Duke of Kent in Glasnevin for ‘real history lesson’

Royal visitor places wreaths at memorials to those who died in 1916 and two world wars

Prince Edward, Duke of Kent (centre), with Jimmy Deenihan (left) and Shane Mac Thomais at a grave in Glasnevin cemetery. Photograph: Alan Betson

Prince Edward, Duke of Kent (centre), with Jimmy Deenihan (left) and Shane Mac Thomais at a grave in Glasnevin cemetery. Photograph: Alan Betson

Thu, May 2, 2013, 06:00

Britain’s Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, visited Glasnevin cemetery yesterday where he laid wreaths at the Sigerson Memorial to the volunteers of the 1916 Rising, and at memorials commemorating those who fell in the first and second World Wars.

The first member of a royal family to pay an official visit to the cemetery since Princess Grace of Monaco in 1975, the duke was given a guided tour by cemetery historian Shane Mac Thomais and an entourage that included Ministers Brian Hayes and Jimmy Deenihan, and DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson.


Touching gesture
The 77-year-old royal, who was reported to have had a stroke last March, listened intently when told that touching Daniel O’Connell’s coffin would endow the “gift of the gab” and bestow good luck. Then he bent down and reached out to touch the oak, just in case.

“Is this where the bomb was placed,” he asked standing in the O’Connell tower, a reference to the 1971 bombing of the tower by suspected loyalists sympathisers.

He was assured it was, before being ushered out to the de Valera family graves.

“Ah yes,”he muttered before being steered to the nearby grave of workers’ leader Jim Larkin and “revolutionary” Maud Gonne.

“They are all very near to one another,” he said, before being told Gonne was the mother of one of Amnesty International’s founders, Seán Mac Bride. “Ah yes, that is someone I know,” said the duke, looking pleased.

The duke and his party lingered a while at the side-by-side gravestones of Irish volunteer Patrick Dunne, who was killed in the Rising in April 1916, and Sgt Edward Ennis, who was killed fighting for crown forces on the eve of the battle of the Somme in June of that year.


Symbolism in death
The duke remarked on the “symbolism” of the positioning of the graves before refusing assistance to climb a small flight of steps.

“No I don’t think so, thank you,” he said to the offer of an outstretched arm. After a brief ceremony in which he laid a poppy wreath, the duke was approached by a beaming Mr Donaldson. “You are from the North,” said the duke.

“Yes I am,” said Mr Donaldson. “It is good to see,” said the duke gesturing towards the memorial walls adding it was “ a real history lesson”.

Mr Donaldson agreed it was.