Royal Visits

Welcome to the Duke of Edinburgh at the Hobart wharves, 1868 (AOT, PH30/1/31)

Royal Visits are an integral feature of the history of Australian nationalism. Despite differences between each, they were linked by the assertion of a shared destiny with Britain based on common values, aspirations and heritage. Preparation for and excitement about upcoming tours dominated public life. Tasmanian tours were usually short, between one and four days, part of national tours. They evolved in nature between 1868 and 1954. Earlier tours were loosely planned and characterised by spectacle, for example huge bonfires on Hobart's hills in 1868, when Queen Victoria's son Prince Alfred visited, and ferries full of cheering passengers following the Duke and Duchess of York's impromptu Derwent sail in 1901.

The Duke of York. later George VI, planting a tree at Mona Vale, Ross in 1927 (AOT, PH30/1/1278)

The three inter-war tours saw more planning and detail, a more direct approach to symbolism, pageantry and moulding nationalist sentiment, and a more obvious agenda. The 1920 tour by the Prince of Wales was one of triumph in the wake of the Great War, a reaffirmation of ties of service and loyalty. The 1927 tour by the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth) had a theme of remembrance of war, while the 1934 tour by Henry, Duke of Gloucester, again focused on the idea of loyalty, due to escalating troubles in Europe. In organisation, Tasmanian tours were similar to those Australia-wide: presentations of soldiers and scouts; visits to military barracks; concerts in town halls; tree planting; dedication of war memorials; patriotic songs; gymnastic demonstrations involving vast numbers of children; mayoral welcomes professing loyalty, and the greatest community experience a parade through the city streets. During this period, the monarchy sought to popularise its image in a rapidly changing world.

A children's parade in Letitia Street, Hobart, in 1927, when the Duke and Duchess of York visited. Note the house flying the Union Jack (AOT, PH30/1/2314 ) 6

By 1954, when Elizabeth II became the only reigning British monarch to visit the state, the British monarchy had established itself soundly in Australia's popular culture and national identity, and the royal tour was accepted by Tasmanians as part of their relationship with Britain. Since that date, tours have waned in pageantry, though Prince Charles and Princess Diana's tour in 1983 had pageantry and glamour of a different type.

Further reading: J Connors, ' The 1954 Royal Tour of Australia' in R White & P Russell (eds), Memories and dreams, Sydney, 1977; P Pike, The royal presence in Australia, Adelaide, 1986; P Richman (ed), The Royal tours of Tasmania, Hobart, 1993 (video-recording).

Ellen Jensen