CORK, Ireland — In the end it was all about the queen's speech, a simple expression of regret that struck a chord as a sincere expression of Queen Elizabeth II's desire to build a new relationship with Ireland.
Her words, delivered without a politician's pizzazz or packaging, will long be remembered as a moment of glory for the aging monarch, who showed an uncanny knack for connecting with the Irish people during a four-day visit that ended Friday.
She spoke at a state dinner Wednesday night, her words captivating Ireland, sparking the tumultuous cheers that greeted her every time she appeared in public.
"To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past I extend my sincere thoughts and deep sympathy," she said. "With the benefit of historical hindsight, we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all."
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She did not apologize, as some had wished, but her simple, eloquent words were well received in Ireland, quoted frequently in the following days as proof that something fundamental had irrevocably changed in the often strained relations between these two neighbors.
"It's the best thing that's happened in Ireland in 20 years," said baker Joe Hagerty, who runs Heaven's Cakes in the English Market, the queen's first stop in Cork. "She's been very sweet and very direct and kept it very short. She said the right things. It was absolutely sincere. Everybody on our side of the world was really happy with it."
She left Ireland on a triumphant note, finally getting a chance to mingle with cheering crowds, despite the security concerns that kept her slightly isolated on the first three days of her visit.
Adults and schoolchildren roared their delight as the queen walked out of the English Market and chatted with onlookers who had waited patiently for a glimpse of her during her brief trip to Cork. A party atmosphere prevailed as school bands serenaded the queen.
Pat O'Connell, who showed the queen and her husband, Prince Philip, his vast supply of fresh fish, said the monarch had accomplished her goals for the ambitious trip.
"We are absolutely thrilled, it has been the most wonderful trip," O'Connell said. "The woman has just shown such dignity, such grace. You can say 99.99 percent of the people are thrilled."