12.9.12

Queen Victoria's Visit to Dublin

Wednesday, 4th April 1900 - Dublin, Ireland

Last month Dublin got quite a shock when Queen Victoria announced she would visit in three weeks time. Having the Queen pop by is no small affair in this day and age. The city was also taken aback since this is her first visit to Ireland in 39 years.

The announcement was a surprise to her staff as well, since the elderly lady usually spends spring in the Riviera for her health. She has become quite frail and they know she isn’t long for this world. Victoria will join her late husband Albert next January.

Beatrice and Mum
The Queen does not come alone. Besides an entourage of servants, she came with her daughter, Princess Beatrice. Beatrice is the youngest of Victoria’s children, and was widowed herself four years ago. The Queen’s Indian secretary, Abdul Karim, also came. He and Beatrice are now the Queen’s most constant companions. There are whispers about the Queen’s apparent affection for Karim. I think she just likes having a strong man she can trust near her. His exotic good looks probably don’t hurt, either.

Dublin has been scurrying about making preparations for the visit. Victoria is the leader of the largest Empire the world has ever seen, and must be treated as such. The British Empire covers nearly one quarter of the earth and one fifth of the global population! The welcome must be worthy of the symbol of this Global Power. So three weeks is certainly not enough time to prepare!

A pier had to be built for Her Majesty to disembark upon. Carpenters have worked around the clock to get it built in time. An arch was also built for Her Majesty to pass through as she entered the city from the bay. It is created like a Gothic castle and looks very regal. Never mind it’s made of wood and canvas. A stone one in such short order was out of the question. Buildings everywhere sport Union Jacks, and buntings crisscross the streets as old Dublin is dressed up for the party.

Welcoming Arch (not bad for wood and canvas, eh?)
Yesterday at 2:15 in the afternoon, the Royal Yacht, the Victoria and Albert II, dropped anchor in Dublin Bay. Her Majesty spent the night aboard. Dozens of tourists rowed boats out to get a closer peek, but only got a better look at the ship, not the Queen herself. No incidence of violence, although 100 cannons were fired over the Bay as a salute when she arrived. Last night there was a huge fireworks display which must have kept Her Majesty awake.

Priests told their flocks to boycott the welcoming ceremonies. Indeed the reception committee of city dignitaries was missing over 20 men. Although Catholics have been given back most civil rights, they are still treated as second class citizens. The Queen is the head of the Protestant Church of Ireland, so she represents both religious oppression, as well as the Head of the Empire that holds Ireland in chains. Throngs have snubbed the whole visit on both political and religious grounds.

This morning Her Majesty stepped out on the new pier and was whisked away in an open carriage. The red clad soldiers and brass bands made a fine parade. The streets were lined with cheering crowds. You would never know there was any kind of boycott. Even so I’m not sure how many showed up as an act of support and how many just came for the spectacle. I think the latter made up most of the crowd.

Queen's carriage leaving the harbour
The Queen gave a short but heartfelt speech about the brave Irish soldiers who have fought for her in the Boer War in South Africa. She came to Ireland to pay tribute to the 1000s who have given their lives to the Empire. I heard someone mutter she just came to recruit more foolish men to fight in a war that didn’t concern Ireland.

Demonstrations have been kept in check. The Irish Transvaal Committee gathered for a torchlight procession of protest last night, but were chased off by baton-wielding police officers. Mainstream media are pro-Victoria, but the nationalist newspaper The United Irishman today called Her “the Famine Queen.” Policemen seized as many copies as they could find and arrested the editor, Arthur Griffith, future founder of the Irish Political Party, Sinn Fein. He will be in jail for the next two weeks.

There are extra policemen and soldiers and personal guards everywhere. The Queen hasn’t forgotten the Irish assassin who tried to shoot her back in 1849. There is no record of any attempt on her life on this visit. She may be the Leader of the British Empire, but she is also a frail sickly 81-year-old woman. Who wants to be known as the chap that shot a great-grandmother? Just doesn’t seem sporting.

the 81-year-old Queen Victoria
Footage of Queen Victoria’s Visit to Dublin
(That’s me in the brown top hat.)

More of Queen Victoria’s visit to Dublin

More photos:
The Queen and her Indian secrtary, Abdul Karim
Her Majesty's Yacht, the Victoria and Albert II
Lands that were part of the Bristish Empire at one time or another

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