Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
(Photo: The West Australian)
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II arrives in Perth, Western Australia tomorrow afternoon. There is great excitement among those who are traditional Monarchists and also those who will meet and greet her as the Australians who will probably vote for a Republic in the not too distant future.
Quite aside from politics, Her Majesty has reigned as Head of the Commonwealth since she became the Queen in 1952. This remarkable lady has outlasted many Prime Ministers, Presidents and Heads of State during her reign. One can only imagine the stories she is able to tell about them. And certainly from the public images we have, Her Majesty has seen the change of century, world tribulations, crises, technical innovations and more with courtesy and graciousness.
My family were staunch monarchists. I remember my mother taking my sister and me down to stand under one of the pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1963 to catch a distance glimpse of the Royal Yacht Brittanica..."she's on board you know girls"...and all we could see was a small ship. We were rewarded for our patience with icecreams.
The Royal Yacht Brittanica in Fremantle Harbour 1963
(Photo The West Australian)
Why do so many Australians see the opportunity of a Royal Visit as such an occasion? When so much of our culture is dominated by American or European based influences, how is it that a woman of 85, who lives a life so far removed from everyday reality, can engender a real sense of excitement in so many ordinary Australians? If we were still a largely British based society, I could easily understand the connection. But Australia in 2011 is diversely multicultural, with links more often aligned, particularly in Western Australia, with Asia rather than the United Kingdom.
Perhaps the answer lies with the fact that she has "stood the test of time" as a Head of State and has changed and adapted with the times, maintaining her graciousness and the rather more old fashioned values which are so lacking these days. There is a dearth of world leaders of the calibre of Nelson Mandela and The Queen at the beginning of this century. We as people, wherever we are, want leaders who we can advise and guide through the good times and bad. And such people are few and far between.
In 1981 my father was invested by The Queen at Government House in Perth as a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, of which His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh, is the patron. It was a very grand occasion, attended by my very proud mother, my sister and me. We wore new dresses and hats and were very conscious of the protocol of the occasion.
My late father's CBE
For many years, my role as my father's hostess during his time as President of the WA Chapter of the Order, included greeting State Governors, Premiers and distinguished guests and other recipients of the Order. I was always amazed how so many of these people, much older than me, could tell stories of war, of bravery and humility, self sacrifice and remarkable tales of heroism, as if what they had achieved was normal.
And it was not always that these feats of courage were made during wartime. Quite often, the recipients would have been going about their daily lives when something quite exceptional occurred which required their assistance. I was always genuinely humbled by these people, and pleased for them for their pride in being given acknowledgement by The Queen.
This week I have been asked to be an "expert commentator" in the media during The Queen's visit to Perth. It's a great pleasure to be able to share some of my knowledge, and stories, with the many people who will be tuning in to their TV's, just as they have done for decades, to see the arrival of Her Majesty.
In reviewing my media role, I have been going back in my memory to that early morning in 1963 when I am sure I complained to my mother about standing for too long, getting cold/hot, and bored. It's amazing to think that little girl is tomorrow, 48 years later, going to be commentating on the arrival of the same Queen, not from a ship this time, but an aircraft. And then over the coming days about her engagements during her stay and finally her departure.
Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh departing Perth 1981
(Photo The West Australian)
Long Live the Queen!