Queen Victoria’s Visit to Ireland (O’Leary, 1896)

1.640. John O’Leary, Recollections of Fenians and Fenianism, 2 vols. (London: Downey & Co., 1896), vol. 2, pp. 61-62. BL 9508.c.1

Extract from John O’Leary, Recollections of Fenians and Fenianism (1896), on royal visits to Ireland.

O’Leary opens the section of his book from which this extract comes by quoting the opinion of the English Mr. Hankey – target of his essay ‘Mr Hankey on Ireland’ –  that if Ireland were to be visited by the Queen, “the whole mass of one of the most impulsive people in the civilized world would be ready to fall down and almost worship her”:

I had the felicity, for the first and last time, of seeing her Britannic Majesty on her first visit to this country, in the year 1849, and I can certify that on that occasion she was received with considerable curiosity, and, as far as one could judge, a total absence of all other feelings. She passed down the broadest street in Dublin, or perhaps in Europe, amid a gaping crowd, but, as far as I could at all see or hear, without a single cheer or other sign of sympathetic interest. And her Majesty did not like her position, if one were to judge by her looks, and no wonder either. . . . I am perhaps diverging somewhat from Fenianism, but scarcely so far as I seem. Royal visits and lying descriptions of them, and sentimental gush over their possible and impossible effects, may help Britishers and West Britishers to throw dust in each other’s eyes, but they most certainly do not make, or tend to make, the “mere Irish,” or the Irish “fall down and almost worship,” but rather stand up, and scoff or scowl, as their special temperaments or moods at the time being may urge them. I was young when I saw the Queen, and certainly enthusiastic, but enthusiastic about everything she did not represent. And as it was with me then, so presumably, bating perhaps some of the enthusiasm, was it with the vast crowd who gazed on her that day in Sackville Street. I am now old, but if per impossibili or per improbabili, I were to look upon that Queen again, I cannot imagine that my feelings would be essentially other than what they were then. Times have changed much since, and doubtless I have changed with them. But in some things, and especially in the region of the emotions, I have not changed, or changed but little. My feeling towards England was then quite the reverse of loving, and so it is still; and my feeling towards England’s Queen was then, as it is now, one of complete indifference.