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Peering At Their Majesties Through An Irish Mist

20/05/2011

 

I caught a glimpse of  Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip this week on O’Connell Bridge. Like many others I was a captive in Dublin’s south side, unable to cross the Liffey and pestering the Gardai about when the bridge would be reopening. Then Their Majesties just passed by in an armoured car, waving through the dark glass at the bystanders. The iPhone cameras went into over-drive. There were excited gasps: ‘I saw the Queen. I saw the Queen.’

The royalists were not so lucky in Achill in 1903 when Queen Elizabeth’s great-grandfather Edward VII visited. I came across this little story recently. Seemingly there was great disappointment that Edward and Queen Alexandra would not take in a visit to the island on their way from Donegal. So His Majesty acceded to a late request that the royal yacht Victoria and Albert should steam slowly between Clare Island and Achill to receive the greetings of the islanders on their way to Killary Bay.

The papers reported that large numbers gathered in the early July morning at Achillbeg. They came by boat and cart from miles around and waited in expectation for the royal yacht until noon. But the sea was running high, a thick mist prevailed, and the yacht could not approach the island shores. When all hope of was given up of seeing the yacht, a bonfire was lit and ‘God Save The King’ was sung with gusto.

I was more lucky. I saw the Queen – while a captive on Dublin’s south side. It was indeed a week of deep symbolism and great hope.

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