By Noel Dundon
Queen Elizabeth has sent a regretful refusal to Thurles Town Council’s invite to visit the graves of her ancestors in St Mary’s Cemetery in the Cathedral Town, citing an already full itinery as the main reason.
While the Queen of England will visit Tipperary as part of her forthcoming tour of Ireland, with Cashel being one of the main public stops, the invitation to make the short trip down the road to Thurles was refused by the British Embassy through the Department of Foreign Affairs and subsequently forwarded to Thurles Town Council, complete with regretful sentiments. It was thought, at the time of the issuing of the invivte to Thurles, that it could have been logistically possible for her to fit in St Mary’s Cemetery to see where the descendants of the Windsor and Spencer families are buried.
Queen Elizabeth II , although she has never visited Thurles, has strong ancestral connections with the town and is a direct descendant of Viscount and Lady Thurles through their eldest son, the Duke of Ormond. The Duke’s daughter, Elizabeth, married Philip Stanhope, 2nd Earl Chesterfield, and their daughter Elizabeth Stanhope married John Lyon, 4th Earl Strathmore. Six generations later in direct line was the 14th Earl Strathmore whose daughter, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon married the future King George VI; and these are the grandparents of Prince Charles. Thurles therefore, could well have been expected to be included on her itinerary for the visit.
Many of Queen Elizabeth’s ancestors are buried at St. Mary’s Church in Thurles, the location of the impressive St Mary’s Famine and War Museum, including Lady Elizabeth Butler,(Elizabeth Poyntz, Acton, 1673.) from whom she inherited her christian name.
A visit from the Queen to Thurles would have had huge logistical and security implications for the locality, but would also have proven to be an unprecedented boost to local tourism with images of the town and it’s hinterland likely to be beamed all over the world. Royalty already visited the area a few months ago for the funeral of the late Ned Ryan of Upperchurch when Sophie Helen Rhys-Jones, wife of Prince Edward attended on behalf of the British Royal Family in November last. Mr Ryan was a highly regarded friend of the Royal Family and would most certainly have been a guest at the wedding of Prince William and Princess Catherine last week - the social event of the year so far.
Despite some protests locally to the visit, it is thought that Queen Elizabeth and her entourage would have been warmly welcomed in Thurles - a town which has Fleadh agus Failte as it’s motto. Deputy Mayor Michael Cleary expressed disappointment at the monthly meeting of the council at the refusal but was glad nonetheless that Thurles had issued the invite.