Peter Hoskin

An historic moment

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There is something incredibly resonant about the images of the Queen arriving in the Republic of Ireland this afternoon. You have probably heard the facts by now — that she is the first British monarch to do so for 100 years, and the first since Irish independence — but they are no less striking. Against a backdrop of terror threats and of Britain's participation in the country's bailout, Queen Elizabeth II is making some kind of history today.

It is also, as Ed West says in a thoughtful post over at the Telegraph, a time for remembrance. He suggests that we remember the 300,000 Irishmen who fought in the Great War — and rightly so. But there is much more to commemorate, not least those who have lost their lives in the bitter struggles and recriminations since. We shall have the thoughts of someone who was caught up in a Dublin bomb blast on Coffee House later. So, for now, let's look back on the last time a British monarch visited southern Ireland: George V in July 1911. I know we normally save these sorties into the Spectator archives for Fridays, but here's a brief exception for the sake of both posterity and comparison:

News of the week, The Spectator, 15 July 1911

Last Saturday the King and Queen, accompanied by the Prince of Wales and Princess Mary, arrived at Dublin Castle for a visit of four days. They were received enthusiastically by immense crowds, and the weather was excellent throughout. On the day of his arrival the King opened the new College of Science, visited Trinity College, and attended some races in Phoenix Park. On Sunday, after the service at St. Patrick's Cathedral, his Majesty visited Maynooth College and the Royal Hospital, where he inspected a body of veterans. On Monday he received no fewer than 130 deputations, but was able to make a separate reply to only two — the Citizens' Committee of Dublin and the National University of Ireland. The Queen meanwhile received an address signed by 160,000 Irishwomen. Afterwards the King visited Coombe Hospital and attended the races at Leopardstown. On Tuesday he reviewed 16,000 troops in Phoenix Park and presented new colours to several battalions. In a charmingly worded message to the people on Wednesday the King announced his intention of visiting Ireland again soon. We have no doubt that frequent visits would be as agreeable as they would be popular; but for the purpose a Royal residence ought to be established in Ireland.