One thing the Royals can’t be accused of is subtlety. If William and Kate had got off the plane with William waving a white flag, there couldn’t have been a more glaring we-come-in-peace indicator than That Green Dress worn by Kate. Eh, Kate: we get the message. You’re in Ireland on a mission to win hearts and minds, and you just love us and Ireland to bits. Now would you go in the back and change into some more muted that doesn’t scorch our eyeballs?
That said, no one can accuse the Irish people south of the border for being luke-warm in their welcome. In Donegal, in Galway, in Mayo, they were packed behind crush-barriers, open-mouthed and anxious to get a glimpse of the future King of England and his wife.
The thing about the relation between the Royals and the people of Ireland is that it’s riddled with inconsistencies. Just over one hundred years ago, the Irish people took on the might of the British Empire and secured independence for twenty-six of its thirty-two counties. If you ask people in the south if they would consider rejoining the British Commonwealth with the queen as its head, they would recoil in horror. No chance. Get outa here. Yet last week, in Donegal, in Galway, in Mayo, Kate and William were cheered until throats were raw.
Me, I find such scenes of gasping admiration of two people who live on state benefits embarrassing. Same thing applies to the display of hurling and Guinness put on for this pampered pair. As some commentator suggested during the week, wouldn’t it be more honest if their visit had included a tour of places like Kilmainham Gaol or the Famine Exhibition in St Stephen’s Green, so they can see what Britain has done to Ireland over the centuries, and set that alongside the full-throated welcome and GAA have-a-go display.
A cautionary footnote: in 1911 King George V and his wife visited Ireland and received a massive welcome: “The thousands of spectators cheered them to the echo…when they appeared on the balcony the multitude cheered the more. It was altogether a great and stirring reception.”
That was 1911. Five years later, in 1916, the cheering got more than a bit muted. Maybe William and Kate should be told.