PAEDOPHILE PROTECTORS QUEEN ELIZABETH II & FALSE ANTI-POPE FRANCIS I MEET TO CONSPIRE AT THE DIVINE DRAGON
‘I say, Your Holiness, do you fancy a drop of Balmoral whisky? Philip pulls a bottle from a hamper given to the Pope during royal visit to the Vatican
Queen and Duke of Edinburgh had a private audience with Pope Francis
The Queen, who apologised after 20 minutes late, gave Pontiff a hamper
It contained whiskey, honey, chutney, and beer from royal estates
Pope presented Queen with a lapis lazuli orb for eight-month-old George
She said he will be ‘thrilled’ with the gift, adding: ‘when he’s a little older’
The meeting lasted 17 minutes and was conducted through an interpreter
By Robert Hardman
Published: 12:43, 3 April 2014 | Updated: 14:39, 4 April 2014
What does the woman who has everything give the man who, famously, wants nothing at all?
Answer: A dozen eggs, a haunch of venison, six bottles of Coronation bitter and a box of Sandringham soap.
On what was her first overseas trip in three years yesterday, the Queen paid a visit to Pope Francis at the Vatican.
She brought with her a wicker hamper full of home-produced delicacies – from Balmoral whisky to a rib of Windsor beef. ‘I hope that will be unusual for you,’ she told him. It certainly was.
Set against the dry-as-dust protocol which has traditionally governed royal visits to the Vatican, this meeting was almost riotous.
On all four previous visits, the Queen had worn black. But Pope Francis had said this would not be necessary. So, for yesterday’s meeting, she was in the same lilac ensemble which she wore on a visit to Hertfordshire during her Diamond Jubilee.
For her meetings with Popes Pius XII, John XXIII, and John Paul II she had been welcomed in the vast Apostolic Palace.
But Argentine-born Pope Francis has made a big thing of rejecting gold-draped Vatican flummery during his first year in office, forsaking the grand Papal apartments for a little suite in St Martha’s boarding house round the corner.
The original plan had been to welcome the Queen to his rooms in St Martha’s but with all the various officials and diplomats involved, not to mention an international media circus, the venue was switched to a conference centre just behind his digs.
A dozen ceremonial soldiers from the Swiss Guard stood outside as the Queen and Prince Philip arrived in a bullet-proof Lancia, 20 minutes behind schedule.
The spiritual leader of 1.2billion Catholics seemed a little nervous as he welcomed the Supreme Governor of the Church of England into a very plain foyer with a very loud carpet. ‘You go first – you need to show us where to go,’ laughed Prince Philip as the Pope steered him into a private audience room.
Doors shut, the 17-minute chat was witnessed only by an interpreter. All cameras and officials were excluded.
In recent weeks, the poor Pope has come under intense pressure from his fiery compatriot, Argentina’s president Cristina Kirchner, to raise the issue of the Falklands with the Queen.
When Mrs Kirchner heard about plans for this royal visit, she flew to Rome to badger the Holy Father over a three-hour lunch and then kept up the lobbying with personal letters – and also via Twitter.
She even tried to upstage the Queen yesterday by unveiling a new Argentinian bank note featuring the islands.
It was all utterly pointless, not least because the Vatican has always maintained a firm neutrality on the Falklands – and senior Papal representatives were happy to reassure the British Ambassador to the Holy See on this very point shortly before the visit.
If the word ‘Malvinas’ had surfaced at any point, then we would surely not have seen such a smiley Queen as the doors opened and she emerged to present the Pope with her gifts. ‘I’ve brought you something from all our estates which is for you personally,’ she said.
Laid out on a table was a hamper, stamped ‘EIIR’, packed with all the best that Balmoral, Windsor and Sandringham have to offer – plus one item from HQ. ‘This is from Buckingham Palace,’ said Prince Philip, pointing at two golden jars. ‘Honey from my garden!’ the Queen chipped in. She is very proud of her beehives.
The Pope, who has a famous sweet tooth, looked very pleased.
He, in turn, presented the Queen with two gifts which had evidently involved a great deal of thought. First was a facsimile of a 17th century Papal decree upgrading the saintly status of St Edward the Confessor, the Queen’s ancestor.
Next was a charming orb not unlike the one which monarchs hold at coronations as a symbol of Christian authority.
Made of blue lapis lazuli, it was topped with a silver cross just like that on St Edward’s Crown, the centrepiece of the coronation ceremony.
Engraved on its base were the words: ‘Pope Francis to His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge.’ The proud great-grandmother was delighted. ‘He will be thrilled with that,’ said the Queen, ‘when he’s a little older!’
Mrs Kirchner, on the other hand, will hit the roof when she finds out about this. When she met Pope Francis last summer, shortly after the birth of her own grandson, he gave her a present for the baby – a pair of white booties.
A nice thought. But what does Prince George get? Not mere footwear but – caramba! – a priceless, fully-fledged addition to the Crown Jewels.
Before the royal departure, the Pope also presented the Duke of Edinburgh with three papal medals in gold, silver and bronze. ‘It’s the only gold medal I have ever won,’ the Duke joked.
Yesterday’s Vatican excursion rather upstaged the original reason for this awayday to Rome. The Queen had accepted an invitation to visit the President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, as he prepared to retire from office last year.
A former communist, he has always had a deep admiration for the Queen. Ill health forced her to cancel that visit, much to the president’s dismay.
But when political turmoil brought Italy to a standstill last year, Mr Napolitano was re-elected. Back at the Quirinale Palace, he promptly reissued his invitation to the Queen.
A cosy lunch was arranged in a small room at the top of the Quirinale’s Tower of the Winds.
Built on the highest hill in Rome, it boasts an unrivalled view of the city. Just one problem: The flight of 57 of stairs up from the lift.
With herbal risotto and spring lamb beckoning, neither the Queen, 87, the president, 88, nor the Duke, 92, gave it a second thought.
Back to black: A look back at the Queen’s previous Papal meetings
When the Queen met the Pope in Italy, the relaxed event had a very different feel from her previous encounters with the Pontiff on Italian soil.
This time, the Queen did not wear black or a veil, as she has done on other visits.
In 1980 when meeting Pope John Paul II in Rome, she dressed entirely in black in keeping with Vatican protocol, with a tiara holding a cascade veil in place, just as she had done on her visit to Pope John XXIII in 1961.
In 2000, the Queen wore black again, but with a hat and a shorter veil. This was despite royal tradition that female members of the royal family do not wear black other than when in mourning.
Before the visit, Buckingham Palace confirmed the Queen would not wear black or a mantilla – a lace veil – this time. A spokeswoman said: ‘It is in keeping with the informal nature of the visit.’
In 1951, when she was Princess Elizabeth, she meet Pope Pius XII and wore a floor length black gown with a long black veil.
In September 2010, Pope Benedict XVI made the first ever official Papal visit to Britain. Pope John Paul II’s 1982 trip to the UK was a pastoral one.
Since the Queen’s last meeting with a Pope in 2010, the monarchy’s relationship with Catholicism has altered – with a partial end to the 300-year-old discrimination against those of the Catholic faith.
The introduction of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, which comes into force once it is approved by all 15 Commonwealth countries where the Queen is head of state, means that members of the royal family who marry a Catholic no longer lose their place in line to the throne.
But the current prohibition on the monarch being a Catholic still remains in force.
Meetings between the royal family and Catholic popes are usually events full of tradition, drama and sometimes humour.
It is said Queen Mary disliked wearing black so much she arrived with George V for an audience with Pope Pius XI in 1923 in a white dress complete with a pearl necklace and choker.
During an audience with John Paul II, Princess Diana asked the Pope about a wound he suffered in an assassination attempt a few years before, but he misinterpreted it amusingly.
Quoted in his biography the Prince of Wales wrote that his wife ‘…patted her tummy to indicate where he had been shot, but he didn’t seem to understand what she was saying and replied with a beatific smile that she was the creator of life and seemed to bless her tummy – presumably, Diana surmised, because he mistook her as saying she was pregnant.’
The Queen and the Pope are meeting during Lent, traditionally a time of fasting and reflection.