Kiwi slop­pi­ness and se­cret walks: Highs and lows of Queen’s NZ trips

Weekend Herald - - News -

In the first ma­jor bi­og­ra­phy of the Queen in sev­eral years, the Daily Mail’s royal writer Robert Hard­man had ac­cess to prime min­is­ters, royal house­hold staff and Com­mon­wealth sec­re­taries gen­eral. New Zealand fea­tures promi­nently. Here are some of the best Kiwi tales from Queen of the World ‘Holyoake ap­peared rather sloppy’

The Queen toured here in 1963, to a frosty re­cep­tion as Bri­tain looked to the Euro­pean Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity.

On March 18, a tele­gram marked “ur­gent” reached the Bri­tish High Com­mis­sions in Can­berra and Welling­ton.

“There have been re­ports sug­gest­ing that the Royal Tour has not been an out­stand­ing suc­cess,” it said. “Send ur­gently by bag a con­fi­den­tial re­port.”

In New Zealand, [Bri­tish High Com­mis­sioner Francis] Cum­ming-Bruce did not hold back about the “de­flated mood” and placed much of the blame on Bri­tish for­eign pol­icy.

“Eigh­teen months of ne­go­ti­a­tions of Bri­tish mem­ber­ship of the EEC shook New Zealand opin­ion pro­foundly,” he warned.

He was also scathing about the New Zealand Govern­ment’s “air of ca­su­al­ness” and “slop­pi­ness”, Prime Min­is­ter Keith Holyoake in par­tic­u­lar.

“Holyoake ap­peared rather sloppy in some of his ap­pear­ances. His ad­dresses to the Queen sin­gu­larly failed to do jus­tice to the oc­ca­sion

. . . the tone sounded rather pa­tro­n­is­ing and he tended to ad­dress him­self to the pub­lic rather than to the Queen.”

Egg on her face

The monar­chy was in­creas­ingly seen as fair game for the more ex­treme el­e­ments of the Mãori protest move­ment.

In 1986, the Queen was hit by an egg, which caught her coat. Though it alarmed her — Prime Min­is­ter David Lange called it de­plorable — she joked

that she pre­ferred New Zealand eggs “for break­fast”. Else­where, there was bar­ing of Mãori bot­toms and the oc­ca­sional “Go Home, Liz” ban­ner.

Flight of fancy

The Queen took her first com­mer­cial flight in 1995, to New Zealand.

Of­fi­cials at the For­eign Of­fice in

Lon­don tried to scup­per the idea, ar­gu­ing that the Queen does not take sched­uled flights, “for se­cu­rity rea­sons”.

How­ever, as the Queen’s staff at the Palace had to re­mind the Bri­tish Govern­ment, all things re­lat­ing to a tour of New Zealand were a mat­ter for her New Zealand Govern­ment.

On Oc­to­ber 30, 1995, she duly boarded Air New Zealand Flight NZ1 for the long jour­ney from Lon­don to Auck­land via Los An­ge­les. The Queen

had First Class to her­self (Prince Philip was fly­ing in sep­a­rately from South Africa), undis­turbed by the duty-free trol­ley, and watched a Sam Neill film called Cinema of Un­ease.

The busi­ness class cabin was oc­cu­pied by 26 mem­bers of the Royal House­hold, and 384 or­di­nary pas­sen­gers filled econ­omy . . . Each re­ceived a com­mem­o­ra­tive pen.

Fears about a repub­lic

Con­cerns were rife at the Palace as

Aus­tralia pre­pared for the un­suc­cess­ful 1999 re­pub­li­can­ism ref­er­en­dum.

An ex-mem­ber of the royal team at the time says that they had ex­plored and “road-tested” ev­ery sce­nario “. . . So there was a con­cern about the domino ef­fect. We did ex­am­ine all op­tions, in­clud­ing the thought that it might be bet­ter to say ‘let’s go be­fore we’re pushed’; it was only spec­u­la­tive.”

One thing was not spec­u­la­tive, how­ever. We now learn from a very se­nior Palace of­fi­cial that the Queen came to a con­clu­sion ahead of the Aus­tralian vote. In the event of this or any other realm opt­ing to be­come a repub­lic, it would then have to get on with it.

“It could not be tied to the death of the Queen,” says the source. “That would be un­ten­able for the Prince of Wales, un­ten­able for the Queen and . . . the coun­try it­self, be­cause, ob­vi­ously they’d be look­ing at their watches wait­ing for her to pass away.”

Prince Wil­liam’s se­cret beach walk

Sir John Key re­calls tour­ing the dev­as­tated com­mu­ni­ties of the South Is­land with Prince Wil­liam af­ter the Pike River disas­ter and Christchurch earth­quakes.

“We stayed at this ho­tel on the West Coast and had din­ner that night,” says Key. “Wil­liam had been there for a day at most. He looked ex­hausted and I said ‘You should go to bed’.

“This ho­tel was right on the ocean and he had the room next to mine. In the morn­ing, I was writ­ing my speech on my bal­cony and he said to me from his bal­cony: ‘Do you think I could go for a walk — on my own?’ I said: ‘Go that way.’ And he climbed down and off he went.”

That’s the nice thing about New Zealand — you could do that. The Duke was as­ton­ished to see that Key was writ­ing his own speech. He had as­sumed politi­cians had peo­ple to do that . . . It was a tour that would re­in­force the same last­ing af­fec­tion for the “Dow­nun­der” can-do re­silience that the Prince shares with his father.

The walk­a­bout

Dur­ing a windy trip to Welling­ton in 1970, the Queen agreed to try out a break with pro­to­col.

Be­fore ar­riv­ing at yet an­other greet­ing line in the cap­i­tal, the royal car would stop and the Queen would walk the last 50-60 me­tres, stop­ping to say “hello” to ran­dom mem­bers of the pub­lic. It might have alarmed the po­lice, but it was a tremen­dous suc­cess with the pub­lic and the me­dia.

Daily Mail journalist Vin­cent Mulchrone gave this ex­per­i­ment a name. He called it a “walk­a­bout”.

Within days, it had gone from trial run to manda­tory crowd-pleaser. When the Queen re­turned to the UK, her Bri­tish sub­jects were clam­our­ing for sim­i­lar ac­cess to their monarch, and the first Bri­tish walk­a­bout was recorded in Coven­try . . .

Key’s ca­sual chats

Key ex­plained how he once asked her why she still wore for­mal dress on oc­ca­sions when there were no crowds or cam­eras around.

“I am the last bas­tion of stan­dards,” she replied. It was not do­ing things for the sake of it, Key re­alised. It was just part of the job.

“Peo­ple ask me: ‘Who was the most impressive per­son you met?’ I say: ‘The Queen’. What you see is what you get. Equally, she re­ally is a tire­less worker. When you are prime min­is­ter, you work hor­ren­dous hours but you are elected to do that . . . For the Queen, it’s a life­time of ded­i­ca­tion. It’s a life­time of ser­vice.”

Abridged ex­tracts from Queen of the World by Robert Hard­man, pub­lished by Cen­tury, RRP $40.00.

Pho­tos / File, Getty Images

Clock­wise from top, left: The roy­als mark the Queen’s birth­day, the Queen and John Key, a 1977 walk­a­bout, with Dame Cather­ine Tizard in 1995.

Pho­tos / File

Clock­wise, from top, left: The Queen and Keith Holyoake, at a surf car­ni­val in 1963, John Key and Prince Wil­liam, the Queen and Rob Mul­doon dur­ing her Ju­bilee Tour, and check­ing out Ma¯ori arts and crafts in 1995.

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