Tuesday 20 February 2018

I could see the warmth and wit of the Queen shining through

Even in 1998 she had an interest in the peace process -- evidently eyeing a first visit to her close neighbour, writes Celia Larkin

Watching Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip gliding seamlessly through their historic first state visit to Ireland, I couldn't help but think of how much the political terrain of Ireland has changed since my first meeting with her. It was in 1998, and the occasion was a dinner in Buckingham Palace for visiting dignitaries during the British presidency of the EU.

Like most who visit London, I had seen Buckingham Palace from the outside. Witnessed the spectacle of the Changing of the Guard and, of course as a teenager full of high jinks (I was 17 at the time of my first visit to London) had tried to get the fellow in the box with the busby on his head to smile. For the record, there wasn't as much as a flicker out of him.

However, here I was in London during the presidency with an invitation to accompany Bertie to dinner. The Irish ambassador's residence in London overlooks Belgrave Square and I'm told that the Queen's corgis are walked there on occasion. however, I have never witnessed it. On my first visit to the ambassador's residence, little did I know that I would one day soon be a guest of that very lady. The residence is a beautifully ornate building, one of the finest ambassadors' residences we as a country own. It was there that Ambassador Barrington briefed us on protocol for meeting the Queen. Thankfully the dos and don'ts are less numerous when you are not a subject.

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