Commentators on both sides of the Irish Sea are unanimous in declaring the Queen's four-day visit to Ireland, which ended this afternoon, an extraordinary triumph, one that opened hearts and shifted attitudes, laying ghosts to rest and opening up a new era of friendship for both nations.
Three of the key moments occurred on visits to historically resonant places. At the Garden of Remembrance, she bowed her head before a monument to those who died for Irish independence; she met footballers at Croke Park stadium, where the first 'Bloody Sunday' massacre in 1920 robbed Britain of its moral authority to rule Ireland; and at Islandbridge, she honoured the 49,000 Irish who died for the Crown during World War I.
The first two recognised that Ireland's struggle to break free from the British crown had been legitimate, that British rule in Ireland had been often cruel. The third restored the memory of soldiers who were later seen as traitors to independence and shunned by independent Ireland.
Islandbridge was as important a symbolic moment for pro-Union Protestants in the North, just as her speech at a banquet at Dublin Castle on Wednesday night was an important moment of recognition of nationalist feeling.
The speech was beautifully judged – beginning with a greeting in Irish, A Uachtaráin agus a chairde ("President and friends"), provoking Mary McAleese, the Irish president, to say "wow" three times.
"To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past I extend my sincere thoughts and deep sympathy," the Queen said. "With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all."
The words had a particular poignancy because Lord Mountbatten, her husband’s uncle, was killed in an Irish Republican Army bombing while sailing off the west coast of Ireland in 1979.
It has been a long wait for this visit, the first time the Queen has visited the territory of Britain's closest neighbour. It was made possible by the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985, signed by Margaret Thatcher and Garret Fitzgerald (who with poignant timing died yesterday); and the Good Friday agreement signed by Tony Blair in 1998. The first paved the way for the second: by removing any notion of territorial ambition on the part of either nation, the two nations could leave the bitter 1970s behind.
But it has still taken until now for this visit – possibly the most remarkable moment in the Queen’s career. It was certainly the most important political move she has made in her long reign.
It has been a moment not just for burying past antagonisms, but of hope an for Ireland emerging from the despondency of economic catastrophe and institutional failure. The visit showcased the great beauty and history of the country; the machinery of state and society worked beautifully. With the world's eyes on Ireland, they had much to be proud of.
It was a visit characterized by humility, dignity and generosity. It showed the power of healing and reconciliation, and the effect of heartfelt words and gestures. It was a compelling witness to what happens when two Christian nations throw off the weight of the past and embrace their common humanity.