“The first king of England to visit us was Henry II in 1171…”

With Elizabeth II reportedly on her way, in the Irish Times Denis Fahey provides a short history of royal visits, beginning in 1171 with Henry II.  And he notes a speech by George V in Belfast, 1921.

King George VI visited Northern Ireland on a number of occasions, and Queen Elizabeth has been there frequently, but the most significant visit of a British royal in the last century was probably the one made by George V in June 1921, when he opened the new Northern Ireland parliament in the City Hall in Belfast. It was his second visit to Ireland as king, and it was certainly different from his coronation visit in 1911 when he was well received in Dublin and enjoyed a rendition of God Save the King by the Artane Boys Band at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.

In a speech that had been crafted by a number of people including himself and the prime minister of South Africa, Gen Jan Smuts, and which had the approval of the government, the king said he “prayed with a full heart” that “my coming to Ireland today may prove to be the final step towards the end of strife amongst her people, whatever their race or creed”. “In that hope,” he continued, “I appeal to all Irishmen to pause, to stretch out the hand of friendship, forbearance and conciliation, to forgive and forget and to join in making for the land they love a new era of peace, contentment and goodwill.”

When his granddaughter visits, those words will be heard again.