|Location||Royal Hillsborough, County Down, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom|
|Owner||Queen Elizabeth II in right of the Crown|
Hillsborough Castle is an official government residence in Northern Ireland. It is the official residence of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and the official residence in Northern Ireland of Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the British royal family when they visit the region, as well as a guest house for prominent international visitors.
From 1924 until the post's abolition in 1973, it was the official residence of the governor of Northern Ireland. Since April 2014, it has been managed by Historic Royal Palaces, and is open to the public on certain dates.
Hillsborough Castle, which is located in the village of Hillsborough in the north-west of County Down, is not a true castle. It is a Georgian country house built in the 18th century for the Hill family, Marquesses of Downshire, who owned it until 1922, when The 7th Marquess of Downshire sold the mansion and its grounds to the British government. In buying it, the government solved a practical problem. Under the Government of Ireland Act 1920 a new, distinct region of the United Kingdom called Northern Ireland had been created within the traditional province of Ulster, but minus three counties—Cavan, Donegal, and Monaghan—which became part of the Irish Free State. Executive authority had been vested for both Northern Ireland and its sister region, Southern Ireland, in the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who was supposed to be one of two all-Ireland features (along with the Council of Ireland) in the new home rule structure. However, that office was abolished in a law change following the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, which in effect aborted Southern Ireland (which had in reality only existed on paper) and established the Irish Free State.
A new office for Northern Ireland alone was created, that of Governor of Northern Ireland. As the Viceregal Lodge in Dublin became unavailable, physically and politically, a new residence was needed. Hillsborough Castle, though outside the largest city of Northern Ireland, Belfast, was deemed a suitable location. After some renovations, the first governor, The 3rd Duke of Abercorn, moved in during 1925. Upon becoming the official residence of the governor, the building was officially renamed Government House.
Within the grounds of the castle are a number of trees planted by residents of, and visitors to, the estate. These include a tree (Abies albertiana) planted by The Duke of Abercorn, the first Governor of Northern Ireland, in October 1925.
Following the decision to abolish Northern Ireland's devolved system of government and institute direct rule from London in March 1972, all Northern Irish governmental posts, including that of Governor and Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, were abolished. Those two posts were in effect combined to create the office of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. As the Queen's representative, the Secretary of State moved into Hillsborough Castle at that time.
Hillsborough Castle continued to be used for important meetings and conferences: it was the location of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement on 15 November 1985 and Mo Mowlam broke new ground when she opened the extensive grounds of the castle to the public in April 1999.[note 1]
Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh stayed in Hillsborough Castle during their visit to Northern Ireland as part of the Golden Jubilee tour of the United Kingdom in 2002 and the then President of the United States, George W. Bush, visited the castle in 2003.
The house was also used in January 2010 for talks between British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen and representatives of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin on the crisis over Northern Irish policing which threatened to derail power-sharing and to collapse the Northern Ireland Executive. Then, in April 2014, The Prince of Wales held an investiture at Hillsborough Castle, the first one to be held in Northern Ireland since the venue became a royal palace.
- Following her death on 18 August 2005, Mowlam's ashes were scattered at Hillsborough Castle
- "History". Historic Royal Palaces. Retrieved 22 July 2013.
- "Hillsborough Castle and Gardens". Tourism Ireland. Retrieved 27 December 2009.
- "Virtual Tour Hillsborough Castle" Archived 14 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine. Northern Ireland Office. Retrieved 27 December 2009.
- "Hillsborough Castle". Who we are. Historic Royal Palaces. 2014. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
- "Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann) Act, 1922, Schedule 2". Retrieved 15 May 2016.
- "Hillsborough Castle". History Hit. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
- Hillsborough Castle - Tree planting plaque, Duke of Abercorn, 1925.
- "Hillsborough Castle opens its royal doors to all". Financial Times. 19 April 2019. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
- "Anglo-Irish Agreement". Retrieved 4 May 2021.
- "Hillsborough to open to publican weekends". Irish Times. 15 April 1999. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
- "Brown outlines three-point plan and final deadline for Northern Ireland". The Guardian. 27 January 2010. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
- "Prince of Wales gives OBE and MBE honours at Hillsborough Castle". BBC News. 2 April 2014. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
- Cornforth, John, ‘Hillsborough Castle, County Down’. Country Life (28 July and 4 August 1994)
- 'Hillsborough Castle, Co Down: Built for peace with a timely restoration', Country Life, 20 October 2019
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hillsborough Castle.|