The Queen and the President of the Republic of Ireland during their meeting in Belfast in 2012
The Queen made an historic visit to the Republic of Ireland in 2011 when she was hosted by the then President, Mary McAleese. Elizabeth II and Michael D Higgins met for the first time since his election as president in 2012 when the Queen visited Belfast. And today they come together in a state visit which will include meetings with politicians, cultural events and a state banquet at Windsor.
Michael D Higgins and his wife, Sabina, arriving in London on April 7th 2014 ahead of their State Visit
The Prince of Wales will be the first to greet Michael D Higgins and, along with the Duchess of Cornwall, will accompany the president and his wife to Windsor where the Queen will offer an official reception. State visits are designed to strengthen relationships between two countries and in the Queen's 62 year reign, the heads of state of many European nations have been hosted by the Queen. And while each visit may follow the same pattern - carriage rides and state banquets being the highlights - this one is particularly special. Earlier this week, the Prime Minister of Ireland, Enda Kenny, spoke of how important this visit is for everyone involved and for many watching on. It marks another new chapter - today history dawns.