Royal visits to Australia

Elizabeth II reads a speech in Sydney, 1954

Since 1867, there have been over fifty visits by a member of the Royal Family to Australia, though only six of those came before 1954. Elizabeth II is the only reigning monarch of Australia to have set foot on Australian soil; she first did so on 3 February 1954. During her sixteen journeys the Queen has visited every Australian state and the two mainland territories.


The first visit was by Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, son of Queen Victoria, in 1867, during his 'round-the-world voyage. Stops were made at Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. The Duke was shot by Henry James O'Farrell in an assassination attempt while picnicking on the beach in the Sydney suburb of Clontarf, on 12 March 1868. The Duke recovered fully and continued on to New Zealand seven months later.


Prince George of Wales, aged 15, visited Australia with his older brother, Prince Albert Victor of Wales, aged 17, in 1881, as midshipmen in training on HMS Bacchante. They arrived at Albany, Western Australia in May, crossed to South Australia in a passenger vessel, travelled overland to Melbourne and from there sailed on a naval vessel to Sydney.


Victorian Railways Royal Train decorated for the visit of Prince George and his wife Mary in 1901

In 1901, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales and his wife Alexandra were planning an Empire tour. However, the death of Queen Victoria on 22 January 1901 meant that the couple had to prepare for a coronation in 1902. Consequently, Edward's son Prince George, Duke of Cornwall and York, and his wife, Mary, were consigned to undertake the voyage instead. Arriving at Albany, Western Australia, on SS Ophir, they sailed to Melbourne, where he opened the first Australian federal parliament. The royal couple later travelled by train to Sydney. They visited Queensland from 20 to 25 May, where they laid the foundation stone of St John's Cathedral (Brisbane).[1]


His Royal Highness Edward, Prince of Wales, inspects Boy Scouts, Warwick railway station, Queensland, 1920

Edward, Prince of Wales arrived in Victoria on 2 April 1920, representing his father, George V (previously Prince George, Duke of Cornwall and York), to thank Australians for their participation in the First World War.

During the tour in which he was accompanied by Lord Louis Mountbatten, his railway carriage overturned near Bridgetown, Western Australia.[2][3] However, the Prince remained unharmed, and later made light of the situation, (emerging from the wreck with some important papers and a cocktail shaker), an act which endeared him to Australians, and causing them to give him the nickname the "Digger Prince".


George VI and wife Queen Elizabeth on the balcony of State Car 4 in Victoria in 1927.

In 1926, Prince Albert, Duke of York, and wife Elizabeth had their first child, Princess Elizabeth – "Lilibet" to the family – who would later become Queen Elizabeth II. The following year they under took a Royal Tour without the baby. The Duchess of York was, in her own words, "very miserable at leaving the baby".[4] Their journey by sea took them via Jamaica, the Panama Canal and the Pacific; Elizabeth fretted constantly over her baby back in Britain, but their journey was a public relations success.[5] In New Zealand The Yorks enjoyed the local fishing[6] in the Bay of Islands accompanied by Australian sports fisherman Harry Andreas.[7] When they sailed into Sydney harbour on HMS Renown they attracted Australia's first gathering of more than one million people. The principal duty of the Prince on this visit was to open the provisional Parliament House in Canberra, on 9 May 1927. They spent 12 days 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, with the remaining 10 for travelling and recreation. According to a report by the director-general of the royal visit, Cyril Brudenell White, "the Royal Visitors had expressed the wish that when travelling through the States they might have opportunities of seeing and of being seen by, the greatest number of the general public. They especially desired to meet returned soldiers, new settlers and school children." On 9 May, Prince Albert reviewed over 2,000 Australian troops with various air squadrons flying overhead. One aircraft, that of Flying Officer Charles Ewan, crashed. Ewan died that evening in hospital.


Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester the third son of George V, visited for an extensive 67-day tour in 1934, (4 October – December), the main purpose being to open the centenary celebrations of Victoria on 18 October. He arrived on HMS Sussex at Fremantle, then travelled by train to Adelaide and ship to Melbourne. He also visited the Australian Capital Territory, Tasmania, New South Wales and Queensland. While in Melbourne, the Duke dedicated the Shrine of Remembrance on 11 November and later opened the ANZAC War Memorial in Sydney on 24 November 1934. He sailed to England from Brisbane


Prince Henry served as Governor-General of Australia from 20 January 1945 – 10 March 1947, the first and only royal Governor-General.


Queen Elizabeth II arriving in Leura for her visit to Leuralla during the 1954 Australian Royal Tour
Flinders Street Station in Melbourne illuminated for the 1954 Australian Royal Tour

Elizabeth II was the first reigning monarch of Australia to set foot on Australian soil, coming ashore at Farm Cove, Sydney, on 3 February 1954. She had two years earlier been en route to Australia when her father died while she was on a private visit to Kenya, forcing her to return to the United Kingdom. Once finally in Australia, with her husband the Duke of Edinburgh, she undertook a journey through the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, including greeting 70,000 ex-servicemen and women at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and opening the Australian Parliament in Canberra. In all, the Queen travelled 10,000 miles by air, making approximately 33 flights, 2000 miles by road (130 hours in cars in 207 trips), visiting all capitals except Darwin and 70 country towns, many by special "royal trains".[8] On one such train trip they visited Leuralla in Leura, in the Blue Mountains. Twenty-seven years earlier, Harry Andreas of Leuralla had acted as a fishing guide for The Queen's parents,[7] whilst the young Princess "Lillibet" was left at home with her nanny. This extensive travel allowed some 75 per cent of the Australian population to see the Queen at least once during the tour. At the conclusion of the tour the Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, stated in an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald:

"It is a basic truth that for our Queen we have within us, sometimes unrealised until the moment of expression, the most profound and passionate feelings of loyalty and devotion. It does not require much imagination to realise that when eight million people spontaneously pour out this feeling they are engaging in a great act of common allegiance and common joy which brings them closer together and is one of the most powerful elements converting them from a mass of individuals to a great cohesive nation. In brief, the common devotion to the Throne is a part of the very cement of the whole social structure."[9]

In 1956, the Duke of Edinburgh opened the Olympic Games in Melbourne, and opened the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Perth, while on a tour through Western Australia, New South Wales and the ACT. In 1965 he opened the Royal Australian Mint, and in 1968 went to Australia to open the Duke of Edinburgh Study Conference.

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother visited in 1958 to attend the British Empire Service League Conference in Canberra. She travelled to the Australian Capital Territory, Sydney, Melbourne, Tasmania, Adelaide and Perth, as well as many provincial and country areas during the time of her visit 14 February – 7 March.

Princess Alexandra of Kent visited in 1959 for Queensland's centenary celebrations. She arrived at Canberra and travelled to New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and the Northern Territory.


Planned as a less formal tour than the one in 1954, the Queen returned in 1963, touring all the states and territories, with the primary purpose being to lead the Canberra jubilee celebrations commemorating the 50th anniversary of the naming of the capital. During this trip she also toured the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia base in Alice Springs. In preparation for this tour, Sir Roy Dowling, the Queen's Australian Secretary for the visit, was warned about Northern Territory mosquitoes. Dowling was warned, "You could be placed in an extremely embarrassing situation if the Queen's skin was marked and if the press published pictures and stories about those marks."

Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, who died in 1968, visited between 26 September and 8 October 1964 for the British Exhibition in Sydney and to open the new Gladesville Bridge. She travelled in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory before leaving, with a brief stop in Brisbane on the return flight.

Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester and his wife Alice visited the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and Queensland between 20 March and 26 April 1965. The new Tasman Bridge was opened by the Duke in Hobart. He also opened the Royal Easter Show in Sydney and a hydro-electric power station in the Snowy Mountains.

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother attended the Adelaide Festival of Arts as its patron, and opened Flinders University, also travelling to Western Australia, the Snowy Mountains and the Australian Capital Territory between 22 March and 7 April 1966.

The Prince of Wales attended the Timbertop campus of Geelong Grammar School for one term in 1966. This was not an official trip as the Prince was there primarily for schooling. A press release of 10 January 1966 made this clear, stating that he should be left alone by journalists: "The Prince of Wales will be engaged in full time study in Australia and will not undertake any official engagements. The Queen and the Commonwealth Government have requested that the Prince's visit should be treated as a private one and that he should be allowed the same freedom from public attention as any other school boy."

He returned in 1967 as the Queen's representative at the memorial service for Prime Minister Harold Holt, and again in 1970.

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh helped in 1967 to organise the third Commonwealth Study Conference to be held in May 1968. He travelled to the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and Tasmania, where he helped volunteer fire fighters to fight a local fire.

The Duke and Duchess of Kent made a 25-day tour between 9 August and 3 September 1969, of the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland as well as Papua New Guinea. The Duke opened the South Pacific Games in Port Moresby on 13 August.


The Queen, Prince Philip, the Prince of Wales (for part of the tour only) and the Princess Anne made an extensive tour of Australia in 1970 in connection with the bi-centenary of Captain James Cook sailing up the east coast of Australia in 1770. This was a very popular tour and large crowds turned out to see the Queen. One large gathering occurred when the royal yacht HMY Britannia sailed up the Brisbane River, mooring just below the historic Newstead House in Brisbane. In January 2009, a retired police detective revealed an unsuccessful attempt to derail the Royal Train near Bowenfels, New South Wales on 29 April 1970.[10]

The Queen returned to Australia again in 1973 to open the Sydney Opera House and also in 1974 to open the Australian Parliament in Canberra. This time the Queen returned to London on 28 February for a General Election in Britain, cutting short the tour, which the Duke of Edinburgh completed.

An extended royal tour of Australia was made in 1977 as part of the Silver Jubilee of Her Majesty's reign.


In the 1980s the Queen made short tours to open the new High Court of Australia building in 1980, the new National Gallery of Australia in 1982 and the Parramatta Stadium in 1986. During the 1986 visit, at a ceremony held in Government House, Canberra, she signed a proclamation that brought into effect the Australia Act 1986, which severed the final constitutional link between Australia and the United Kingdom.

Future Princess of Wales, Lady Diana Spencer made a short private visit to Australia with her mother and step-father to their sheep station at Yass, north of Melbourne in early February 1981. Prince Charles had proposed to her less than a week before.

The Prince of Wales visited Australia shortly after the announcement of his engagement and prior to his July wedding in 1981.

The Queen attended the 1981 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), held in Melbourne in September.

On 20 March 1983, The Prince of Wales, this time with the Princess of Wales, and their son Prince William, landed in Alice Springs for an official visit. October 26-November 8, 1985 visited Victoria for 150th anniversary of the state. Also during this tour visited Canberra. The Prince and Princess of Wales also made a visit during the bicentenary celebrations in 1988.

The Duke and Duchess of Kent visited Queensland in April 1985 to open the Performing Arts Complex at Southbank. Their Royal Highnesses visited Toowoomba on 24 April following an invitation by Steven Rafter to visit the Toowoomba Grammar School.

The Queen and Prince Philip also made a popular visit in 1988 as part of the bicentenary celebrations. On Saturday 30 April 1988, the Queen opened the World Expo in Brisbane before opening the new permanent Parliament House in Canberra on Monday 9 May.

During the bicentenary celebrations, Australia was also visited by The Prince and Princess of Wales, The Duke and Duchess of York and The Duke and Duchess of Kent.


In 1992 the Queen returned to the sesquicentenary of the incorporation of the city of Sydney. In the last years of the decade she did not visit the country to avoid being embroiled in the debate about future of the monarchy. Her next tour was timed to be made well after the 1999 referendum on the republic. The Australian government of John Howard had advised the Queen on the timing.[11]

After her divorce in 1996, Diana, Princess of Wales made one subsequent visit prior to her death in 1997.


In 2000 the Queen made an extended tour in the states of Australia which was followed by another visit in 2002 when she attended the 2002 CHOGM: the second such meeting held in Australia.

The Princess Royal passes behind the Princess Anne Banner at a parade for the 75th anniversary of the Royal Australian Corps of Signals, 5 July 2000.

On 11 March 2006, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex visited Australia to announce the winners of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. He also had lunch with the Prime Minister, John Howard, visited a neo-natal unit in Heidelberg, visited victims of bush fires in Victoria and attended the opening and closing ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

One day later, the Queen and Prince Philip arrived in Melbourne where the Queen opened the Commonwealth Games. As well, the royal couple opened a new section of the Sydney Opera House, attended a Commonwealth Day ceremony in Sydney, had official meetings with the Prime Minister, Governor-General and Leader of the Opposition at Government House in Canberra, lunched with former governors-general, met with firefighters in Canberra, attended and made a formal speech at an official dinner at Parliament House in Canberra to commemorate her 80th birthday and watched some of the events at the games.

Anne, Princess Royal attended the memorial in Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Victoria on Sunday, 22 February 2009, for victims of the 2009 Victorian bushfires.


On 19 January 2010, Prince William arrived in Sydney for a three-day visit to Australia.[12]

A visit was made in early 2011 by Prince William to flood damaged areas of Queensland and Victoria.

Queen Elizabeth II emerges from St John's Church, Reid, ACT after attending the service on 23 October 2011.

In October 2011, Elizabeth II visited Australia in her role as Queen of Australia and Head of the Commonwealth. At a reception in her honour held at Parliament House in Canberra on 21 October 2011, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, described the Queen as "a vital constitutional part of Australian democracy".[13] The Queen in her speech at the same reception stated that,

"It has been a difficult year for this country in many ways despite the successes. The world witnessed the anguish of Australians as they lived through a summer of national disasters. We were all inspired by the courage and resolution shown by those affected in the face of crippling desolation. Ever since I first came here in 1954 I have watched Australia grow and develop at an extraordinary rate. This country has made dramatic progress economically in social scientific and industrial endeavours and above all in self-confidence." [14]

The Queen visited Canberra, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth during the tour. In Perth she attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

His Royal Highness Prince Charles most recently travelled to Australia in November 2012 with The Duchess of Cornwall as part of a visit to Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand on behalf of The Queen of each respective Realm in the year of Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee. Also in 2012 the Duke of Kent visited from 28 January to 1 February[15] and the Duke of Gloucester visited from 21–26 May.[16]

In October 2013, His Royal Highness Prince Henry ("Harry") of Wales visited Sydney for the centenary celebrations of the Royal Australian Navy. Representing his grandmother, The Queen of Australia, HRH took the salute from HMAS Leeuwin alongside Governor-General Quentin Bryce. The prince made a further visit to SAS forces in Perth before departing for the United Kingdom.

In April 2014, Prince William arrived in Australia for a ten-day tour with his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, and their son, Prince George. The family's itinerary took them to Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, Uluru and Adelaide.[17]

In November 2015, HRH Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall visited Adelaide, Canberra, Sydney, Albany and Perth.[18]

Visits to external territories

The Queen visited the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in 1954 while the territory was still administered by Singapore. A visit was made to Norfolk Island in 1974.

See also


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Royal visits to Australia.
  1. "Royal visits to Queensland, an historic essay". Queensland State Archives. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
  2. "THE ROYAL TRAIN SENSATIONAL DISASTER.". Western Mail. Perth: National Library of Australia. 8 July 1920. p. 29. Retrieved 25 October 2011.
  3. "Royal Train Derailment in Western Australia from the Diary of Lord Louis Mountbatten". Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin: 479–482. December 1998.
  4. Elizabeth's diary, 6 January 1927, quoted in Shawcross, p. 264
  5. Shawcross, pp. 266–296
  6. Shawcross, pp. 281–282
  7. 1 2 "ROYAL ANGLERS.". The Register. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 25 February 1927. p. 9. Retrieved 1 September 2012.
  8. Bull, Tony (May 2008). "The Last Hurrah". Australian Railway History: 151–158.
  9. "The Queen's Visit Is First By A Reigning Monarch.". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 4 February 1954. p. 2 Supplement: Royal Tour Supplement. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  10. Miranda, Charles (2009-01-28). "Aussie plot to kill the Queen". Daily Telegraph.
  11. Jolly, Joanna (9 April 1999). "Queen's visit to Australia is timed to avoid referendum". The Independent. London. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  12. Prince William lands in Sydney, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 19 January 2010.
  13. Speech by Prime Minister Julia Gillard at reception for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Parliament House, Canberra – 21 October 2011, Office of the Prime Minister
  14. Speech by HM The Queen of Australia, reception at Parliament House, Canberra – 21 October 2011
  15. "Royal visits". Governor of South Australia. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  16. "Governor-General welcomes The Duke of Gloucester". Governor-General of Australia. 24 May 2012. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  17. "Royal visit: Prince William and Kate arrive in Sydney with Prince George for 10-day Australian tour". ABC News. 16 April 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014.
  18. "Prince Charles and Camilla to visit Australia and New Zealand". 14 October 2015. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
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