Saturday 27 December 2014

A treasure trail: President Higgins given guided tour of Windsor Castle by Queen

Informal moments during long awaited event in London during State Visit

Lise Hand in London

Published 08/04/2014 | 16:03

President Higgins with Queen Elizabeth viewing a display of Irish Items from the Royal Collection in the Green Drawing Room in Windsor Castle
President Higgins with Queen Elizabeth viewing a display of Irish Items from the Royal Collection in the Green Drawing Room in Windsor Castle
President Higgins is greeted by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip outside Windsor Castle
From left; Sabina Higgins, Queen Elizabeth, President Higgins and Prince Philip watch a ceremonial welcome at Windsor Castle
The royal carriage arrives outside Windsor Castle during the state visit of President Higgins to Britain
President Higgins alongside Queen Elizabeth in the royal carriage
President Michael D Higgins talks with the Prince of Wales, as the Prince welcomed him to the UK for a five day state visit, at the Irish Embassy in central London. Photo: PA
The President of Ireland Michael D Higgins shakes hands with the Prince of Wales, as the Prince welcomed him to the UK for a five day state visit, at the Irish Embassy in central London. Photo
President Higgins shakes hands with the Duchess of Cornwall at the Irish Embassy in London

In one of the more informal moments of the State Visit, President Higgins was taken on a guided tour by the Queen of some of the treasures of Windsor Castle.

The Queen and the President entered the Green Room at 2.20pm to look at items of Irish interest from the Royal Collection. President Higgins was particularly taken by original copies of works by Jonathan Swift and Oscar Wilde - the latter including a letter by the writer - and a portrait of George Bernard Shaw.

Meanwhile Sabina Higgins who was shown around the collection by Prince Philip was very interested in bog oak carvings of a traditional Irish harp and an owl which Queen Victoria acquired at the Great Industrial Exhibition in Dun Laoghaire in 1853.

The President and the Queen shared a joke when admiring the lace fan made in Youghal, Cork which was a wedding present to then-Princess Mary in 1893 who later became Queen Mary.

Also in the gathering was Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore who was accompanied by Prince Charles, while the Tanaiste's wife Carol Hanney strolled around the room chatting to Camilla.

Among the artefacts they were shown by Windsor's Librarian Oliver Urquhart Irvine were a gold box made for George IV probably on the occasion of his state visit to Ireland in 1821. The box is made from bog oak and gold and incorporates diamonds, green guilloche enamel and pearls. The base is engraved with the royal coat of arms. The inscription in Irish on the blue enamel on the top of the box reads: "Go mbeannughudh Dia thu" which translates as "May God bless you".

Also of interest were a Celtic-inspired silver shawl brooch presented to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert at Christmas 1849 after being acquired during the royal visit to Dublin in August of that year.

Also in the collection was a book of poetry by Oscar Wilde which he presented in 1891 to the then-Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII. Wilde marked several of the poems for the Prince's special attention, and enclosed is a presentation letter written by the poet.

The President and Sabina were then shown to their suite in the Castle, where they are to stay for the next three nights, before departing for Westminster Abbey.

Further Reading

- President Higgins meets Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle 

- First Lady Sabina Higgins wears 100% Irish during historic visit

- Queen Elizabeth rolls out red carpet for historic state visit

- Remembering my great-grandfather and the Irish heroes lost to history

- Eimear's dress rehearsal ahead of big performance

- President hopes visit will strengthen ties with UK

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- Ian O’Doherty: Michael D – for when platitudes are just what we need

- Editorial: Visit will help to heal the wounds of history

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