A PROUD chapter was added to the annals of Cashel’s long and storied history on Friday when HM Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, made the first visit by a reigning British Head of State to the heritage town for the first time in nearly 1,000 years.
In a state visit which was crammed with groundbreaking moments, the Cashel visit was no exception.
The largest ever security operation around the Rock of Cashel to safeguard the British Sovereign. The first visit by an English Monarch to the town since 1171. And the name of Cllr Michael Browne will be forever etched in the history books as the first Sinn Féin member to handshake a reigning British Queen.
An eerie sense of calm had descended on the town in the build-up to the big moment.
A 7km ring of steel formed by gardai and soldiers could be seen patrolling the security perimeter, mounted on horseback, or sitting in Armoured Personnel Carriers and Garda Vans; all the tension drove home the sense of occasion, and of history unfolding before one’s very eyes.
Around the Rock, hundreds of gardai could be seen, out in the fields and manning barriers; many of them had worked through the night as sentries.
Up to the very last moment we were kept guessing: would she arrive by road or air? At about 10.45am, local guesses proved correct. Queen Elisabeth II descended in a state helicopter through the grey windswept sky into the field opposite O’Brien’s Farmhouse.
Up in the Rock of Cashel, assembled guests, TDs, Councillors, Clergy, schoolgroups and representatives of the OPW, Tourism, Business, and Youth, watched as the Queen stepped out onto the green fields of the Hoare Abbey.
There was a catch in the throat, a tingle in the spine: you could nearly hear a pin drop as the Royal couple were greeted by Brendan Howlin TD, Alan Kelly TD, and Dr Eugene Keane, Historic Properties Division, OPW.
Even the weather seemed to lift, as the sun broke through the drizzle to illuminate the moment. Wearing a shimmering green dress, and blue hat, Her Majesty was chauffeured in the Royal Bentley bearing the Windsor Coat of Arms that includes the Harp of Ireland, around the newly re-surfaced Rock road lined with fresh flowers recently planted by the Cashel Tidy Towns committee. Unlike her predecessor, King Henry II of England, who came to Cashel in 1171 as a ruling Monarch reigning over his subjects, Queen Elisabeth came as a welcome guest and equal.
In the words of His Grace, Archbishop of Cashel, Dr Dermot Clifford: “Cashel of the Kings has a Queen at last.”
See this week’s Tipperary Star for full coverage of Queen Elizabeth’ss Cashel visit