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President of Ireland Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh at the 'Welcome Ceremony' in Windsor Castle. Photo by: Photocall

History!

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President of Ireland Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh at the 'Welcome Ceremony' in Windsor Castle. Photo by: Photocall

Setting off on his historic trip to England, President Michael D. Higgins declared “Ireland and Britain must deal with the pain of the past and must not be crippled by it,” setting a forward-looking tone for the first-ever state visit to Britain by an Irish president.

The President and his wife, Sabina, were joined by Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore and his wife, Carol Hanney. Arriving at Heathrow Airport on Monday night, they were greeted by a Guard of Honor, the Irish Ambassador to England Dan Mulhall, and the Viscount Henry Hood, who represented the Queen.

As the Irish delegation arrived, the British Monarchy Twitter account issued a welcome in Irish. The President’s party departed Heathrow in a maroon Bentley waving the Irish tricolor flag. Later, the monarchy Twitter feed announced that “850 British Army Personnel, 275 horses and one Irish wolfhound named Domhnall” would be taking part in Tuesday’s state visit.

Tuesday morning began bright and early for President Higgins as the delegation made its way to Windsor. Windsor Castle is the Queen’s preferred royal residence, and it has been regarded as a particular honor that President Higgins and Sabina have been invited there rather than Buckingham Palace, where heads of state typically stay when visiting.

At the Irish Embassy in London, the presidential couple greeted staff and were met by Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. From there, it was all pomp and circumstance as they traveled by motorcade to the outskirts of Windsor. As custom dictates, President Higgins and Prince Charles traveled in one car; Sabina and Camilla in another. They were met by the Queen and Prince Philip at Windsor and saluted by the Mounted Band of the Lifeguards, who played both “The Royal Salute” and “Amhrán na bhFiann.”

The royal and presidential couples completed the last leg of the journey to Windsor Castle in horse-drawn carriages – The Queen and President Higgins in one, followed by Prince Philip and Sabina in another.

Arriving at Windsor Castle, President Higgins inspected the Honor Guard and was introduced to the mascot of the Irish Guards, Domhnall the Irish Wolfhound. The Irish Guards are currently stationed in Cyprus.

Inside the castle the royal and presidential couples attended a private lunch before the Queen showed the President a number of the Irish items from the Royal Collection, including a fan made of delicate lace from Youghal, Co Cork below.

Next the President and Sabina traveled to Westminster. In Westminster Abbey, Higgins laid a wreath upon the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, his bowed head calling to mind that of the Queen’s during her historic visit to the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin three years ago.

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