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It is implied that he reacted in this way because he recognized her. Julie Gardner stated (and Russell T. Davies concurred) that this was meant to be the Doctor's mother.

Although as it was never said in-universe that this was his mother, it could be any female timelord who was close with the Doctor. If anything, it is unlikely it was his mother from an in-universe perspective as the Doctor's mother is human and so would probably not be on the high council of the timelords, even if they had somehow managed to let her live longer than the natural human life because otherwise she would have died while the Doctor was relatively young (as timelords stay children for decades while humans grow old and die in that same time period).