The Queen’s trip to Australia is over, and pundits everywhere are calling it a complete success on every level.
The only aspect that’s not going as planned, reports BBC News, is that Prince Philip, back in England, has cancelled his quick turnaround trip to Italy. The Prince will not be attending a conference in Assisi on religion and the environment because he developed a cold. Still, he probably logs more kilometers than most 90-year-olds on the planet.
Over their 11-day trip, the royal couple visited four cities in four different states and were met at every stop by larger than expected crowds.
“When the Queen landed in the capital Canberra,” writes The Telegraph, “no one in Buckingham Palace would have dared imagine that a crowd of 45,000 people would turn out to cheer the Royal couple as they took a boat ride on the Brisbane River, nor that tens of thousands would cram Melbourne’s Federation Square to capacity to catch a glimpse of the monarch and her husband after they toured a nearby art gallery.”
“The Queen and Duke have really enjoyed themselves,” said a Buckingham Palace source. “The Queen has been bowled over by the reaction.”
At the end the visit, the Queen presided over the Commonwealth leaders’ meeting, which unanimously agreed to end the preference given to male heirs in succession to the throne.
In other news related to the Queen’s trip to Australia:
• Estimates for attendance at the send-off barbeque party for the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh run anywhere from tens of thousands (BBC News) to 150,000 (Female First). Some said it was a record-setting gathering; everyone agreed there were a lot of people.
There were said to be – again, give or take ten thousand here or there – 130,000 sausages, 8,000 loaves of bread, 60,000 liters of sauce and 150,000 drinks.
The Duke was seen to flip some steaks, and the Queen showed great interest in Australian barbeque recipes.
As the Queen said goodbye in Perth, she used the royal “we” to thank her Australian hosts: “Once again we will return to the United Kingdom with fond memories of our time here and the warm Australian welcome we have received on our 16th visit to this beautiful country.”
Here’s some video of the Queen’s last day in Australia, courtesy of AFP:
And here’s more video of the royal couple as they board a tram that will carry them from the Great Aussie Barbecue:
• There is one group that was less than enthusiastic about the Queen’s visit: Australian repblicans. The monarchy is riding a wave of popularity Down Under, and the Queen’s trip, as even anti-monarchists expected, has increased its popularity even further.
“Queen charm blunts republican leanings,” wrote the Australian Herald Sun in an editorial.
The deputy chairman of the Australian Republican Movement acknowledged that republican sentiment is “in a down period at the moment,” but pledged not to give up.
“The republican campaign will continue, there’s no doubt about that. We’re certainly not going to lie down,” ARM deputy chairman John Warhurst told AFP.
Meanwhile, the head of Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy said the republican movement is currently “comatose.”
• Australia’s avowedly republican Prime Minister Julia Gillard appeared to get on quite well both officially and personally with the Queen. There was the brief flare up of some pundits who insisted that Gillard should have curtsied to Her Majesty. But even the Queen, through a Buckingham Palace spokesperson, said: Absolutely no offense was taken at all – it’s a storm in a royal teacup.”
“The person who is least concerned about protocol is the Queen,” said the spokesperson, according to The Telegraph. “We’ve always said do what you feel comfortable with.”
And the two women seemed exceedingly comfortable with each other.
In Canberra, Gillard welcomed the Queen with such grace that if you didn’t know, you’d be hard pressed to guess that she favors a republic at all: “Many heads of state and government are welcomed within these walls, but in this, the home of Australian democracy you are a vital constitutional part, not a guest,” Gillard said. “Just as in this nation you can only ever be welcomed as a beloved and respected friend.”
• Of course, Prime Minister Gillard has made it clear that she now only sees abolishing the monarchy once Queen Elizabeth’s reign has ended. One of her predecessors, Paul Keating, who was Prime Minister from 1991 to 1995, has been considerably more outspoken in his support of a republic.
In a book whose publication was timed to the Queen’s visit, Keating says that he told the Queen directly that he thought the monarchy was “an anachonism” when he visited Balmoral Castle in 1993. At the time, Keating still entertained hopes of abolishing the monarchy by referendum.
In the book, Keating writes: “I told the Queen as politely and gently as I could that I believed the majority of Australians felt the monarchy was an anachronism; that it had drifted into obsolescence. Not for any reason associated with the Queen personally, but for the simple reason she was not in a position to represent their aspirations. They were Australian, she was British.”
Keating writes that after he had his frank discussion with the Queen, he joined her, the Duke of Edinburgh and other guests for an outdoor barbecue. (via The Telegraph)
• Although the monarchy looks far from anachronistic in current public opinion polls, Australian expat and author Kathy Lette thinks monarchists are foolishly overconfident.
“The British are gloating and it ain’t pretty,” she writes in the Sydney Morning Herald. “How smug they are at the news that Australian republicanism is dead. The media are positively wallowing at the number of Aussies who’ve turned up to watch her maj stroking the odd marsupial and fending off Philip’s faux pas.”
Lette argues that youthful royals Will and Kate, combined with the sense of nostalgia fostered by the Queen, are what’s driving support for the monarchy in Australia. But the country, she writes, is increasingly populated by people with no allegiance to the royals.
“Once the Queen gracefully retires and Australia is faced with a pinstripe-underpanted, tree-hugging King Charles, a monarch-ectomy will surely follow,” she argues.
• Finally, a touching story of a woman in Perth who was supposed to meet the Queen 57 years ago, on her first visit to Australia. Writing in The Daily Mail, Amanda Platell tells the story of her mother, who was 20 and pregnant when the Queen first visited Perth. Norma Platell was on a list for a personal meeting, but it was cancelled because of an outbreak of polio.
“Mum burst into tears when she heard,” writes her daughter. “And I can tell you, she is not much of a crier. That invitation stayed on the mantelpiece for decades to come.”
This past weekend, nearly 60 years later, Norma Platell finally met the Queen.
“Neither woman was any longer in the first flush of youth, it’s true,” writes Amanda. Yet her mother “still managed a dangerously deep curtsey to the Queen.”
“I told the Queen how I’d waited to watch her passing by all those years ago,” Norma Platell said. “I may have waited 57 years but it was worth it.”