Queen Elizabeth II, as The Queen of Australia, met prominent Australians at Australia House in London on 19 February to celebrate the centenary of Australian diplomatic representation in London. The Australian High Commissioner John Dauth said it was remarkable that The Queen had been on the throne for 58 per cent of the century of formal diplomatic relations between Australia and the UK.
"When the first of my predecessors… George Reid, arrived in London in February of 1910, your great grandfather was still on the throne," he told The Queen.
…Foreign Minister addresses The Queen….
The Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith represents Australia with dignity and charm. He bowed to The Queen, and addressed Her Majesty with these words:
“As the sovereign of both peoples and both nations your presence is a testament to the warmth, the affection, the respect and the regard that we have for each other and to the enduring strength of the Australia-UK relationship.”
The Australian's London correspondent Peter Wilson noted that Mr. Smith referred to The Queen as the Sovereign, avoiding use of the contested term, head of state.
Established in 1910, the High Commission in London is Australia's oldest diplomatic posting. The Minister said “This milestone is a significant reflection of the warmth and the strength of the relationship between Australia and the United Kingdom."
"Australia House is now the longest, continuous diplomatic site in the United Kingdom,” he aded.
He also said:
” The Australia-United Kingdom relationship is not just a historical relationship. Our modern relationship is underpinned by our shared heritage, common values, and closely aligned strategic outlook. We are frequent and regular dialogue partners at the highest levels across Government and share similar views on global issues, including security, multilateral cooperation and climate change. We also share long-standing trade and investment relations and benefit from extensive people-to people links.”
The Minister opened an exhibition of historical photographs, paintings, documents and artefacts from Australian and British archives, which traces the history of Australia’s representation in the United Kingdom.
He also launched a historical publication, The High Commissioners: Australia’s Representatives in the UK, 1910-2010. Prepared jointly by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies at King’s College, London, the book is edited by Carl Bridge, Frank Bongiorno and David Lee.
It traces the history of Australian High Commissioners to the United Kingdom. ”Former prime minister Sir George Reid was appointed as Australia's first high commissioner to the UK in January of that year and arrived about a month later. A century on, both countries have seen many changes, but Mr Smith believed the diplomatic relationship would remain strong."
"It is an historic, deeply significant Australian site and I cannot envisage a time when Australia's representation in the United Kingdom won't be conducted from Australia House. This is very much a part of Australia," he said.
According to Valkerie Baynes for Fairfax, a quartet of young baritones from Australia and the UK, Nicholas Lester, Sam Queen, Duncan Rock and Laurence Meikle, provided the evening's entertainment, accompanied by Tom Higgins on piano.
…Rolf Harris and Sir Lennox Hewitt…
Rolf Harris, who turns 80 next month, told her he spent the night before the coronation sitting under a blanket in the crowd in Hyde Park. "I think she's very happy to get away from the pomp and the stiff upper lip-type feeling and to be a real person."
"Australians, as you know, they cut through all the red tape in most instances and feel that it's their god-given right to do so," he added with a chuckle. "And I think she finds it very refreshing to talk to Australians, I'm sure she does."
Another guest, the retired public service mandarin Sir Lenox Hewitt, was closer to the action.
Sir Lenox, 92, was acting High Commissioner when her father, King George VI died, and represented Australia as a “gold stick” or usher during the coronation at Westminster Abbey.