King Charles III makes first state visit to Northern Ireland as monarch

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Sept. 13 (UPI) — King Charles III traveled to Northern Ireland Tuesday for his first official state visit as British monarch, where he will hold high-level political meetings and attend a memorial service for his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II.

The visit is the second stop along his royal tour of the nations that make up the United Kingdom – – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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Charles departed from the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland, with Camilla, the queen consort, en route to Belfast in the first visit to Northern Ireland by a British king in many decades.

Charles was expected to visit Hillsborough Castle in County Down to meet with the country’s dignitaries and later attend a ceremony honoring the late queen at St. Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast. Elizabeth died Thursday at age 96.

Charles and Camilla were expected to attend the ceremony alongside Irish President Michael D. Higgins and his wife, Sabina Higgins, and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney.

British Prime Minister Liz Truss was also expected at the church.

Stormont’s party leaders will be on hand, too, including Assembly speaker Alex Maskey, who will present the king with official condolences from the country.

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Chris Heaton-Harris, Northern Ireland’s new secretary, will meet privately with the royal couple ahead of their meeting with Michelle O’Neill, the first minister-designate of the Sinn Fein Irish republican party, which notably boycotted the queen’s visit to Ireland in 2011.

At Hillsborough Castle, a 21-gun salute was fired in honor of the queen, and the Royal Standard flag was to be flown throughout the king’s visit.

A public reception was planned at the castle later in the day.

Large crowds lined up along the Royal Hillsborough’s main thoroughfares in anticipation of the king’s arrival.

Charles’ motorcade was to travel through the city along Main Street and Lisburn Street before heading off to Belfast on circuitous route through Wellington Place, Donegall Square North, Chichester Street and Victoria Street.

The queen consort planned a private event at the Writer’s Square in Belfast.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s draped casket continued to lie in state at Edinburgh’s St. Giles Cathedral, where the public is paying respects for four days before her remains are moved to London for a state funeral on Monday.

Her daughter, Princess Anne, will accompany the coffin from the cathedral to Edinburgh airport. From there, the queen’s remains will travel to Buckingham Palace, where the king and other members of the royal family will gather in tribute.

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Members of the public lay flowers, cards, teddy bears and more in tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II in London’s Green Park on September 12, 2022. Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo