Welcome to ROYAL Hillsborough: the Queen’s official residence in Northern Ireland to be the first to receive royal status

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Home to the Queen’s official residence in Northern Ireland, Hillsborough will become the first town or village in the country to receive a royal prefix.

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

Locals have praised the move and officials hope it will 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 takes place in Northern Ireland’s centenary.

The village of Hillsborough in Co Down, Northern Ireland is the first to receive the royal prefix in the country

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

The village is home to the Queen’s residence in Northern Ireland. The picture shows 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 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, the Marquesses of Downshire.

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

Several trees have been 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 abolition of the post in 1973, Hillsborough Castle served as the official residence of the Governor of Northern Ireland.

The castle was destroyed by fire in 1934, forcing the center of the house to be rebuilt and led to most of the structural improvements seen today.

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

A year earlier, 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 Governor of Northern Ireland from 1945 to 1952.

The young princess is said to have “learned the tricks of the trade” from royal overseas visits with the support of her aunt and uncle during her stay in Hillsborough.

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

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

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

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

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 coronation banquet a month after she became Queen in July 1953.

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

It subsequently continued to be used for meetings and conferences and was the site 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 collapsed due to a police crisis in January 2010, the castle was used for talks between Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Ireland’s 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 in Northern Ireland since the site became a royal palace earlier that year.

The Queen has continued to visit the castle regularly since it became an official royal residence, with Hillsborough villagers leaving flowers and paying tribute 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

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

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 the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster, at the castle two weeks ago.

Now the village of Hillsborough where the castle is located is given the royal prefix.

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

‘The village’s royal status reflects Hillsborough’s beauty, unique history and close ties to the Royal Family through Hillsborough Castle.

‘I have had the privilege of enjoying Hillsborough Castle and Hillsborough village with my family over the past year, as have many other Northern Ireland Secretaries of State before me.

“I hope this news will attract many more visitors to the area and all of Northern Ireland, and that it will stimulate further investment and local jobs as we level up in the UK.”

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

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

‘As a municipality, we are delighted that our application has been granted.’

Laura McCorry, head of Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, said: ‘This very welcome news will give a much needed boost to 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, beautiful surroundings and superb places to eat, drink and shop.

‘At the heart of it all is the castle we are privileged to care for, which has been the setting for many milestones in Northern Ireland’s history.

“This week we are delighted to welcome visitors back to Hillsborough Castle.

“We are hopeful that this announcement will help us really put Hillsborough on the map as a tourist destination, inspiring visitors from across Northern Ireland and beyond to come and see all we have to offer.”

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