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