The Queen in Australia
Since her very first visit to Australia in 1954 to her last in 2011, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, has captivated crowds across our nation.
Elizabeth II was the first reigning monarch to set foot on our shores and the visit was beautifully captured in the documentary The Queen in Australia. The film was designed to show that, despite post-war changes to Australia’s political, social and demographic landscapes, the nation was proud to belong to the Commonwealth and its citizens held a deep affection for their monarch.
The film shows sequences of the young Queen opening Parliament in Canberra, attending the races at Royal Randwick and enjoying a surf lifesaving carnival at Bondi Beach. Queen Elizabeth also made time to speak to isolated families via the Royal Flying Doctor Service radio.
The Queen returned to Australia another 15 times since that tour and her ability to win over the Australian people is as strong as ever. At the NFSA we have a wealth of material documenting the monarch's official tours and this collection includes just some of the many highlights.
Main image: Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II tours Queensland in 1970. Courtesy Queensland State Archives.
The first feature documentary made in colour in Australia, documenting the very first visit of a reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, in 1954.
The film was shot by a total of 16 cameramen, capturing her visits to each state capital and many regional areas over her two-month official visit. Major sequences include the arrival of the Royal Navy ship SS Gothic in Sydney Harbour, the Queen opening the 20th Australian Parliament in Canberra, attending a cricket Test in Adelaide, horse races at Royal Randwick and Flemington, tennis at Kooyong in Melbourne, and major exhibitions by schoolchildren in several cities.
The result is a remarkable and revealing insight into our nation in the 1950s.
In February 1963, Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh returned to Australia for the Jubilee Year of Canberra.
The film follows them on their 9,000 mile tour and shows the beauty and variety of the Australian scene, and thriving development ranging from hydroelectric schemes to universities.
The Queen's Australian tour in early 1963 provides the medium for three neatly blended films illustrating the tour itself, a history of Canberra and an introduction to Australia and its people at work and play.
The main features of the tour are depicted in some detail, while in the section dealing with the history of Canberra the highlights in the development of this city are portrayed in film flashbacks. The final sections show Australians at work.
At Bondi Beach, the Queen observes an Australian surf carnival, a gathering of teams from surf clubs around the country and New Zealand, all wearing the traditional neck-to-knee surfing costume that was required just after the turn of the century, when Australian surf clubs began.
After the traditional march past, the lifesavers take to the water to give a demonstration of rescue techniques, using both hollow surfboards and surfboats, but the heavy seas play havoc with their plans.
Notes by Beth Taylor
The Queen and Prince Philip waving to large crowds as they arrive by car at the official opening ceremony of the Sydney Opera House on October 20, 1973.
In this clip from the 1947 film Heir to the Throne, Princess Elizabeth made her most famous pledge, which still rings true today: ‘I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.’
Written by journalist for The Times and royal correspondent Dermot Morrah, the speech was delivered on her 21st birthday while she was on a three-month tour of Southern Africa with her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and sister Princess Margaret.
While seated in the grounds of Tuynhuys in the shadow of Table Mountain in Cape Town, the young Princess used the medium of radio and film, to confidently communicate to her future subjects that the priority of her future reign would be of service to her country and the Commonwealth.
One would argue that The Queen has kept this promise tenfold. During her reign she has been patron of over 600 organisations and charities, attended thousands of official engagements and toured every country in the Commonwealth.
Summary by Michelle Davenport
HM Queen Elizabeth II delivers the 1952 Christmas message.
This newsreel item from 1953 shows the activities of schoolchildren in Australia anticipating the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth on 2 June 1953.
In Melbourne, we see schoolchildren looking at an exhibition of dolls dressed in royal regalia. The proceeds from the exhibition are going to the Queen Elizabeth Child Health Centre.
At Newport in Sydney, children – resplendent in carefully constructed replica gowns – re-enact the coronation in the grounds of their school.
At Fort Street School in Sydney, 11-year-old Kay Hogden is confidently reciting her speech, the recording of which is promptly flown to London and broadcast on the BBC before the coronation.
Sir Robert Menzies' home movie collection includes this footage of the Royal tour in 1954.
It shows the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, by car outside the Parliament of Victoria on 25 February 1954. They alight from the car and walk up some stairs on the red carpet past a guard of honour and surrounded by a huge crowd. The clip ends with a close-up of the Royal Standard flag.
This home movie clip by Sir Robert Menzies, begins with an excited crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
They stand and take off their hats on the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, by car to the stadium. They drive past children waving flags and they meet the official party. They are lead up onto a stage where they address the crowd.
Sir Robert Menzies' home movie footage of Queen Elizabeth II arriving with Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, at the Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne.
They walk through the crowd to the forecourt where they commemorate those who served in the Second World War by the Eternal Flame. Ex-servicemen and children also arrive for the dedication of the shrine forecourt. The Australian flag is shown hanging next to the Union Jack.
A look back to 1977 and the touring museum of 700 years of British history that was the Royal Silver Jubilee Exhibition Train.
The film shows many of the exhibits and the stories behind them, and follows the progress of the train's 11,250 kilometre trip throughout Australia hauling what was then valued at $100 million worth of treasures.
The bullet that killed Lord Nelson, Queen Elizabeth I's gloves, Princess Anne's wedding dress and Nell Gwynn's silver bellows were among the exhibits on this four-carriage train, the first mobile museum of its kind in the world.
Over a period of four months the train visited 26 centres between Brisbane and Perth and this film records the unique and ambitious project.
Home movie footage by Sir Robert Menzies of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and their arrival at Flemington horse races. Queen Elizabeth II watches the race through her binoculars, a close-up of the official party is shown – including Menzies on the right – and then they leave by walking down a path amongst the crowd.
Queen Elizabeth II with other dignitaries including Prince Phillip on stage, for the opening ceremony of the Sydney Opera House on 20 October 1973.
The ceremony included a display of fireworks and a performance of Beethoven's Symphony No 9. Thousands of people celebrated the ceremony along the shoreline and in boats on the harbour, while another 3 million people all over the world viewed the proceedings on television.
Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, and His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh, visit Victoria in 1977. We see them disembark from their plane to be greeted by dignitaries and a crowd of children waving flags. They move through the crowd, stopping to talk to particular children.
Eighteen thousand schoolchildren greeted the Royal visitors that day, giving a sense of the relationship between Australia and the UK at this time.
A crowd of eighteen thousand people greet the Queen in Royal Park Victoria in 1977. The royal party stands on the dais while 'God Save the Queen’ is sung by the massed crowd. The royal party then drive, waving, through crowds of cheering children to the strains of 'Waltzing Matilda’.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh officially open the Housing Commission’s tower blocks in Waterloo. Residents’ furniture was removed from four units and temporarily replaced with hired new furniture before the royal couple inspected the units. The residents’ furniture was returned after the visit. Summary by Damien Parer.
Seven News reporter Chris Reason follows Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip for the final day of their 11-day tour of Australia in 2011 on which they are treated to the most Australian of traditions. The big Aussie barbecue on the Swan River foreshore attracted tens of thousands of well-wishers, with people of all ages coming out to catch a glimpse of the Royal couple.
Before addressing the crowd, the Queen and Prince Philip stopped by the barbecues and spoke with volunteers who were cooking up sausages to raise money for charity.
Excerpt from the BBC film Heir to the Throne, showing Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret with their parents.
Original cardboard box with an image of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the title The Film Story of the Coronation.
Inside is a red marble effect hand held film strip cine viewer, a 35mm film strip of The Crown Jewels and a 35mm film strip of The Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2 June 1953 Westminster Abbey London.
This clip from a home movie, filmed by Australian Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, shows Queen Elizabeth II arriving at Westminster Abbey in a horse-drawn carriage. She alights from the carriage surrounded by her Maids of Honour and enters the Abbey. The Groom of the Robes delivers the Robe Royal of Pall cloth of gold with the Stole Royal to the Dean of Westminster, who, assisted by the Mistress of the Robes, puts it upon the Queen. The Lord Great Chamberlain fastens the clips.
The Archbishop of Canterbury gives the Sceptre and then the Rod with the Dove to the Queen. The Archbishop then lowers a crown onto her head then kisses her right hand. The Duke of Edinburgh then ascends the steps of the Throne, and having taken off his coronet, kneels down and places his hands between the Queen’s and says the words of Homage. Then Her Majesty leaves the Chapel wearing her Crown and bearing the Sceptre and the Orb. Summary by Elizabeth Taggart- Speers.
This hand-coloured glass cinema slide shows The Queen in one of her first official portraits as taken by society photographer Dorothy Wilding.
She is wearing the Diamond Diadem, a necklace gifted to her as a wedding present by the Nizam of Hyderabad and finished with a brocade gown designed by couturier Norman Hartnell. Hartnell created her wedding dress and would eventually design her coronation dress.
The Queen is presented as elegant and refined, yet fresh and youthful: the fitting monarch for a post-war age. The slide was shown prior to film screenings and was one of the many ways the Queen made her image accessible to her subjects across the Commonwealth.
Summary by Michelle Davenport