Bookcover image of Buckingham Palace

Royal recognition for research on Ireland and the First World War

A University of Exeter historian was invited as one of a small group of VIPs to be individually presented to the Queen at a Buckingham Palace reception in advance of the visit of the Irish President, Michael D. Higgins, in April. Dr Catriona Pennell was selected to attend the prestigious royal event on 25 March in recognition of her work on Ireland and the First World War.

The Anglo-Irish reception was held to mark the first official state visit by an Irish President to Britain next month.  The Queen and Prince Philip played host to 300 Irish guests from the world of sport, business, politics, the arts, and community work, who have all made a positive contribution to Britain. 

Dr Pennell was the only academic who was part of the select group of around 10 VIPS to be presented to the Queen and assigned a member of the royal household to look after her throughout the evening event. Other guests at the ceremony included fashion designer Orla Kiely, actor Michael Gambon, singer Imelda May, hat designer Philip Treacy who fashioned 36 headpieces for the Royal wedding, racehorse trainer Jonjo O'Neill and former Formula One racing boss Eddie Jordan. Irish ambassador to Britain Dan Mullhall and Northern Ireland secretary Teresa Villiers also attended alongside Princess Anne and her husband, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, and the Duke of Kent.

The linking factor of all the guests and VIPs are people who are Irish living in the UK or have made a significant contribution to Ireland. Dr Pennell’s contribution to Anglo-Irish relations stems from her extensive research into Irish experiences during the First World War as well as her first book, A Kingdom United: Popular Responses to the Outbreak of the First World War in Britain and Ireland (OUP, 2012).  It is the first comprehensive public opinion survey of British and Irish popular reactions to the outbreak of the First World War and has reintegrated Ireland into British history of the war.

Dr Pennell studied at Trinity College Dublin at both undergraduate and PhD level and retains strong connections with Ireland through her research and colleagues. She said:“I made use of the Royal Archives as part of my research, looking at the diaries of George V, who was the last monarch to visit the Republic of Ireland before the Queen followed suit in 2011. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be invited to the palace and I’m very flattered that my work – at a relatively early stage in my career – has been recognised in this way.”

Date: 28 March 2014

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