Queen Mother was ‘dying to go’ to Ireland

She asked if she would be next to visit State after Prince Charles’s trip in 1995

The Queen Mother was “dying to go” to Ireland after Prince Charles’s successful visit in 1995, according to State papers just released.

Her grandson was the first member of the British royal family to make an official visit to this State since Irish independence.

After the visit, the Irish ambassador to Britain, Joseph Small, sent a confidential memo to the Department of Foreign Affairs about the potential for another royal visit.

He wrote that Irish businessman Ned Ryan had discussed the visit with Queen Elizabeth and had asked if she would be the next to visit the Republic. While the queen said she was delighted with Prince Charles’s visit, she would not be going “just yet”, Small reported. But she told Ryan that her mother was “dying to go”.


Ryan, an antiques dealer, property developer and socialite, was a close friend of the queen’s sister Princess Margaret and was often invited to the royal box for occasions such as Wimbledon and Royal Ascot. When he died in 2010, his funeral at Upperchurch, Co Tipperary, was attended by Sophie, Countess of Wessex, the wife of Prince Edward.

Irish speakers

The Queen Mother, who died in 2002, never got to make an official visit to this State but she did spend years trying to wrangle an invitation to the Royal Dublin Horse Show, according to recordings of former taoiseach Seán Lemass, which were released in 2018. In one recording, he said the Queen Mother once threatened the Irish ambassador to Britain that she would set off for Belfast and have her plane break down on the way, as an excuse to get to Dublin.

Her daughter, Queen Elizabeth, finally made her historic official visit to the Republic in 2011, when she delighted people by speaking in Irish. However, she wasn’t the only person in Buckingham Palace to have a few Irish phrases in her armoury. Another file in the National Archives contains a note from the then Irish ambassador in London, Ted Barrington, about a reception at the palace for the diplomatic corps in November 1997.

Ambassadors were treated to a buffet dinner, Champagne and dancing under the chandeliers and gilded mirrors of the palace.

He observed that the military band played several Irish tunes, including The Rose of Tralee and said Queen Elizabeth was in good form and “was warm and friendly towards Ireland”.

As the diplomat left the palace, he was pleasantly surprised when “one of the elderly footmen dressed in a red cloak, and white hat, bade us good night saying “Oíche mhaith, slán agus beannacht.” (Files: 2021/97/6, 2021/99/24)

Alison Healy

Alison Healy

Alison Healy is a contributor to The Irish Times