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British Queen's Ireland Visit Strikes Lighter Note

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II far left arrives at the National Stud Farm in Kildare, Ireland, May 19, 2011.

Queen Elizabeth's historic four-day visit to Ireland entered a less formal phase Thursday, as she indulged her passion for thoroughbred horses with a visit to the National Stud horse breeding center.

The British monarch was also due to attend a variety show at Dublin's National Convention Center in the evening.

Thursday's events began the more relaxed part of the queen's visit, which has been full of symbolic gestures of reconciliation between the two countries.

On Wednesday, Elizabeth ended the day with a keynote speech in which she offered her sympathy to people who had suffered during the two countries' violent past.

The speech took place at a state dinner at Dublin Castle, hosted by Irish President Mary McAleese.

The queen's trip to Ireland marks the first visit by a British monarch since Irish citizens declared independence in 1916.

Also Wednesday, in a sign of better relations between the two countries, the queen visited Dublin's Croke Park, where 14 people were killed by British forces 91 years ago. Ireland won its independence from Britain in 1922 after a bloody 30-month war.

The British monarch also laid a wreath in memory of the 49,400 Irish soldiers who died fighting alongside British troops in World War I.

More than 8,000 police, backed by Irish troops, have been deployed to keep the queen safe after a splinter group of violent Irish nationalists angry about Britain's continued rule over Northern Ireland threatened to disrupt her visit.

The queen and her husband, Prince Philip, return to England on Friday.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.