Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mo and The Queen's Visit

I'm not a fan of Maureen Dowd, and I am unmoved by the idea of Obama's visit to Ireland.

But Dowd's writing about Queen Elizabeth's visit is poetic and insightful and a joy to read: it's very Irish. Quoted in its entirety here:

"Queen Elizabeth, who ensorcelled the former colony on a four-day visit last week, was like “the prodigal mother,” as one young Irishman said. And Obama’s the American cousin who made good.

Both the 85-year-old queen and the Irish were taken aback, moved and finally over the moon with her debut sojourn here, the first visit of a British monarch in a century.

The tale of two islands began with Liz, as The Irish Daily Star calls her, wearing an emerald green suit and the tightest security ever seen here, and ended with everyone loosening up, as ecstatic residents of Cork, the rebel home of Michael Collins, waved the Union Jack and told the press, “We love her!”

The Irish started out skeptically, not wanting to curtsy or kowtow or be treated as subjects. Queen Elizabeth started out tentatively, not knowing what to expect. When she showed no condescension, spoke a phrase in Gaelic, and told the Irish that both sides needed to be “able to bow to the past but not be bound by it,” the ice melted.

Twitter users here began affectionately calling her Betty, and her Irish guard of honor gave her a Gaelic moniker, Eilis A Do, for Elizabeth II, that the whole country has now picked up.

The Irish didn’t even mind when the queen and a remarkably gaffe-free Prince Philip didn’t sample a pint of the black stuff at the Guinness brewery, though Philip looked sorely tempted.

As the emotional week unfolded, even Gerry Adams softened his criticism that the visit was too soon. For Sinn Fein, a hundred years was not long enough.

Irish commentators on TV dissected every syllable, gesture and outfit of the queen, deciding that signs of respect included her perfect pronunciation of Gaelic, her rapt inspection of Moynihan’s buttered eggs and O’Sullivan’s poultry in a Cork food market, and the fact that she changed her clothes more than Anne Hathaway at the Oscars.

The Irish also deemed spectacularly gracious: her evening gown featuring 2,091 hand-sewn shamrocks, her Irish harp brooch made of Swarovski crystals, her Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara that was a wedding gift from her grandmother, her many green outfits and hats trimmed with green feathers, and her ladies-in-waiting decked out in 40 shades of green.

QUEEN ELIZABETH’S aides said they had not seen her smile so much in a long time. She offered regret about how Britain had made Ireland suffer and stopped to talk to children in Cork, showing all the warmth that she famously could not muster when Diana died. At a gala concert on Thursday night, she was stunned to receive a five-minute standing ovation.

Winston Churchill once noted: “We’ve always found the Irish a bit odd. They refuse to be English.”

What the Irish loved about the queen’s speech was that, after 800 years of bloodshed, hatred and tortured negotiations between Ireland and England, both sides were able to accept their separate but entwined identities.

The truism that the Irish never forget and the English never remember was put to rest when the queen laid a wreath and bowed her head at the Garden of Remembrance, the sacred ground for Irish patriots who died fighting for their country, and went to Croke Park, the scene of the first Bloody Sunday in 1920, when 14 Irish civilians were killed after British forces opened fire on them.

By Friday, the queen was so at ease that she laughed when a professor at University College Cork explained why a statue of her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, had been interred.

Professor John Murphy suggested that, given how loathed the Famine Queen was here, being buried by irate Republicans was the kind fate.

“People sometimes ask me, ‘Why wasn’t the statue destroyed outright?’ ” he told the queen, answering that the anti-Victoria undertakers were “nationalists, not vandals.” The statue was dug up in 1995 after the Irish Republican Army cease-fire — “little the worse for wear, given what it had been through,” as Murphy said.

If Irish history has been a nightmare from which the Irish are always trying to awaken, as James Joyce said in “Ulysses,” then they have now woken up, wherever green is worn, and seen all changed, changed utterly."

Thanks Mo.


scribbler50 said...

I agree on two counts...
1) Not a fan of Dowd
2) She really nailed this one.

Terrific article!

I slightly disagree though about Obama going to Ireland. I can't say I'm "moved", I realize it's not JFK going back or the queen as this article illustrates, but I think it's a nice goodwill gesture and what's wrong with that? At worst it might get some Irish votes here at home come 2012. :)

M.A.Peel said...

Hi Scrib. Glad we agree on points 1 & 2. And sure it's good for Obama to visit the Hibernians. I just don't feel emotionally connected to it.