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Friday 23 February 2018

Sojourns of old full of pomp and ceremony

Edel O'Connell

Ireland had its last regal visitor in 1911, when Queen Elizabeth II's grandfather, George V, arrived on our shores shortly after his coronation.

Overall, there have been more than a dozen British royal visits to Ireland over the past 200 years.

And despite often violent clashes with our closest neighbour, enthusiasm for royal visits has always been strong.

The first monarch to step on to Irish soil was King George IV, who reportedly arrived at Howth in Co Dublin in 1821 slightly inebriated, with around 800 gallons of beer for the locals -- he was unlikely to get a poor reception.

Having imbibed copious amounts of Irish whiskey en route, the king declared it the happiest day of his life, and that his heart was Irish.

His arrival saw Dun Laoghaire become Kingstown, and it did not change back until 1921.

The visit was marked by great pomp and circumstance including racing events, visits to the theatre, sumptuous banquets, fireworks and glittering court receptions.

In 1849, it was the turn of the then 30-year-old Queen Victoria. She received a rave reception, despite her reputation as the 'Famine Queen'.

She arrived with her four children, including eight-year-old Bertie, the future King Edward VII -- whose story was recently told in the Oscar-winning film 'The King's Speech'.

Twelve years later, in 1861, she returned, putting Killarney in Co Kerry on the map as part of a 'Victorian Grand Tour' circuit.

Her successors, Edward VII and George V, made a number of visits to Ireland up until 1911, and, despite a surging tide of nationalism, thousands applied to attend the official functions at Dublin Castle.

However, in 1903, a then 62-year-old King Edward VII arrived amid rising anger to no official welcome from Dublin Corporation -- and nationalist Maud Gonne hung black petticoats from her Rathgar home in protest.

The last visit to Ireland by a king or queen was in 1911, when King George V and Queen Mary arrived with two of their children, Princess Mary and the future Edward VIII.

for the next 84 years, any royal visits to what became the Republic were conducted in private.

A visit by Prince Charles in 1995 was marred by violent demonstrations by republican groups.

Protesters outside Trinity College Dublin threw potatoes (in memory of the Famine), and there were also demonstrations against his role as colonel-in-chief of the Parachute Regiment, the unit responsible for the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry in 1972.

Relations with Britain have become somewhat normalised since the Good Friday Agreement, but the now 86-year-old monarch's visit will be the ultimate test of the relationship between the two countries.

Irish Independent

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