Queen bids farewell to Higgins at end of state visit

President leaves Windsor before concluding trip with visits to Stratford-upon-Avon and Coventry

The Queen bid farewell to President Michael D Higgins this morning, drawing to a close a historic four-day state visit to the UK. Video: Reuters

Fri, Apr 11, 2014, 15:41

The Queen bid farewell to President Michael D Higgins this morning, drawing to a close a historic four-day state visit to the UK.

The president left Windsor Castle in Berkshire shortly after 9am before concluding his trip to Britain with visits to Stratford-upon-Avon and Coventry.

First he will visit the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, touring the dressing rooms, and the wigs and make-up department, as well as going backstage.

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Inside the theatre he and his wife Sabina will be treated to a short performance by the actors before giving a brief address and moving on to the nearby Shakespeare’s Birthplace, where he will see some of the artefacts in the museum’s collection which have an Irish connection.

Later, Mr Higgins will travel to Coventry for a tour of its current cathedral and the ruins of the old building which was bombed during the Second World War, before meeting religious leaders.

Afterwards he will be formally received by the Lord Mayor of Coventry at St Mary’s Guildhall, where he will meet members of the city’s Irish community.

The Lord Chamberlain will then bid a final farewell to the presidential party on behalf of the Queen at Coventry Airport.

The state visit is the first by an Irish president and follows an official trip to Ireland by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in 2011.

At a state banquet earlier this week at Windsor Castle, where the Irish head of state and his wife have been staying, the Queen said the events of the very recent past showed the two nations were “walking together towards a brighter, more settled future”.

She added: “We will remember our past, but we shall no longer allow our past to ensnare our future.”

In a historic address to the House of Commons on Tuesday Mr Higgins hailed the transformation of the relationship between Britain and Ireland from what had once been one of mistrust to one of mutual respect and friendship.

Last night the president attended a concert held in his honour at London’s Royal Albert Hall, where he said his “memorable” state visit to the UK has been “so positive, so uplifting and so hopeful”.

Taking to the stage to uproarious applause, he said: “On a night like this it is great to be Irish.” He added it was “even better” to share it with “our friends in Britain”, and described the cultures of the two nations as “deeply interwoven”.

President Higgins, joined in the Royal Box by his wife and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, enjoyed an evening of music, song, dance and literature featuring artists from the two nations, including Glen Hansard, Imelda May, Paul Brady, and special guest Elvis Costello.