Friday, November 4, 2011

The Queen has left, the memories remain…


Channel 7, Perth
 I had a great week while Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh were in Perth. As one of the few people here who specialise in etiquette and protocol, I was given the opportunity to speak about the varying aspects of protocol associated with the Royal Visit, from whether the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard was correct in not curtsying to the Queen, to whether the Queen would eat the kangaroo stew she was being offered during her visit to Clontarf Aboriginal College.


Channel 10.  Should the Prime Minister have curtsied?
It was all great fun, and a wonderful learning curve, as when reviewing the at times unflattering images of me  which TV produced, I developed an enduring respect for those TV presenters who provide us with news and reportage each and every day.    The make up and clothing choices are exhausting!

But I had the opportunity to meet and work with very talented professionals.  We take for granted the news bulletins which enter our homes  and electronic devices so many times a day.  But the incredibly intricate production which goes into every programme is most impressive.  Three of the programmes I was invited to join were broadcast live…the last one, with Channel 9 for the Great Aussie Barbecue in Perth lasted over one hour; exhausting and envigorating at the same time.

 I had the chance to gain the opinions of many people about the Royal Visit.  And it was universally agreed, even by the often cynical members of the press, that the visit was an extraordinary success.  The British media, travelling with the Royal party, were apparently astounded by the reception given to The Queen and The Duke by the Australian people at large.  In every city The Queen visited the crowds were considerably larger than expected by the Royal watchers.

The Queen at the Great Aussie Barbecue (Photo the Herald Sun)
And the soul searching among Australians began.  It was only a decade or so ago that we were invited to vote on whether Australia should become a Republic and dispense with the tradition of the Monarchy, and The Queen as the Queen of Australia.  In hindsight, the whole process, in my opinion was a shambles, wrecked by vested interests and shallow politics.

Commentators remarked after the Republican option was overturned that it was mainly the popularity of the Queen, who first visited Australia in 1954, that had influenced the final vote. And many agreed with them.

However, to see multi-cultural and multi-generational Australians turning out in their thousands to wave Australian flags, and to present bouquets of flowers to a woman, 85 years of age, was truly extraordinary.  They smiled, they shouted and they were genuinely excited to welcome their Queen.

Channel 9 
The more cynical commentators who had suggested that the only real interest in the British Royal Family was with the newly wed Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were left somewhat “red faced”. 

And the questions began.  Why did Australians react like they did to this grandmotherly figure who has been on the throne for nearly 60 years?  Is it because, with such an uncertainty in the world of 2011 people look for genuine, not contrived, consistency?   Is it because there was a profound sense of community, and shared friendship, among the thousands who lined the streets, without a normal fear of “stranger danger”?  Or was it merely a distraction from the mundane and banal sense of “celebrity” which so often swamps popular culture?  Perhaps all of these.

At the end of a 10 day visit, I was asked by one of the presenters with whom I was working:  “Well, Louise, what do you think Her Majesty would be thinking?”  And of course I had absolutely no idea.

But I hoped that Her Majesty and The Duke of Edinburgh would be congratulating themselves on a job well done…with a grateful sigh that warmth and genuine friendship are felt for them by Australians.

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