THE PEOPLE of Britain and Ireland have finally "shed their inhibitions" about "seeing the best" in each other, the Queen said in Windsor this evening.
The British monarch opened the State Banquet, which marks the first ever official state visit by an Irish head of state to Britain, by recalling one of Ireland's 'most celebrated' high kings, Brian Boru.
Among the guests was Martin McGuinness, a former member of the IRA and now Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister.
He stood for the national anthem and toasted the "health and happiness" of the Queen in a symbolically significant act for British-Irish relations.
"This Castle was founded by William the Conquerer almost a thousand years ago," the Queen explained as she welcomed her guests to Windsor Castle.
"And a thousand years ago this very month, across the Irish Sea, Brian Boru, the most celebrated of Ireland's high kings, lost his life at the battle of Clontarf," the Queen, who wore her white silk and lace Diamond Jubilee gown and a tiara bearing emerald droplets, added.
"Yet despite ten centuries of intervening history, Windsor Castle has had to wait until today to see a formal visit to this country by a head of state of Ireland."
The Queen went on to recall the "pleasurable" state visit she and Prince Philip shared in Ireland in 2011, before adding that the heightened relations between the two islands which followed the visit have been additionally pleasing.
"Even more pleasing, since then," she said "is that we, the Irish and British, are becoming good and dependable neighbours and better friends; finally shedding our inhibitions about seeing the best in each other."
The Queen also highlighted the shared loss of both islands in World War One in the welcome address, and promised that she, her family and "her government" would "stand alongside" Ireland "throughout the anniversaries of the war and of the events that led to the creation of the Irish free state".
The monarch went on to recall London's 2012 Olympic Games during her speech and made a jovial reference to her film debut in the Opening Ceremony.
"They [the Games] shone a light on the modern links between Britain an Ireland, as Irish companies worked alongside British ones in building the stadiums and running the Games themselves," the Queen stated.
"And it took someone of Irish descent, Danny Boyle to get me to jump from a helicopter," she added.
The Queen finished by raising a toast to the President, his wife Sabina and to Ireland - which was marked while the Irish national anthem was played.
President Higgins followed the Queen in addressing the room, thanking the monarch for her hospitality and offering a positive message for the future.
"Your majesty," he said "we have moved on from a past where our relatives were often troubled, to a present where - as you have indicated - Ireland and the United Kingdom meet each other in mutual respect, close partnership and sincere friendship."
He added: "That friendship is informed by the many matters of mutual interest in which we work together and support one another."