Queen’s visits to Northern Ireland as princess and monarch

Paul Clark reflects on the Queen's many visits to Northern Ireland.

The Queen visited Northern Ireland on 25 occasions, both as monarch and princess.

1. 17th July 1945

Her first visit came when she was just 19 years old as part of a ‘Victory Tour’ of the UK after World War Two, with her parents King George VI and her mother Queen Elizabeth.

Engagements included meeting with veterans outside Stormont, a garden party with war workers in Botanic Gardens and meeting American military personnel in Londonderry.

2. 18th - 21st March 1946

Princess Elizabeth took her first solo trip outside of Great Britain in 1946, visiting Northern Ireland.

She visited Harland & Wolff shipyard to launch HMS Eagle, with schoolchildren given the day off to line the streets of Belfast.

She also made stop offs in Dungannon, Armagh, Enniskillen and Comber.

3. 23rd - 28th May 1949

Princess Elizabeth took her first trip to Northern Ireland with the Duke of Edinburgh in 1949.

During this trip, they were both conferred the Freedom of Belfast.

They also visited the then Royal Ulster Agricultural Show in the Balmoral Showground - more commonly known now as the Balmoral Show.

4. 1st - 3rd July 1953

Queen Elizabeth II first came to Northern Ireland as monarch in 1953, just a month after her coronation.

A public holiday was declared by the Governor of Northern Ireland, Lord Wakehurst, so that as many people as possible could see the Queen.

Along with taking a grand railway tour to the north west, the Queen also visited Belfast.

5. 17th August 1954

In her second visit to Northern Ireland as monarch, the Queen launched a new liner, the Southern Cross at Harland & Wolff Shipyard.

It was one of the most luxurious ocean liners of the time.

Her visit was only a short one, with political tensions growing across Northern Ireland.

6. 8th - 9th August 1961

It would be another seven years before the Queen visited Northern Ireland, this time accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and Princess Anne.

The family arrived in Carrickfergus on the Royal Yacht Britannia.

They also visited Bangor where the Queen watched a regatta from the Royal Ulster Yacht Club.

7. 4th - 6th July 1966

On her visit in 1966, the monarch opened the Queen Elizabeth II bridge across the River Lagan in Belfast.

However, her visit grabbed the headlines for the wrong reasons.

A brick was dropped from a high building onto the bonnet of the royal car during its cavalcade through Belfast city centre.

8. 10th - 11th June 1977

It wasn’t until 1977 that the Queen next visited Northern Ireland for her Silver Jubilee.

For most of the trip, and with the Troubles raging, the Queen remained in Belfast Harbour on the Royal Yacht being taken by helicopter to various visits.

During the visit there were a number of anti-royal demonstrations in nationalist areas with slogans such as ‘Queen of Death’ and ‘Stuff the Jubilee’ being commonplace.

9. 29th June 1991

For the entirety of the 1980s the Queen did not visit Northern Ireland with the ongoing political situation.

Her June 1991 visit was tightly controlled with a strict news blackout enforced until her arrival.

She visited the Army’s Thiepval headquarters and she also hosted a garden party at Hillsborough Castle for victims of the Troubles.

10. 11th June 1993

The Queen’s one-day visit in 1993 came just weeks after the monarch met Irish President Mary Robinson in Buckingham Palace. That was the first official contact between the two respective heads of state.

The Queen was received in Northern Ireland by the then Secretary of State Sir Patrick Mayhew.

During her short one-day visit she attended a lunch and garden party at Hillsborough Castle.

11. 9th March 1995

The Queen’s visit to Northern Ireland in 1995 with the Duke of Edinburgh was highly symbolic. It was the first since the IRA Ceasefire in the previous year.

It was also the Queen’s first ever meeting with the Roman Catholic Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Cahal Daly, as well as his Anglican counterpart, Archbishop Robin Eames.

The Queen also visited Belfast, meeting politicians including the DUP MP Peter Robinson who would later become First Minister of Northern Ireland.

12. 11th June 1997

This was the Queen’s final visit to Northern Ireland before the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998.

During this one-day visit, she travelled to Belfast and Dungannon, where she met Catholic and Protestant school children.

She also held a Garden Party in Hillsborough Castle for around 2,000 people.

13. 12th April 2000

In her first visit to Northern Ireland since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, the Queen presented the RUC with the highest award of bravery, the George Cross.

During the ceremony at Hillsborough Castle the Queen praised the "outstanding contribution" made by the RUC to peace in Northern Ireland.

However, some republicans were critical of the event arguing that many had suffered at the hands of the RUC.

The Queen meets Northern Ireland Assembly First Minister David Trimble (R) and Deputy First Minister Mark Durkan at Hillsborough Castle. Credit: PA

14. 15th November 2001

During the Queen’s visit, she met with the then First and deputy First Ministers, David Trimble and Mark Durkan.

She also had her first engagement in Derry since 1953, visiting the Maydown Ebrington Centre.

She also made visits to Banbridge, Hillsborough and Lisburn.

15. 13th - 15th May 2002

The Queen came to Northern Ireland in 2002 as part of celebrations for her Golden Jubilee.

During the visit, she spoke at Stormont telling politicians: “You now have a better future for Northern Ireland in your grasp.”

In her three-day tour, she also visited Omagh to the bombing of the town in 1998 which killed 29 people.

She also conferred city status on Lisburn and Newry.

NI Secretary Dr John Reid (right) arrives with the Queen at the site of the Omagh bombing during a visit to the County Tyrone town in 2002. Credit: PA

16. 26th February 2003

In 2003, the Queen officially opened the £30million Laganside Court complex in Belfast.

She also attended an engagement at the £45m Halifax Bank of Scotland call centre building, as part of the regeneration of the city’s Waterfront area.

Other engagements included with charities including Help the Aged and Action Cancer.

The Queen meets Irish President Mary McAleese, during a reception to celebrate the 25th anniversary of co-operation Ireland. Credit: PA

17. 7th - 8th December 2005

The Queen’s visit in 2005 will be remembered for the meeting between the monarch and Irish President Mary McAleese.

It was the first time any such meeting had taken place on the island of Ireland.

The Queen met a mother and toddler group in Hillsborough, and also visited the Belfast Central Mission.

18. 6th October 2006

Prince Andrew, Duke of York joined the Queen on her visit to Northern Ireland in 2006.

Whilst here, she awarded The Royal Irish Regiment the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross in recognition of the bravery, sacrifice and service of the Home Service battalions of The Royal Irish Regiment and their forebears, The Ulster Defence Regiment.

In her speech to the regiment she said: “Your contribution to peace and stability within Northern Ireland has been unique.”

19. 1st June 2007

The Queen returned to Coleraine in her first visit to the town since 1977.

While in Coleraine, she attended a garden party at the Ulster University campus, hosted by then Secretary of State Peter Hain.

The event was attended by numerous organisations from the community and voluntary sector.

20. 18th - 20th March 2008

In 2008, the Queen held her annual Maundy Thursday service at St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral in Armagh.

It was the first time in the Queen’s reign that it had been held outside England and Wales.

On this three-day visit, she also met members of the Territorial Army and also with Irish President Mary McAleese at Queen’s University Belfast.

Queen Elizabeth II listens to a school band, during a visit to Lisneal College, in Londonderry in 2009. Credit: PA

21. 6th to 8th May 2009

On her royal visit in 2009, the Queen again travelled to Derry, this time for an engagement at Lisneal College.

The Queen was in North Down to visit the Police Rehabilitation and Retraining Trust in Holywood and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in Bangor.

The three-day tour concluded with a visit to the FE McWilliam Art Gallery near Banbridge.

22. 21st - 22nd October 2010

The Queen visited UTV’s studios in Havelock House on the Ormeau Road to mark the broadcaster’s launch of high definition television. A first for the island of Ireland.

The Queen also met around 180 guests at a reception which celebrated 150 years of Cadet Forces.

A reception was also held at Hillsborough Castle for the charity Children in Action, which the Queen was a patron of.

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh speak with well wishers in Enniskillen, during a two-day visit in 2012. Credit: PA

23. 26th - 27th June 2012

During the two-day trip, marking her Diamond Jubilee, the Queen visited Enniskillen - a trip that will be remembered for her visit to both the Church of Ireland and the Catholic cathedrals in the town.

In fact, her visit to St Michael’s marked the first time the Queen had set foot in a Catholic Church on the island of Ireland.

The following day saw an even more historic moment - in a reception at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre, the Queen shook hands with the then Sinn Féin deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness.

Queen Elizabeth II during a visit to the set of Game of Thrones on day two of a visit to Northern Ireland in 2014. Credit: PA

24. 23rd - 25th June 2014

The Queen visited the set of HBO TV series Game of Thrones in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter.

She also had various engagements in Belfast City Centre including a lunch at City Hall and a tour around St George’s Market.

She also visited Crumlin Road Gaol in north Belfast, accompanied by the First and deputy First Ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuiness - both of whom were detained in the jail during the Troubles.

25. 27th - 28th June 2016

In her final and most recent visit to Northern Ireland, the Queen paid a trip to the Giant’s Causeway on the North Coast.

She also visited the nearby Bushmills where she unveiled a statue to the Victoria Cross recipient Robert Quigg.

The Queen also took a steam train through Coleraine and Bellarena - a trip that harked back to her coronation tour of 1953.

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