'As unexpected as it was powerful': The moment the Queen broke protocol in Ireland
The Queen delivered a powerful but unexpected message when she broke protocol during her historic trip to Ireland in 2011, according to one of its former leaders.
Mary McAleese, who was president of Ireland from 1997 to 2011, has revealed the moment that took her by surprise during the Queen's trip to the Republic.
Speaking in her book, McAleese said she pushed for the Queen's first visit to be to the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin, which is dedicated to all those who gave their lives fighting for Irish freedom.
McAleese said: "The first public event was to the garden of remembrance. The brief ceremony was solemn and formal. The Queen placed the wreath, then took a pace back, as per the protocol.
"And then, did something as unexpected as it was powerful, and definitely not per the protocol.
"She bowed her head in respectful homage. it was an unadorned gesture and there was no mistaking the message.
"All over Ireland, people stirred. Could this really have happened?"
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The Queen and Prince Philip's visit to Ireland was the first visit by a reigning monarch to the Republic of Ireland.
It was 1911 when a monarch had last been in Dublin, and the trip was of huge significance. In 1911, the whole island of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom.
McAleese said she realised the Queen was committed to the state occasion when the palace confirmed four days in her diary, despite many of her engagements being set in stone for years.
The former president also revealed the Queen spoke five words of Ulster Irish during her trip, despite her private secretary's reluctance to have her commit to the tricky language.
McAleese said she had advised Edward Young that using some Irish would help the visit go from being good to great, but that Young had said the Queen would be nervous about getting anything wrong.
However, Francis Campbell, who was the British deputy high commissioner to Pakistan at the time, dropped in on McAleese for lunch one day, and asked her for five words, spelt phonetically, because he was meeting "a friend" who needed them.
McAleese relented, saying the words - A Uachtaráin, agus a chairde (president and friends) - were only for Young and not for the Queen's eyes, and wrote them on a scrap of paper.
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But at the state dinner, the Queen opened with the words, leaving McAleese "stunned into muttering a lame 'wow'".
She said: "I looked across at Edward Young sitting at the next table. He gave me a long, laughing wink."
The Queen wore many green outfits during her trip to Ireland in 2011, made with Irish fabric sourced beforehand by her dresser Angela Kelly.
The trip included a visit to Croke Park, the home of Gaelic football and where 14 people were killed by British forces during a match in 1920, and the Guinness storehouse.
Since then, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have made visits to Ireland, with the Cambridges going in March 2020, before the coronavirus lockdowns.
Here's the Story by Mary McAleese is available now.
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