20 MARCH 2008

Queen Elizabeth marked the end of her three-day visit to Northern Ireland with an historic moment on Thursday. For the first time ever the monarch presided over the pre-Easter Maundy money service outside of England or Wales.

The 700-year-old service, in which she traditionally distributes ceremonial purses of money to pensioners who've made a contribution to church or community life, was held at St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh - much to the delight of the cathedral's Dean.

"It is a great honour that the Queen has chosen to come to Armagh for this service," he said. "It is a wonderful day, not only for those involved but for the city as a whole. The pensioners who received the coins have contributed significantly to society, and this is a wonderful way for that to be recognised."

"It will be a day that will be etched in their memory forever," he added.

The Queen, elegant as ever in a scarlet ensemble, was accompanied by Prince Philip - who gave a reading at the ceremony.

Photo: © Alphapress.com
The monarch was full of Easter cheer as she chatted to the dean of St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh, who was resplendent in shamrock-embroidered robesPhoto: © Getty Images Click on photo to enlarge