Monday 19 March 2018

Ruth Dudley Edwards: Pushing the royal barge out to welcome our President

Queen eager to play host after her historic visit here and continue to bond with closest neighbour, says Ruth Dudley Edwards

ALL SMILES: Queen Elizabeth chats with President Higgins at Belfast's Lyric Theatre
ALL SMILES: Queen Elizabeth chats with President Higgins at Belfast's Lyric Theatre
Ruth Dudley Edwards

Ruth Dudley Edwards

THE State visit of President and Mrs Michael D Higgins in April 2014 will be the 108th of Queen Elizabeth's reign.

The first two – from the king and queen of Sweden and Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia – happened in 1954, the year after her coronation, when she was 29. King Gustaf VI Adolf, who was 67 – two years older than Prince Charles is now – when he inherited the throne in 1950, reigned until he died in 1973 at the age of 90. The emperor was ousted in 1974 by Soviet-backed military conspirators and died in captivity the following year at the age of 83.

No invitation is issued until it is absolutely clear that it will be accepted. Along the way, the Queen has entertained – always at the request of her governments – the good, the bad and the ugly. She has smiled and welcomed heads of state and spouses of both genders and many races, creeds and colours. Young and old, they have included saints and scoundrels, constitutional and absolute monarchs, tyrants and democrats and a pope. She will have been as punctilious in dealing with President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe as with President Nelson Mandela of South Africa. Many of her guests will later have expired in their beds: others, like President and Madame Ceausescu of Romania will have died violently.

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