Queen Elizabeth II was the first reigning monarch to visit Tasmania. The Examiner editorialised after the Queen’s departure
…now that the Queen has gone it can be said emphatically that the basis of allocation of time between Hobart and the rest of the state was most unjust to the majority of the people of Tasmania.The Examiner, 25 February 1954
Did Northern Tasmania get the raw end of the deal or was this Tasmania’s infamous parochialism raising its head?
THE QUEEN’S VISITS TO TASMANIA
Queen Elizabeth II is Britain’s longest serving monarch, serving from 6 February 1952, making tomorrow her platinum jubilee. Queen Elizabeth II’s reign commenced with the longest tour of the Commonwealth she has completed, visiting the West Indies, Oceania, Asia and Africa between November 1953 and May 1954. This was to be the first time a reigning monarch had set foot on Tasmanian soil.
Since 1954, the Queen has visited Tasmania a further six times –
|1954||Queen and Duke of Edinburgh visit Hobart, North-West and Launceston|
|1963||The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Hobart|
|1970||The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and Princess Anne visited Hobart, Launceston, Ranelagh and Longley|
|1977||The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Hobart, Launceston and Bridgewater|
|1981||The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Hobart Launceston and Rokeby|
|1988||The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visit Hobart, Launceston and the North-West|
|2000||The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visit Hobart and Launceston|
In honour of the Platinum Jubilee tomorrow, I’m taking a closer look at the Queen’s first tour of Tasmania in 1954.
ORGANISING A ROYAL TOUR
The Royal Visit in 1954 took many thousands of hours to organise. The Tasmanian organisers spoke of the Queen’s days being planned to the split-second. The Mercury, prior to the Queen’s arrival, reported eventful visits to Australia by previous Royals, which include ‘outright bungling’ by officials, riots, a train wreck, and attempted assassinations. On that last point, the Mercury reported that 4,500 troops and school cadets were guarding the Queen during her time in Tasmania. The tour, whilst no doubt fatiguing, seems to have progressed smoothly.
Also reported by the Mercury was the strain placed on the young Prince of Wales during his 1920 tour of Australia. It was reported he was rushed from engagement to engagement, until his doctor ordered a week’s rest before continuing further. There must have been talk prior to the Queen’s arrival in Australia in 1954 regarding the demands of the tour. A special correspondent told the Australian Women’s Weekly, whilst the Queen was in New Zealand, that the Queen was well and having a ‘joyous time’. Still, it seems to have been present in the minds of organisers for the Queen’s tour of Australia with officials insisting the Queen’s itinerary would be modified if it proved too much. Whilst I understand the desire to allow as many as possible in the population to see the Queen, I wonder if it occurred to the officials to ensure a manageable calendar of events to begin with?
1954 TOUR OF TASMANIA
Tasmania, and Australia more widely, was only one stop on what was a long (and no doubt challenging) tour of the Commonwealth. The Queen was young (around 28 years of age); had had her life change with the death of her father only two years prior; and her two small children – Prince Charles and Princess Anne – remained at home separated from her for around six months.
The visit to Tasmania occurred around halfway through the tour of the Commonwealth. Although the Tasmanian stop was only short there were numerous official engagements which were no doubt tiring for the young Queen. The Hobart portion of the itinerary contained some 15 events alone.
Premier Robert Cosgrove’s greeting to the Queen and His Royal Highness was published in The Mercury on 19 February 1954.
It is with feelings of deep affection and pride that the people of Tasmania welcome Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, and His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh, to these shores.
Geographically, we are remotely situated from the Throne, but there is no more loyal community in the British Commonwealth than those who dwell in this lovely island.
This is the first visit Tasmania has enjoyed from a reigning Sovereign, and it is gratifying and pleasing that Queen Elizabeth has travelled so far so soon to receive the homage of her distant peoples.
She would take abiding comfort in the knowledge that she is honoured with respect and love by her subjects in Tasmania. Long May She Reign Over Us.Robert Cosgrove, Premier of Tasmania (1954)
Premier Cosgrove and his wife Dame Gertrude Cosgrove had met Queen Elizabeth twice during her coronation events in England the year before. Dame Cosgrove described to the Examiner the thrilling moment of seeing the Queen crowned in Westminster Abbey.
THE 1954 TASMANIAN ITINERARY
The broad brushstrokes of the itinerary were as follows –
|Saturday 20 February 1954||Arrive Hobart on the TSS Gothic|
|Sunday 21 February 1954||Hobart|
|Monday 22 February 1954||Hobart|
|Tuesday 23 February 1954||Fly from Hobart to Wynyard|
Visit Burnie, Penguin, Ulverstone, Latrobe, Deloraine, Westbury, Longford
Overnight in Cressy at the historic Connorvale
|Wednesday 24 February 1954||Morning in Launceston|
Afternoon departure from Launceston Airport
Below is the itinerary for the Queen’s first day in Tasmania upon arrival into Hobart. Though not all days in the Tasmanian tour were as jampacked, the itinerary for the Queen’s first day in Tasmania gives some indication of just how tiring the lengthy tour would be.
After spending the best part of three days in Hobart, the Queen’s time in the Northern half of the state was more limited.
QUEEN ELIZABETH II’s FIRST VISIT TO LAUNCESTON
Large crowds gathered to see the Queen. It was reported that some 75,000 people lined the streets of Launceston, gathering from 6am, to see her. The Queen spoke at the Town Hall in Launceston, describing Launcestonians as warm and welcoming.
My stay in Tasmania has, of necessity, been all too short, but we shall carry away happy memories of the charm of your island state and steadfast kindness of its people.Queen Elizabeth II, 24 February 1954
The Queen was farewelled by 5000 people at Launceston Airport as she departed for the next leg of her tour in Melbourne.
“Another Royal Tour”, Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga), 15 March 1954, p.2
“Early Royal Tours Made Us Blush”, Mercury, 19 February 1954, p.11
“We’ll Always Remember”, Examiner, 25 February 1954, p.1
“Four Days of Split-Second Timing”, Mercury, 19 February 1954, p.10
“In the Path of a Queen”, Mercury, 19 February 1954, p.11
“Launceston Timetable”, Mercury, 19 February 1954, p.6
“May 1954: Queen returns after lengthy tour of the Commonwealth”, BBC, 15
May 1954 https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-17586059
“North-West Coast Itinerary”, Mercury, 19 February 1954, p.6
“Premier’s Greeting”, Mercury, 19 February 1954, p.9
“Queen, Duke Eager for Tasmanian Visit”, Examiner, 19 August 1953, p.5
“Queen Not Tired After First Stage of Tour”, Northern Star, 13 February 1954, p.1
“Queen Not Tired: No Tour Changes”, Courier Mail, 13 February 1954, p.1
“The Queen Tired? Nonsense!”, Australian Women’s Weekly, 20 January 1954,
“The Tour in Detail”, Mercury, 19 February 1954, pp.4-6
“Visit in Retrospect”, Examiner, 25 February 1954, p.2
“Wear Your Best; Do Your Best”, Mercury, 19 February 1954, p.6
“4,500 Troops will Guard the Queen”, Mercury, 19 February 1954, p.9
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