Royal Roundup: The Queen Begins Australian State Visit

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke Edinburgh arrive in Canberra, Australia, Oct. 19. (John Stillwell/PA Wire)

Receiving a 21-gun military salute, the plane carrying Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip touched down at an Australian air force base in the country’s capital city of Canberra on Wednesday.

In addition to being warmly welcomed by a throng of cheering schoolchildren, the royal couple was met by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Chief Minister Katy Gallagher of the Australian Capital Territory and Governor General Quentin Bryce, who is the Queen’s official representative in Australia.

The Queen’s plane arrived 20 minutes early, which meant that the Boeing 777 had to taxi and wait before its royal passengers could exit, because Bryce had not yet arrived at the air base.

Reporters noted that Gillard and Gallagher, both of whom are on the record as favoring a republic, did not curtsy when they met the Queen.

In response to questions, both women said they followed perfectly acceptable protocol by bowing and shaking the Queen’s hand.

“The advice to me was very clear that you can make a choice with what you feel most comfortable with,” said Gillard. “That’s what I felt most comfortable with. The Queen extended her hand and I shook her hand and bowed my head.”

Bryce, the first woman to hold the position as Governor General, curtsied. (via AFP)

Here’s a video report of the arrival, courtesy of the Australian Broadcasting Company:

In other news related to the Queen’s visit to Australia:

• Two students from every local school were invited to attend the Queen’s arrival ceremony at the airport. They brought gifts, flowers and even a toy Corgi, in honor of the Queen’s favorite breed of dog.

The Sydney Morning Herald told the story of one schoolboy who received a smile from the Queen. But 11-year-old James Rhodes, wrote the paper, may have “cost himself the chance of a personal word with Her Majesty.”  Young James, whether out of tedium or chivalry, decided to give the bouquet of flowers he was holding to his classmate Emily Prior, who was then chosen to meet the Queen.

“He was the one that brought the flowers, but he didn’t want to hold them,” Emily said. “He’s such a gentleman.”

An excited James said of the Queen: “She’s a nice old lady that’s the same age as my grandmother, so be really nice to her!”

Crowds lined the drive from the airfield to the Governor General’s official residence, where the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh spent their first night, and where they will be staying for most of the 10 nights they’ll be in the country.

• On Thursday (remember, they’re in Australia), the Queen and Prince Philip visited a flower show. Thousands of onlookers turned out on the shores of Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin, as the royal couple traveled to the Floriade show via boat. (via The Australian)

Here’s some video, again courtesy of the Australian Broadcasting Company:

• While they’re in Canberra, they are also expected to visit the Australian war memorial, meet military personnel, view a “Presentation of the Colours” at a royal military college.  They are also scheduled to attend a lunch with a number of prominent Australians, including actor Geoffrey Rush, who portrayed the speech therapist in the film The King’s Speech, about the Queen’s father, King George VI.

The royal couple will be taking day trips to Melbourne and Brisbane, before they go to Perth next week, where the Queen will open the meeting of leaders of the 54-nation Commonwealth. (via AFP)

• As much as the Queen is liked in Australia, there has been a history of tension over the monarchy there.

When Elizabeth visited in 1992, writes Oscar Humphries in The Telegraph, “she was greeted by the staunchly republican [Prime Minister] Paul Keating, who treated her with a frostiness that many Australians were embarrassed by. Things got worse when, during a tour of parliament, he placed his arm around her back in a breach of protocol that saw the British tabloids dub him ‘the Lizard of Oz’.”

Sentiment about the Queen is very different today, and such affronts or faux pas are almost unimaginable during the her current trip. But Humphries, founding editor of the Spectator Australia, also writes that today’s Australia is a very different place from the country that the Queen first visited in 1954.

China and Japan are now Australia’s largest trading partners. “Even though the emotional ties to the UK remain close,” Humphries says, “the ‘new Australia’ devotes far more government time to China, and has a far closer working relationship with it.”

“Even within the Anglosphere, Britain is no longer Australia’s closest ally,” he continues. That position, he argues, has been usurped by the U.S. both in politics and in culture.