King hit or not, Charles is a happy chap Down Un­der

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Twenty-two years ago, South Aus­tralia was the scene for a very dif­fer­ent kind of royal tour. Back then Prince Charles in­tro­duced his beau­ti­ful bride Diana to us, and hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple lined streets around the state to catch a glimpse of the princess.

The crowds broke records and the roy­als won hearts – even if the itin­er­ary was some­what bizarre.

Charles and Diana started the SA leg of their tour by vis­it­ing the Ade­laide Town Hall. So far so good.

Then it was on to the Parks Com­mu­nity Cen­tre to watch a dis­play of sim­u­lated rock climb­ing up a brick wall and ob­serve a keep-fit class.

The lat­ter event fea­tured women of var­i­ous sizes wear­ing belted leo­tards and terry-tow­elling shorts with tucked-in T-shirts danc­ing out of step to the song Honey Pie.

As one wag from the BBC noted, the royal cou­ple seemed “suit­ably stunned by the ex­pe­ri­ence”.

Throw in a disco at Ade­laide Uni that was “strictly for the un­der-40s” – which ap­peared to con­tain nei­ther mu­sic nor danc­ing – and you have a some­what cringe-wor­thy lineup.

But no one cared. It was just a few months af­ter the Ash Wed­nes­day fires had ripped apart the Ade­laide Hills and taken 28 South Aus­tralian lives, so peo­ple were look­ing for any­thing to cheer them up.

The royal cou­ple obliged, ap­pear­ing madly in love, in­dulging in pub­lic dis­plays of af­fec­tion, and even danc­ing like glam­orous film stars to­gether later in Syd­ney. Prince Charles was debonair and re­laxed, mak­ing jokes about bring­ing Prince Wil­liam up on “grass and beer”. His ador­ing bride blushed pret­tily when­ever he men­tioned her in speeches.

It was March 1983 and John Ban­non was Pre­mier. We were driv­ing Holden Gem­i­nis and the state’s pop­u­la­tion had just reached 1 mil­lion peo­ple.

This week SA had a royal visit from Prince Charles of a very dif­fer­ent kind. Times sure have changed.

Now our Prime Min­is­ter is a man who once led our coun­try’s repub­li­can move­ment and the SA Gover­nor is a former refugee.

Gone is the dash­ing young prince, re­placed by a se­nior ci­ti­zen with sil­ver hair and lined face. And gone, too, is Princess Diana, re­placed by the Duchess of Corn­wall, the woman who broke her heart and shared her hus­band.

Now Diana is re­mem­bered only as fallen hero, per­ish­ing trag­i­cally in a tun­nel in Paris.

With ev­ery pass­ing year her mem­ory becomes a lit­tle more tar­nished. This week we hear an old flame of hers is sell­ing her let­ters to the high­est bid­der.

Gone, too, are the mas­sive crowds that once flocked to see roy­alty. Just a few thou­sand turned up this week to the Barossa Val­ley, and half of them were school­child­ren.

The events cho­sen for the royal cou­ple this time around re­flect a less self-con­scious and more ma­ture state: wine tast­ing, a lo­cally pro­duced lunch and a tour of a sus­tain­able hous­ing devel­op­ment.

Al­though Prince Charles is sec­ond in line to the throne, there seems to be lit­tle buzz about the visit.

There is re­spect for his po­si­tion, and ad­mi­ra­tion for his mother, but there’s no real ex­cite­ment for the king-in-wait­ing.

The same goes for the Duchess of Corn­wall. She is widely re­garded as sen­si­ble, and fun, and seems to impress wher­ever she goes. In­deed, her de­ci­sion to meet do­mes­tic vi­o­lence cam­paigner and Aus­tralian of the Year Rosie Batty is a sign that she is a ma­ture, in­tel­li­gent woman.

But there is no real af­fec­tion for the Duchess at a per­sonal level. You know, the sort of at­tach­ment that makes peo­ple line up from dawn just to catch a pass­ing glimpse.

Royal sources told this pa­per that the cou­ple, nonethe­less, were de­lighted with the crowds.

“They are just pleased any­body comes out to see them,” the source said. That says it all, re­ally.

Of course, there’s way more in­ter­est in Charles and Diana’s son Prince Wil­liam and his bride Kate and baby son Ge­orge.

The crazy, chaotic scenes that met them when they vis­ited Aus­tralia in 2014 mir­rored the his­toric 1983 tour of Wil­liam’s par­ents.

As I see it, there’s less re­spect for roy­alty th­ese days, but that doesn’t stop peo­ple flock­ing to see the younger royal rock stars. It’s not so much a sign of the im­por­tance of the crown and empire to our coun­try, but more about the ro­mance and glam­our of two fa­mous young peo­ple in love.

It’s hard to imag­ine now, but once upon a time Prince Charles was one of the glam­orous young ones we all flocked to see. Blog with Susie at susieo­brien.com.au, fol­low her on Twit­ter @susieob and Face­book.com/ Newswith­Suse

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