The Queen wished to ‘repay the kindness’ shown to her during her visit to Ireland by making President Higgins’ State visit a special one.
“From the Buckingham Palace side of things all State visits are always important,” a Royal representative told the Irish Post last week during the president’s visit. “But at Buckingham Palace there is recognition that this visit by President Higgins is exceptional.
“That’s partly because it’s historic, as it’s the first state visit by an Irish President, and it’s partly because it comes so soon after the Queen’s own state visit to Ireland, in which she was brilliantly hosted by President McAleese and welcomed extremely warmly by Irish people,” he explained.
“But I also think to a certain extent it’s because there is a sense that the Queen herself during that visit became almost a symbol of the increasingly warm relations between the two countries,” he added.
“And it’s fair to say that at Buckingham Palace we are heavily invested in President Higgins’ visit, we know it is special and what you have is a genuine desire on the part of the Queen to repay the kindness showed to her in Ireland, coupled with an acute awareness of the historic nature of this occasion.”
President Higgins and his wife Sabina were guests of Windsor Castle, a residence widely seen as the Queen’s home thereby placing particular significance to the President’s invitation to stay there during his visit. The Royal Bentley chauffeured the president and his wife to the castle on Tuesday.
The Queen also hosted additional receptions — one in Buckingham Palace for the Irish community last month and another North of Ireland themed event last Thursday night in Windsor Castle.
“It’s extremely rare for the Queen to host twice in this way during a state visit. I am not going to say it’s never happened, as there have been so many state visits, but it is extremely rare,” said the Buckingham Palace spokesperson.
He added further points ‘of note’ marking the visit a special one.
“The duration of this State visit, from a Monday to Friday, is slightly longer than all recent State visits,” he explained.
“That’s of note, as is the fact that it’s taking place in Windsor.
“If you asked the Queen ‘where is your home?’ I think she would almost certainly say Windsor.
“It’s where she spends most weekends; it’s where she goes to relax, so while you couldn’t call Windsor Castle intimate you can certainly say it is personal for the Queen,” he said.
He added that the program was tailored mostly in President Higgins’ own interest and to his background.
“It’s fair to say that the Queen has been extremely attentive to the preparations for this visit.”