February 25

Days of Royalty


…Another Royal Rendezvous… 

Bigger ships have visited Australia, but they do not gain such a reception. It was  the cachet of the two Queens, the QE2 and the Queen Victoria, of the great Cunard line and of their “Royal Rendezvous” that touched the hearts of Australians.

A year ago[i], Australians greeted another Royal Rendezvous, that between the QE2 and the Queen Mary 2.  Those scenes were relayed around the world, shown for example in the prime time national TV news broadcast from Paris. Older Australians can still recall the earlier Royal Rendezvous of the great liners’ namesakes during those dark days of the Second World War, when our way of life was under threat and Britain, Australia and the Commonwealth, united around their beloved King and Queen, were almost alone as the Axis sought world domination. They have no doubt told their children and their grand children about those days.

Those great liners were converted in Australia into troop carriers, and brought thousands of Australians to distant battlegrounds.  Too fast for the U-boats, the Nazi fuehrer is said to have offered a ransom for their destruction.

As we wondered a year ago, would there today be the sort of facilities in Australia to do this now, or whether our republican politicians and the carpetbaggers who surround them have abandoned that capability too?  

Last weekend, we once again   we saw the magic which only the irresistible combination of monarchy and heritage can radiate.  A city and a nation joined in welcoming a new ship, and farewelling the much loved QE2.
And that will be followed by the fourth episode in that engaging series, A Year with the Royal Family, on the Nine network, Monday 25 February, 2008.

…A Year with the Royal Family…

This week's programme concentrates on the role of The Queen and her government. The episode opens with outgoing Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie spending the weekend with the Royal Family at the Queen's Scottish estate, Balmoral.

Elsewhere, the then future prime minister, Gordon Brown, briefs The Queen in advance of his final budget as Chancellor. Preparations are shown for the spectacular State Opening of Parliament, as the crown jewels are removed from the Tower and The Queen's coachmen put on their 100-year-old costumes.

Meanwhile, the government and the palace are preparing for the Queen's historic tour of the Baltic States, countries from which a number of Australians have come, to the great benefit of Australia. A visit from our monarch would have been inconceivable during the brutal occupation of these countries by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic.. In a misguided moment, the Whitlam government broke ranks with most Western countries and recognized the annexation, but this was revoked by the Fraser government. 

One of the wonderful consequences of the collapse of the USSR is that these countries are once again free. The queen was greeted with warmth and excitement, the Baltic people taking it as a compliment that she would visit them.  

On such a visit to a country with close personal links to Australia, it would be appropriate if our government were to ensure that at some stage The Queen could also convey a message from this nation as The Queen of Australia. The Canadian and New Zealand governments might also consider this.


[i] See this column, 23 February, 2007


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