Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom finally got round to visit Italy, her first foreign visit since 2011. The trip had been planned for 2013 but was subsequently cancelled. Her visit in Rome enabled her to stop over for a chat with Pope Francis whom she hadn't met before.
As is usual, the meeting had been declared informal beforehand to avoid calling it a meeting of religious leaders or a summit of heads of state. The mind boggles, if you ad the Son of God (that's Prince Philip in case you didn't know) into that equation. Does the living god of a religion count as a religious leader? Working in the department for protocols must be hell sometimes.
Pope Francis is meanwhile well-known for breaking with protocol. Queen Elizabeth took a leaf out of his book appearing for the visit in a blue dress with hat. Protocol would have had her dressed in black and sporting a black mantilla. The dress code applies to visits in the Vatican only; when receiving Popes for return visits, the protocol of the receiving head of state takes over.
During the 62-year reign of Queen Elizabeth, Pope Francis is the fifth Pope with whom she met either in the Vatican or in the United Kingdom. Pope John Paul II met Queen Elizabeth several times; once in 1982, when he was the first Pope to visit the United Kingdom. She received Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 in Edinburgh when he visited the United Kingdom in turn.
Before she became queen, Princess Elizabeth visited Pope Pius XII. The visit was heavily criticized by the insular press (and I don't mean insular as a geographical term). Behind world development and still stuck in the times of the Indian Empire (I am talking about today's press, not of 1951), they still try to keep up appearances of a world power. Everyone needs a hobby, I suppose.
Pope Francis also handed Queen Elizabeth a gift for her grandson Prince George: An orb made of lapis lazuli with a silver cross attached to it. the symbolism of the orb to represent power over the world was used by the Romans, the cross was an afterthought of one of the religious sects active in the Imperial capital. As baby rattles go, this might be one of the more expensive we will see this century.
How much things have changed in over 60 years, see the pictures at the end of the article.
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