Our audience with the Queen

Winnie Power, on The Mall last week on a great day for the Irish!

Winnie Power, on The Mall last week on a great day for the Irish!

My mother Winnie Power used to play bridge in Dungarvan with Clodagh Anson, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II – and Ms Anson was apparently delighted when I was christened with the same name!
Well, that extremely tenuous link was the closest that my mother and I ever thought we would get to royalty until Tuesday last, March 25th.
The invitation to the Irish reception at Buckingham Palace ahead of the State Visit by President Higgins was a real surprise and honour.
My mother was there representing the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and I was there given my teaching and acting work in London.
We were blessed with a beautiful day so we strolled up The Mall in the springtime sunshine dressed up in our finest for the big occasion.
We really had no idea what to expect but it was clear when we stepped through the gates that the Irish would bring their own atmosphere to the palace.
Cameras and phones were forbidden in the palace but The Priests of chart-topping fame were taking a ‘selfie’ just inside the gates.
The palace itself is awe-inspiring. The stream of guests filed in around the inner courtyard of the palace and was welcomed by an army of staff.
Crimson velvet carpets and gilded, well, everything led on up the wide, sweeping stairs to the Picture Gallery, where the reception was being held. The ceiling height would give both of Waterford’s Cathedrals a run for their money!
Vermeers, Van Eycks and many familiar paintings soon lost my attention as Eddie Jordan, Geordan Murphy (once of WIT and Waterpark RFC of course), Ruby Walsh, John Rocha and Graham Linehan caught my eye!
There was some mingling at that stage and one of the highlights for me was speaking ‘as Gaeilge’ with my mother and former Senator Maurice Hayes who feels that the Waterford Minor hurlers are very promising.
It was both a proud and surreal moment and one that could not have been envisaged when I was growing up from both a personal and political perspective.
The guests were asked to line up and go through to an ante-room, (massive, ornate room) to meet The Queen and Prince Philip.
She warmly shook everyone by the hand, made eye-contact, smiled and said a few words of welcome to all! I can’t remember which particular pleasantry she said to me but my mother swears she called her “dear”.
Stereotype or not, we Irish are famed for our ability to talk to anyone so this made the occasion strangely democratic, housed in this symbol of monarchy.
There was my mother, a Cummins from Catherine Street chatting away to Princess Anne, The Duke of Gloucester, Louis Walsh, Niall Horan, Philip Treacy, Orla Kiely, Imelda May, Barry Geraghty and fellow Waterfordian, Irish Ambassador Dan Mulhall and his wife Greta.
He and Winnie did the usual Waterford thing of finding a mutual cousin and many mutual friends!
Before the Queen’s visit to Ireland, I’m not sure that I would have wanted to be invited to such an event.
Giant strides of reconciliation and respect have been made on both sides of the Irish Sea in recent years, with further work to do of course, but that spirit of positivity, buoyed up by the impending State Visit created a relaxed and friendly atmosphere in Buckingham Palace.
As the Duke of Kent said to me (and yes, I will be dining out on this for years) it was “long overdue and much needed”.

Clodagh Power at                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Buckingham Palace.

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