The Sunday Mail (Queensland)

Swept away by the theatre of roy­alty


TO­MOR­ROW, it’s 18 years since Diana, Princess of Wales died in a Paris car crash.

There’s been so much writ­ten about her be­fore, and since she died, it’s hard to sep­a­rate fact from what our ever-di­min­ish­ing mem­o­ries may tell us.

Right now, roy­alty is all the rage, with me­tres of newsprint de­voted to the an­tic­i­pa­tion of the his­toric date on which the Queen, El­iz­a­beth II, might take over as the long­est-serv­ing monarch in Bri­tish history. On Septem­ber 9 she will of­fi­cially take the record from her great-great­grand­mother, Queen Vic­to­ria.

So it’s worth rememberin­g that some­times roy­alty isn’t about the roy­als but the peo­ple who get a bit of en­ter­tain­ment from them.

In 1983, long be­fore Expo, a mon­u­men­tally daggy Prince of Wales squired his wife, Diana, to Queens­land. We’re now told the tour was a liv­ing hell for the anx­ious young woman, but at the time, there was noth­ing but adu­la­tion.

Putting aside the sti­fling fash­ion of the day – back be­fore roy­als start- ed to pre­tend to dress like ev­ery­one else – it looks like it was so much more ca­sual, more joy­ful, more … am­a­teur?

On April 11, warmish by English stan­dards, the pair set off for what the press were sure would be “the best walk­a­bout of the tour”.

“The po­lice es­ti­mated there were 80,000 peo­ple here, but wise old lo­cals es­ti­mated there were nearer 100,000,’’ said a BBC cor­re­spon­dent.

Down the Queen St Mall they went, Diana in a blue and white frock and a feathered white hat, and Charles in some sort of suit.

BBC News in­toned to the au­di­ence “back home” that crowd con­trol was a ma­jor con­cern.

To our eyes it doesn’t look like any­one had given a pass­ing thought to it. In these days of cor­dons and screen­ing and ther­mal imag­ing, the idea that crowd con­trol mainly meant mak­ing sure kids could touch the dig­ni­taries be­fore the adults seems as­ton­ish­ing. Some­one threw a gar­land over Diana’s neck, some­one smacked a kiss on Charles’ mouth.

“A plonker,” the kiss was dubbed by the BBC.

The footage of the day shows peo­ple sit­ting on top of an Or­ange Tele­com phone box, climb­ing traf­fic lights, stand­ing in win­dow open­ings as if no-one had blocked them off af­ter a bomb check.

But the crowds were sti­fling. There was gen­uine dan­ger of a crush. Charles can be seen to be quite ner­vous. In a rare breach of royal pro­to­col, the cou­ple made it from the Mall to Town Hall in half the al­lot­ted time and took refuge in­side.

That night they at­tended a re­cep­tion at which Diana broke out a tiara and a fam­ily or­der (a kind of medal) to ac­com­pany her pink shoes­trap gown. Here’s a cu­ri­ous thing – ac­counts dif­fer as to whether it was at the Crest Ho­tel or the Hil­ton. It can’t have been the Hil­ton be­cause it wasn’t fin­ished un­til four years later but the il­lus­tra­tion is a good les­son on how easy it is for history to be mud­dled.

Those were dif­fer­ent times but the roy­als pro­vided a bit of en­ter­tain­ment for the public – a bit of fun that plenty of peo­ple still re­mem­ber. Some­one some­times glances at a set of traf­fic lights and re­mem­bers stand­ing on them for a glimpse of the long-de­parted Princess Di.

One pho­tog­ra­pher who cov­ered a small part of that 1983 tour re­calls that, even in pretty or­di­nary cli­matic con­di­tions, his wife, not a roy­al­ist, stood in line for a glimpse. There must have been plenty of peo­ple who turned out for the Queen’s last Bris­bane visit in 2011 – not long af­ter the big floods – who weren’t roy­al­ists but who liked be­ing part of a big crowd. Like­wise when Prince Wil­liam and Cather­ine showed up last year. Noth­ing like a bit of theatre – and a bit of some­thing to re­mem­ber. kim.sweet­


 ??  ?? MEET AND GREET: Though the crowds never knew, the 1983 royal tour was a very stress­ful time for the young Princess of Wales.
MEET AND GREET: Though the crowds never knew, the 1983 royal tour was a very stress­ful time for the young Princess of Wales.

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