of sexual allegations made against Prince Andrew in recent years. Once again, she handled all with stoic dignity – ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis.
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