Trinity offers a bit of peace and quiet in busy schedule

THERE’S nothing like a library for a bit of peace and quiet so after the heavy schedule and diplomatic sensitivities of earlier engagements, busy Lizzie must have been relieved to see the Old Library at Trinity College last on her itinerary.

Founded with the blessing of her namesake, Elizabeth I; nurturer of some of the finest brains in the land; Trinity was a rich repository of good news stories untainted by the complications of history.

It was those villainous Vikings who forced the monks who created the Book of Kells to flee for their lives after all, so no reason to be miffed at the Brits there.

Okay, there was the small matter of Catholics being banned from the university for the first couple of hundred years of its existence but we’re all over that now.

No wonder the royal couple looked jaunty as they pulled up in their Range Rover, Prince Philip waving cheerily and the queen smiling broadly as she acknowledged a small crowd of students applauding from behind 10-foot barricades 60 feet away.

Half an hour was set aside for the library trip for which the college was closed to the public for three days. But it lasted almost twice as long, leaving those left waiting outside to while away the time counting the sharpshooters crouching among the balustrades on the roof.

One book that did catch her eye was the aforementioned masterpiece discovered in Kells, two volumes of which were left open for her to view. She was also shown a copy of the first book ever printed in Irish, a religious work commissioned in 1571 by Elizabeth I, who was not even shown sufficient gratitude for the university to retain its original name — although College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth would never have worked well on twitter.

Brian Boru’s harp — the one on which the national emblem is based — was also dusted off for the visitors who no doubt laughed heartily when told that it wasn’t not really the ancient warrior’s as most people think, but actually dates from 400 years after his death.

Those amusing Irish — always spinning yarns, you could almost imagine them remarking while rolling royal eyes playfully to heaven.

A select few didn’t have to imagine how the queen and prince sounded as a welcoming committee of various notables was assembled inside, among them college provost, Dr John Hegarty; chancellor of the university, Mary Robinson; and assorted academics and achievers like film-maker Neil Jordan, Booker Prize winning author Anne Enright and fantasy writer Terry Pratchett.

Some mere mortals also made the cut, although they had to wait outside. The group of 250 staff and students included student Rebecca Kilkelly who was picked to present the queen with an arrangement of native Irish flowers in the college’s colours of blue and yellow.

Rebecca, a fourth year student of French and sociology from Castlebar, Co Mayo, was chosen because her great grandmother Alice Smyth, while a pupil in Loreto Abbey, Rathfarnham, presented another monarch, Queen Victoria, with a posy when she visited the school in 1901.

Emma Keaveney, a 24-year-old postgraduate student of English from Kilaloo, Co Clare, was also among the crowd and made sure to stand out in it so that the Queen and Prince couldn’t but stop as they passed.

“I had a strategy,” she confessed. “I deliberately went for the floral dress and bright red lipstick so that they’d notice me.” Noticeable she was, braving goose pimples in a perky ensemble that screamed summer on a day that was feeling rather more like November.

The royal couple quizzed her politely on her choice of studies but while the queen moved steadily on along the line, her hubby lingered to inquire as to why everyone he spoke to seemed to be studying languages other than Irish.

“Then he said to me that my accent didn’t sound Irish so I had to assure him I’m as Irish as Irish can be — I just have a neutral accent,” said Emma who wanted to be part of the day to witness a bit of history in action. “He’s quite a character.”

A pretty girl in a summer dress after solemn occasions heavy with history? No wonder Philip lingered. He just better have a good explanation for the missus.

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