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