Northern Irish town where Queen has official residence receives royal status

Watch: Prince Charles and Camilla visit Hillsborough Castle

The village of Hillsborough, where the Queen has her official residence, has become the first place in Northern Ireland to receive royal status.

Hillsborough in Co Down will become Royal Hillsborough later this year after the Queen grants a letters patent.

Its home to Hillsborough Castle, which is the residence of the monarchy in Northern Ireland. Prince Charles and Camilla are the castle's most recent royal guests.

Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis said: "This is fantastic news for the village of Hillsborough, a truly wonderful place that deserves this special honour.

"The village’s royal status reflects the beauty of Hillsborough as well as its unique history and close connections to the Royal Family through Hillsborough Castle.

"I have been privileged to enjoy Hillsborough Castle and the village of Hillsborough over the past year with my family, as have many other secretaries of state for Northern Ireland before me.

"I hope this news will attract many more visitors to the area and the whole of Northern Ireland, as well as boosting further investment and local jobs as we level up right across the United Kingdom."

HILLSBOROUGH, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 10: Soldiers from 206 Battery, 105 Royal Artillery take part in a gun salute to the Duke of Edinburgh at Hillsborough Castle on April 10, 2021 in Hillsborough, Northern Ireland. The Death Gun Salute will be fired at 12.00 marking the death of His Royal Highness, The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Across the country and the globe saluting batteries will fire 41 rounds, 1 round at the start of each minute, for 40 minutes. Gun salutes are customarily fired, both on land and at sea, as a sign of respect or welcome. The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nicholas Carter, said
A gun salute to the Duke of Edinburgh at Hillsborough Castle on 10 April. The castle is the official royal residence in Northern Ireland. (Pool/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - SEPTEMBER 30: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales meeting First Minister Arlene Foster at Hillsborough Castle on September 30, 2020 in Belfast, United Kingdom. (Photo by Press Eye - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Prince Charles met First Minister Arlene Foster at Hillsborough Castle in September 2020. (Press Eye - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 09: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall attend the reopening of Hillsborough Castle on April 09, 2019 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Chris Jackson-WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Charles and Camilla at the reopening of Hillsborough Castle in April 2019. (WPA Pool/Getty Images)

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The application for royal status was made by Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council and the granting of letters patent comes in Northern Ireland's centenary year.

The mayor of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, Nicholas Trimble, said it was an "historic day" for the village, adding: "Hillsborough has for a long time been a jewel in our local crown."

Laura McCorry, head of Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, said: "This very welcome news will provide a much-needed boost for tourism in Hillsborough, after a challenging year for the entire industry.

"Hillsborough is a truly remarkable place, with so much to offer visitors – rich history, stunning surroundings and brilliant spots to eat, drink and shop.

"Sitting at the heart of all of this is the castle we’re privileged to care for, which has been the backdrop for many milestones in the history of Northern Ireland.

"This week, we’re thrilled to be welcoming visitors back inside Hillsborough Castle again.

"We’re hopeful that this announcement will help us to really put Hillsborough on the map as a tourism destination, inspiring visitors from across Northern Ireland and beyond to come and see everything we have to offer."

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JUNE 14:  Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge attend the Secretary of State's annual Garden party at Hillsborough Castle on June 14, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  (Photo by UK Press Pool/UK Press via Getty Images)
William and Kate at the secretary of state's annual Garden party at Hillsborough Castle in 2016. (UK Press Pool/UK Press via Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JUNE 25:  (EDITORIAL USE ONLY, NO SALES) In this handout image provided by Harrison Photography, Queen Elizabeth II signs the visitors book at Hillsborough castle as they leave for their final engagement in Coleraine on June 25, 2014 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Royal party are visiting Northern Ireland for three days.  (Photo byAaron McCracken/Harrison Photography via Getty Images)
The Queen signing the visitors book at Hillsborough Castle after visiting Northern Ireland for three days in 2014. (Harrison Photography via Getty Images)

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The Royal Family has official residences in Scotland and England, but not Wales, though Charles owns a home there, which he bought because of his connection as Prince of Wales.

Hillsborough Castle is also the official home of the secretary of state for Northern Ireland and is often where political meetings happen between leaders of the UK government and the devolved government.

The estate dates from the 1600s and is an Irish 'big house' rather than a castle, but it was common for families to call their homes castles.

Most of the home was destroyed by a fire in 1934 and the central home was largely rebuilt afterwards.

It has a throne room, though the chairs are technically chairs of state, not thrones, and state rooms like a drawing room, and dining room. It's viewed as a political neutral place.

Britain's Prince Harry (L) meets people during a walkabout at the Cathedral quarter in the centre of Belfast on September 7, 2017 on his first visit to Northern Ireland. 
Prince Harry arrived in Northern Ireland for visits to Ballymena, Belfast and Hillsborough Castle during this, his first visit to the Province.  / AFP PHOTO / Paul FAITH        (Photo credit should read PAUL FAITH/AFP via Getty Images)
Harry on a walkabout in Belfast during a 2017 visit. His trip included time at Hillsborough Castle. (AFP via Getty Images)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth plants a tree during a garden party at Hillsborough Castle, June 24, 2014. REUTERS/Liam McBurney/Pool (NORTHERN IRELAND - Tags: POLITICS ROYALS SOCIETY)
The Queen planting a tree during a garden party at Hillsborough Castle in 2014. (Reuters)

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It has been a politically significant venue. In 2005, the Queen met then Irish president Mary McAleese there, the first time a reigning monarch had met the head of an independent Ireland on the island of Ireland.

The Queen went on to make a four day trip to Ireland in 2011.

In 2010, the Hillsborough agreement was signed in the castle, which marked the devolution of policing and justice to Northern Ireland.

There are annual garden parties at the castle, but these are held by the Northern Ireland secretary in contrast to Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, which are hosted by the Queen.

However there are often royals in attendance, and Prince Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been there in recent years.

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