Queen's Northern Ireland residence to become Royal Hillsborough

Welcome to ROYAL Hillsborough: Queen’s official Northern Ireland residence will become first town or village in country to get regal status

  • Hillsborough Village in Co Down will be named Royal Hillsborough later this year 
  • Village is home to Hillsborough Castle, the Queen’s Northern Ireland residence 
  • Locals have hailed the move with officials hoping that it will help boost tourism 

Hillsborough, home to the Queen’s official Northern Ireland residence, is to become the first town or village in the country to be given a Royal prefix.

The village in Co Down will be named Royal Hillsborough later this year after the government supported an application for the Royal prefix from Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council.

Locals have hailed the move with officials hoping it will help boost tourism to the area. 

Hillsborough is already a popular spot with royals fans with the Queen and other members of the royal family staying at Hillsborough Castle when visiting Northern Ireland. 

The granting of Letters Patent for the village comes in Northern Ireland’s centenary year.

The village of Hillsborough in Co Down, Northern Ireland is to be the first to be given the Royal prefix in the country

The village is home to the Queen’s Northern Ireland residence. Pictured are the Queen and Prince Philip when they were met by David Lindsay, Lord Lieutenant of County Down at Hillsborough Castle in 2014

Hillsborough is already a popular spot with royals fans with the Queen and other members of the royal family staying at Hillsborough Castle

Hillsborough Castle has a long history and was built in the 18th century for the Hill family, Marquesses of Downshire.

The property, which is a Georgian country house rather than an actual castle, was sold to the British government in 1922. 

There are several trees planted by residents and visitors in the grounds of the castle, including one planted in October 1925 by the Duke of Abercorn, the first Governor of Northern Ireland. 

From 1924 until the post’s abolition in 1973, Hillsborough Castle served as the official residence of the Governor of Northern Ireland.

The castle was devastated by a fire in 1934, which left the centre of the house needing rebuilding and led to most of the structural improvements that can be seen today. 

The fire is thought to have been started on the roof by a careless guard who threw away a cigarette as he lowered the flag to mark the funeral of President Hindenburg of Germany, whose death led to the rise to power of Adolf Hitler. 

A year before that, the castle welcomed its first royal visitor, with the visit of Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone and granddaughter of Queen Victoria in 1933.

Then, in March 1946, Princess Elizabeth made her first solo visit to Northern Ireland to launch Harland & Wolff’s new ship HMS Eagle.

She stayed at Hillsborough Castle with her aunt, Lady Rose Bowes-Lyon, sister of Queen Elizabeth and wife of William Leveson-Gower, 4th Earl of Granville, who was the Governor of Northern Ireland from 1945 to 1952.

It is said that the young princess ‘learned the ropes’ of royal overseas visits with the support of her aunt and uncle during her time in Hillsborough. 

Two Lambeg drums play outside Hillsborough Castle as a final tribute to the late Prince Philip on April 17

The Queen with then-Secretary of State Theresa Villiers at a garden party at Hillsborough Castle in 2014

Prince William and Kate Middleton at the Annual Garden Party at Hillsborough Castle in 2016

After marrying Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Elizabeth visited the castle again in 1949 as Duchess of Edinburgh before attending a month after becoming Queen in July 1953 and enjoying a coronation banquet.  

On that occasion, she wore the Girls of Britain and Ireland Tiara, made for her grandmother Queen Mary.

The Queen also ate strawberries and meringue.

After the abolition of the Governor of Ireland and Prime Minister Ireland posts, the position of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was created with the castle becoming its base.  

It then continued to be used for meetings and conferences and was the location of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement on 15 November 1985. 

The Queen and Prince Philip stayed at the castle again in 2002 during their visit to Northern Ireland as part of the Golden Jubilee tour.

US President George W. Bush then visited the castle in 2003.  

When the Northern Ireland Executive faced collapse in January 2010 over a policing crisis, the castle was used for talks between Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen and representatives of the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin.

In April 2014, Prince Charles held an investiture at Hillsborough Castle, the first to be held in Northern Ireland since the venue became a royal palace earlier that year.  

The Queen has continued to regularly visit the castle since it became an official royal residence with villagers of Hillsborough leaving flowers and paying tributes when Prince Philip died in April. 

Hillsborough Castle has a long history and was built in the 18th century for the Hill family, Marquesses of Downshire 

The castle welcomed its first royal visitor in 1933, with the visit of Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone and granddaughter of Queen Victoria 

Most recently, Prince Charles and Camilla met Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster at the castle two weeks ago. 

Now, the village of Hillsborough where the castle is based will be given the Royal prefix.  

Reacting to the news, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis said: ‘This is fantastic news for the village of Hillsborough, a truly wonderful place that deserves this special honour.

‘The village’s Royal status reflects the beauty of Hillsborough as well as its unique history and close connections to the royal family through Hillsborough Castle.

‘I have been privileged to enjoy Hillsborough Castle and the village of Hillsborough over the past year with my family, as have many other Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland before me.

‘I hope this news will attract many more visitors to the area and the whole of Northern Ireland, as well as boosting further investment and local jobs as we level up right across the United Kingdom.’

Mayor of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council Nicholas Trimble said: ‘This is a historic day for Hillsborough, for Northern Ireland and for the UK. Hillsborough has for a long time been a jewel in our local crown.

‘We work closely with the community and local businesses and have invested significantly in the area in recent years, upgrading the forest and installing new play facilities, among other improvements.

‘As a council, we are delighted that our application has been successful.’

Laura McCorry, head of Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, said: ‘This very welcome news will provide a much-needed boost for tourism in Hillsborough, after a challenging year for the entire industry.

‘Hillsborough is a truly remarkable place, with so much to offer visitors – rich history, stunning surroundings and brilliant spots to eat, drink and shop.

‘Sitting at the heart of all of this is the castle we’re privileged to care for, which has been the backdrop for many milestones in the history of Northern Ireland.

‘This week, we’re thrilled to be welcoming visitors back inside Hillsborough Castle again.

‘We’re hopeful that this announcement will help us to really put Hillsborough on the map as a tourism destination, inspiring visitors from across Northern Ireland and beyond to come and see everything we have to offer.’

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