BELFAST, UK (CBS) -- Britain's Queen Elizabeth shook the hand of former Irish Republican Army (IRA) commander Martin McGuinness for the first time on Wednesday, drawing a line under a conflict that cost the lives of thousands of soldiers and civilians, including that of her cousin.
The meeting with McGuinness, who is now the deputy first minister of British-controlled Northern Ireland, comes 14 years after the IRA ended its war against Britain's claim to the province, and is one of the last big milestones in a peace process whose success has been studied around the world.
The queen met McGuinness in a theatre in a leafy middle-class suburb of Belfast, which hundreds of police cordoned off ahead of the event. The queen was also shown artwork and a porcelain bowl during her visit.
There has been scattered opposition to the gesture of reconciliation from dissident Irish militants and from some of the IRA's victims.
But the vast majority of the province's politicians back the meeting, the first between the queen and a top member of the IRA or its former political wing, Sinn Fein.
McGuinness has long been reconciled with the fiery anti-Catholic Unionist leader Ian Paisley, who sat with him in a power-sharing provincial government.
The queen regularly meets senior Unionist politicians, Protestants who want Northern Ireland to stay inside the United Kingdom, but not Sinn Fein, the largest party representing Catholic nationalists who want a united Ireland.