The Queen has referred to “treasured memories” she shared with late husband Prince Philip in a message to Northern Ireland on its centenary.
Her Majesty sent her “warmest good wishes” and said the “continued peace” in the country “is a credit to its people, upon whose shoulders the future rests”.
During the statement released today, the monarch, 95, said she still looks “back with fondness” on the visit she paid with the Duke of Edinburgh 10 years ago this month.
“I treasure my many memories, and the spirit of goodwill I saw at first hand,” she added.
The day that many consider to be the date the state of Northern Ireland was created will be quietly marked.
Much like the day that Northern Ireland was founded 100 years ago, there will be no huge celebrations or grand ceremonies.
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Very few people who were alive to witness the birthdate of Northern Ireland were aware it was a particularly significant day.
Northern Ireland was created on May 3, 1921, when the Government of Ireland Act came into effect and partitioned the island of Ireland into two separate entities.
But the exact date of when Northern Ireland was created has divided opinion.
The Queen said: “A century ago, the Government of Ireland Act came into effect, and today marks a significant centenary for both the United Kingdom and Ireland.
“This anniversary reminds us of our complex history, and provides an opportunity to reflect on our togetherness and our diversity.
“In Northern Ireland today, there is, perhaps more than ever, a rich mix of identities, backgrounds and aspirations, and an outward-looking and optimistic mindset.
“The political progress in Northern Ireland and the peace process is rightly credited to a generation of leaders who had the vision and courage to put reconciliation before division.
“But above all, the continued peace is a credit to its people, upon whose shoulders the future rests.
“It is clear that reconciliation, equality and mutual understanding cannot be taken for granted, and will require sustained fortitude and commitment.
“During my many visits to Northern Ireland, I have seen these qualities in abundance, and look forward to seeing them again on future occasions.
“I also wish to recognise the important contribution made by our friends and closest neighbours towards the success of Northern Ireland. I look back with fondness on the visit Prince Philip and I paid to Ireland, 10 years ago this month.
“I treasure my many memories, and the spirit of goodwill I saw at first hand.
“Across generations, the people of Northern Ireland are choosing to build an inclusive, prosperous, and hopeful society, strengthened by the gains of the peace process. May this be our guiding thread in the coming years.
“I send my warmest good wishes to the people of Northern Ireland. Elizabeth R.”
Northern Ireland was formed when the Government of Ireland Act split the 32 counties into two, leaving Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone as part of the new separate state.
Whether one marks, acknowledges, remembers, celebrates or boycotts the centenary, Northern Ireland has had a turbulent history from which no single narrative can be drawn.
Prince Philip died on April 9 at home at Windsor Castle following a lengthy stay in hospital in which he underwent a heart operation.
With the country in a state of mourning for eight days, the Duke’s funeral was held at the castle’s St George’s Chapel on April 17.