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Milestones of a Monarch: the start of the walkabout

Royal walkabouts have created some of the most iconic moments in history, whether that’s a special hug or a royal going out of their way for a special interaction. Believe it or not, as common as they are now, the royal walkabout didn’t actually start until the 1970s.

In previous tours, people could only catch a glimpse of a visiting royal as they drove by in cars. In 1970, Her Majesty The Queen changed that when she decided she wanted to say hello to the crowds. From there, the walkabout was born.

The first walkabout happened during a royal tour of Australia and New Zealand alongside Prince Philip. The new activity allowed royals the chance to meet a greater number of people and not just officials and dignitaries who they were scheduled to meet with. In Queen of the World, a documentary on The Queen, The Princess Royal reflected on the start of the walkabout: “We never shook hands. The theory was, you couldn’t shake hands with everybody, so don’t start.”

“So I kind of stick with that, but I noticed others don’t. It’s not for me to say that it’s wrong, but I think the initial concept was that it was patently absurd to start shaking hands. And it seems to me that it’s become a shaking hands exercise rather than a walkabout, if you see what I mean, so that it has changed.”

The practice is common on visits abroad but soon became part of royal engagements in the UK.

In a 2016 documentary in honour of The Queen’s birthday, the Duchess of Cambridge said: “There’s a real art to walkabouts, everybody teases me in the family that I spend far too long chatting. I still have to learn a little bit more and to pick up a few more tips, I suppose.”

While the world gets intimate photos and videos from people who are lucky enough to greet the royals on their walkabouts, there is one popular thing they aren’t allowed to do. The Royal Family is notoriously banned from taking selfies, but that hasn’t stopped a few members from partaking in a few selfies.

With the global health crisis easing, it is likely we will see more walkabouts as the year goes on.

About author

My name is Sydney Zatz and I am a University of Iowa graduate. I graduated with a degree in journalism and sports studies, and a minor in sport and recreation management. A highlight of my college career was getting the chance to study abroad in London and experiencing royal history firsthand. I have a passion for royals, royal history, and journalism, which led me to want to write for Royal Central.