Gallery: The Irish President’s Visit to Britain
The two nations have had bad blood since – well, since a very long time – but then one day, they said, “This is silly! We’re neighbours. We should be … neighbourly.”
Such was the case this week when the Queen of England put on her hostess hat, pulled out the good china and threw an extraordinary welcome for Irish President Michael D. Higgins. It was the first time an Irish head of state had paid an official visit, and Queen Elizabeth made sure the occasion was marked with pageantry and polish.
President Higgins was greeted by two princes (Charles and Philip), one Camilla and a throng of onlookers waving both Irish and British flags (the pick-up is always so important – just ask any frequent flyer).
The town crier let it be known that the Queen had received her special guest (never mind email or text – where’s the sense of tradition in that?).
The Queen and the President were then whisked away to Windsor Castle by horse-drawn carriage escorted by a fleet of (gentle?)men. Later that day, the sparkling dinner banquet that awaited them was the stuff of fairytale: a long, lavishly decorated table with enough room to seat a small duchy of dignitaries was topped with glittering dinner service and floral arrangements to rival estate garden topiaries.
President Higgin’s wife, Sabina, and Prince Philip
Onlookers wave the flags from each nation.
The Queen and the President are transported by carriage.
President Higgins and the guards.
President Higgins in conversation with a guard.
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Irish President Michael D. Higgins look at a fan as they view Irish-related items from the Royal Collection in the Green Drawing Room in Windsor Castle.
Irish President Michael D. Higgins adjusts a ribbon as his wife, Sabina, looks on during his visit to Westminster Abbey before an Irish solider lays a wreath at the grave of the Unknown Warrior.
Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, accompanied by opposition Labour party leader Ed Miliband and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, laugh as they await the arrival of Irish President Michael D. Higgins.
Irish President Michael D. Higgins and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II pose for a photograph ahead of a State Banquet during the Irish president’s visit.
Former British prime minister John Major attends a State Banquet during the Irish president’s state visit in Windsor.
Queen Elizabeth II delivers a speech during a State Banquet in honour of the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins.
British actor Daniel Day-Lewis attends a State Banquet during the Irish president’s state visit in Windsor.
Leader of the Opposition Labour Party Ed Miliband greets Irish President Michael D. Higgins before a State Banquet during the Irish president’s state visit in Windsor.
Lord Samuel Vestey, Master of the Horse, attends the ceremonial welcome for Irish President Michael D. Higgins.
The Very Reverend John Hall, Dean of Westminster Abbey, shows President Higgins around Westminster Abbey.
British Prime Minister David Cameron meets with Irish President Michael Higgins at 10 Downing Street.
President Higgins leaves 10 Downing Street after meeting with British Prime Minster David Cameron.