King Charles hears how Queen played role in reconciliation during his Northern Ireland visit

King Charles in Northern Ireland. Pic PA
King Charles greets crowds in Belfast. Credit: PA

A service of reflection for Queen Elizabeth II has heard of the reconciliation role she played on the island of Ireland.

King Charles attended the service as part of his tour of Northern Ireland on Tuesday. He flew into Belfast on Tuesday morning, before heading to Hillsborough.

Archbishop of Armagh John McDowell was speaking during a service of reflection for the life of Queen Elizabeth II in which prayers were said to celebrate "her life and work for this country and for the Commonwealth, and giving thanks for all she has been as Queen, and as such, head of state for the people of Northern Ireland".

He told King Charles III and the Queen Consort, who attended the service at St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast, that "faithfulness, care, dutifulness, love and devotion" were all part of her long reign.

The Archbishop said: "All of these could be employed to describe her relationship with Northern Ireland, with patience binding them all together, but paying attention especially to what she said most recently, the word which I think will be most associated with Queen Elizabeth and Ireland, north and south, is reconciliation."

He added the Queen "followed where Jesus led as women often have in the elusive and unfinished work of reconciliation here in Ireland".

The Queen found many powerful ways to help with her mission as part of the peace and reconciliation of Ireland, according to the Archbishop.

He said: "It has always been love's way that in order to rise, she stoops; so the bowing of her head in respect was far more powerful than much grander gestures would have been.

"Love listens far more than she speaks, so a few words in an unfamiliar tongue and a judicious sentence or two of heartfelt regret and wisdom said far more than ceaseless volubility.

"Love never rushes into anything for fear of overwhelming the beloved, but when the moment is right she walked the few steps between two Houses of Prayer in Enniskillen alongside the beloved, in encouragement and affection."

He said the Queen worked "for the good of all her people" and was an example of tolerance that was firmly rooted in her Christian faith.

She believed "it is no part of a christian's vocation to belittle another person's faith or lack of it."

The Archbishop also quoted playwright and poet Christopher Marlowe to describe the impact of the Queen's death on the nation.

He said: "If I had wept a sea of tears for her, it would not ease the sorrow I sustain".

In a personal statement of condolence to Charles, he added: "If that was how those of us felt who were, in many ways, part of her adopted family through her coronation oath, how much more profound must that feeling of loss be to those of the Queen's blood family; those who knew her best and loved her most; Your Majesty, our prayers will be with you and your family for a long time to come."

The service included a Celtic blessing spoken by various church leaders.< As the service ended, Charles and Camilla, were seen exchanging handshakes and warm words with the President of Ireland Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina.

Prime Minister Liz Truss, Taoiseach Micheal Martin and Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney were among the congregation of more than 800 people.

The royal couple were introduced to leaders from all the major faiths in Northern Ireland ahead of the service. The Queen visited Belfast more than 20 times but her ground-breaking visit to Dublin in 2011 is remembered for its historical and political importance.

She was the first British monarch to visit the city for more than 100 years. She was also the first to set foot in the Republic of Ireland since it gained independence, following the Anglo-Irish war.

It is seen as part of efforts to try to heal the wounds of the past. The Queen also laid a wreath at Dublin's Garden of Remembrance, which commemorates those who fought against Britain to achieve Irish independence.

Just a year later, the Queen shook hands with Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, a former IRA leader, at an event in Belfast.

King Charles received a warm welcome in Belfast as part of his tour of the region.

Crowds swamped the city centre ahead of the royal cavalcade as it made its way to St Anne's Cathedral for a service of reflection.

The crowds lining the streets outside City Hall in Belfast were 10 deep in places as they waited.

People standing in the sun in the crowd described the atmosphere as "emotional" and "full of excitement".

The King was greeted with a large cheer as he arrived at St Anne's Cathedral with some breaking out into a chorus of the national anthem.

Earlier King Charles and the Queen Consort received a message of condolence on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland from the speaker of the Stormont Assembly Alex Maskey.

The message was delivered in the Throne Room at Hillsborough Castle in a ceremony which was attended by invited guests, representing the Northern Ireland community.

Ahead of the message of condolence, the King and Queen Consort held a private audience with the new Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris.

They are also met leaders of the five main political parties as well as Mr Maskey.

The speaker of the Stormont Assembly Alex Maskey described how the Queen had been part of efforts to build peace in Ireland.

In a message of condolence on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland, he said the Queen had not been "a distant observer" in the transformation and progress of relationships among the people of the country.

He said the monarch had "demonstrated how individual acts of positive leadership can help break down barriers and encourage reconciliation".

Mr Maskey added: "She showed that a small and insignificant gesture - a visit, a handshake, crossing the street or speaking a few words of Irish - can make a huge difference in changing attitudes and building relationships."

The Queen's recognition of both British and Irish traditions, as well as the wider diversity of the community was "exceptionally significant".

He added: "In all of this she personally underlined that one tradition is not diminished by reaching out to show respect to another."

In his reply to the message of condolence on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland King Charles III, said: "On behalf of all my family, I can only offer the most heartfelt thanks for your condolences.

"I am here today at a time of great personal sorrow as we mark the death of my beloved mother, after a life most faithfully dedicated to the duty to which she had been called.

"It is fitting that we should meet at Hillsborough, which my mother knew so well, and in whose beautiful rose garden she always took such pleasure.

"In the years since she began her long life of public service, my mother saw Northern Ireland pass through momentous and historic changes.

"Through all those years, she never ceased to pray for the best of times for this place and for its people, whose stories she knew, whose sorrows our Family had felt, and for whom she had a great affection and regard.

"My mother felt deeply, I know, the significance of the role she herself played in bringing together those whom history had separated, and in extending a hand to make possible the healing of long-held hurts.

Credit: Pacemaker

"At the very beginning of her life of service, The Queen made a pledge to dedicate herself to her country and her people and to maintain the principles of constitutional government.

"This promise she kept with steadfast faith. Now, with that shining example before me, and with God's help, I take up my new duties resolved to seek the welfare of all the inhabitants of Northern Ireland.

"During the years of my mother's reign, it has been a privilege to bear witness to such a devoted life. May it be granted to us all to fulfil the tasks before us so well. "

King Charles was greeted by cheering crowds as he arrived at the Northern Ireland village of Royal Hillsborough as part of his tour of the UK.

The King performed a walkabout and stopped to greet and talk to many people in the crowds.

Charles and Camilla then stopped to view the many tributes to the Queen at the front of Hillsborough Castle.

Crowds lined the streets of Royal Hillsborough from the early hours of Tuesday ahead of the King's first visit to Northern Ireland as monarch.

Meanwhile, after remaining overnight on public view at St Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh, the Queen's coffin will leave the church on a hearse at 5pm, bound for Edinburgh Airport.

At 6pm, it departs Edinburgh on an RAF Globemaster C-17 flight, accompanied by the Princess Royal and her husband, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence.

Its arrival in RAF Northolt in west London is scheduled for 6.55pm. It will then be transported on a state hearse, accompanied by Anne and Vice-Admiral Sir Tim, to Buckingham Palace.

Crowds at Hillsborough Castle. Credit: PA

Its route will be via the A40, Eastbourne Terrace, Lancaster Gate, Bayswater Road, Marble Arch, Park Lane, Hyde Park Corner and Constitution Hill.

Waiting to receive the coffin at the Palace will be the King and the Queen Consort. The Prince and Princess of Wales will also be present.

Flowers at Hillsborough castle. Credit: PA

A guard of honour formed of three officers and 96 soldiers from The King's Guard will be mounted in the Palace Quadrangle.

The Queen's coffin will rest in the Bow Room overnight.

Details about the route for the lying-in-state queue will be provided late on Tuesday.

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