Since 1867, fifty visits to Australia have occurred by members of the Royal Family. Of those 50 visits, only six transpired before 1954. Queen Elizabeth II is the only reigning monarch of Australia to have visited the country. Since The Queen made her maiden visit on 3 February 1954, she has visited the two mainland territories and each Australian state.
In 1867 Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, son of Queen Victoria, visited Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and was the first of many visits by a member of the Royal family.
Unfortunately the visit was marred by a bid on the young Duke’s life when Henry O’Farrell shot at him on Clontarf Beach in Middle Harbour. Prince Alfred was shot in the back. The bullet caused serious injury but luckily missed Alfred’s spine.
The assassin spent time in an asylum in Victoria until 40 days later he was hanged for the assassination attempt. The jury deliberated only one day to find O’Farrell guilty. Prince Alfred recuperated from the attempt on his life and was discharged from hospital after two weeks. He went on and resumed his tour of the colony.
Albert Edward, Prince of Wales and his wife Alexandra were planning an Empire tour in 1901 but with the death of Queen Victoria the trip was cancelled. Edward’s son Prince George and his wife Mary were entrusted to assume the voyage instead. The couple journeyed on SS Ophir, sailing to Melbourne, where George opened the first Australian federal parliament. During this trip they travelled to Sydney by train and went on to Queensland to lay the foundation stone for St John’s Cathedral in Brisbane.
The next Royal visit in 1920 saw Edward, Prince of Wales visit Victoria on behalf of his father King George V. The trip was to express thanks to Australia for their contribution during World War I. On this tour, Edward was joined by Lord Mountbatten. During the tour, his railway carriage upended. The Prince came out of the accident unscathed.
In 1927, Prince Albert, Duke of York, and his wife Elizabeth embarked on a New Zealand and Australian tour. The previous year, then Princess Elizabeth was born but stayed behind in London.
The Royal couple fished in in New Zealand in the Bay of Islands before setting sail on the HMS Renown for Sydney Harbour.
The impetus behind this visit was to open the provisional Parliament House in Canberra. After the opening on 9 May 1927, the couple spent 12 days in in New South Wales, seven in Queensland, four in Tasmania, eleven in Victoria, six in South Australia, six in Western Australia and three in the Australian Capital Territory. The remaing 10 days were used for travel and personal time.
Tragedy befalls this trip on 9 May when Prince Albert was reviewing the Australian troops. As squadrons were flying, one aircraft unfortunately crashed killing Flying Officer Charles Ewan.
Prince Henry visited in 1934. He later became the Governor-General in 1945 and held that position until 1947. He was the first and only royal Covernor-General.
Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh embarked on their first visit to Australia in 1954. The Queen would be the first head of state to visit the country. Two years prior, Then Princess Elizabeth was en route to Australia when her father died during her stop in Kenya. The death of King George VI forced her to return to the United Kingdom.
During the Royal visit, The Queen and Prince Philip travelled to the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. The Queen maintained a family tradition on that visit by touring the Blue Mountains. The Royal couple travelled 10,000 miles by air, embarking on 33 flights. Their tour saw them travel over 2,000 miles in numerous vehicles visiting all capitals except Darwin and 70 country towns.
After The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh’s Royal tour, the country saw many visits from other members of the Royal Family.
Prince Philip opened the Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956. Returning in 1962 for the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Perth, in 1965 he opened the Royal Australian Mint and in 1968 opened the Duke of Edinburgh Study Conference.
The Queen Mother visited in 1958 to for the British Empire Service League Conference in Canberra. The next year Princess Alexandra visited to attend the Queensland’s centenary celebrations.
Her Majesty returned in 1963 for the Canberra jubilee commemoration where she also toured all the territories and states. In 1966, The Queen Mother returned to as Patron of the Adelaide Festival of Arts and opened Flinders University.
Although not an official visit, the 1960’s saw The Prince of Wales attend a semester at the Timbertop campus of Geelong Grammar School for one term. Prince Charles did return in 1967 as Her Majesty’s representative for PM Harold Holt’s memorial service and a return trip in 1970.
In 1970 The Queen, Prince Philip, The Prince of Wales and Princess Anne embarked on an extensive tour of Australia to commemorate the bi-centenary of Captain James Cook navigating up the east coast of Australia in 1770.
Her Majesty returned again in 1973 for the opening of the Sydney Opera House and again in 1974 to open the Australian Parliament in Canberra. To round out the 1970’s and as part of the Silver Jubilee celebration, The Queen embarked on another far-reaching tour in 1977.
The 1980’s would not only see The Queen make return visits, such as her 1981 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), held in Melbourne, but Prince Charles; Diana, Princess of Wales and the newest heir, Prince William.
Prince William came to Australia as a toddler in 1983. William travelled with his parents, Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales. Other members of the Royal family would travel throughout the country during the 1980s through the 1990s.
The new millennium saw The Queen attend the second CHOGM Conference, The Earl of Wessex attend the Commonwealth Games and Princess Anne visit the victim’s of the 2009 Victorian bush-fires.
2010 saw Prince William take on a three day visit and returning the next year to see the damage caused by the flooding in Victoria and Queensland.
Her Majesty returned in 2011 to be honoured by Parliament House in Canberra. The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall included Australia in 2012 as part of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebration. In 2013, Prince Harry visited Sydney to honour the centenary celebration of the Royal Australian Navy.
And this week we see The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge leave New Zealand and continue their Royal visit in Australia. Of course this is the first visit for Prince George but certainly will not be the last ‘down under.’
Photo Credit: Government House, New Zealand