Since her first royal tour in 1954, Queen Elizabeth II has made a total of sixteen visits to Australia, in addition to Prince Philip visiting solo on many occasions to represent his wife.
Princess Elizabeth was first due to visit Australia in 1952, however the trip was cancelled following the death of her father King George VI and her succession to the throne in 1952.
A year after her 1953 coronation, she became the first reigning monarch to set foot on the farthest reaches of the Commonwealth.
In addition, the Queen has officiated over some of our country’s greatest milestones – the opening of the Sydney Opera House in 1973, Australia’s Bicentenary and opening of our new Parliament House in 1988 – and has hosted several Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM) here.
She also visited as part of her Silver and Golden Jubilees, allowing us to celebrate alongside her.
During each visit, the couple have made it their mission to meet with everyday Australians – stopping in rural towns as well as the big cities, and together, the royal couple have toured every Australian state and territory.
They have also shown a great interest in visiting Indigenous communities during their many visits.
While in recent years the Queen has stepped back from her frequent visits, paving the way for the younger royals to bond with the nation, it’s clear that Australia still holds a place in her heart.
From the moment the SS Gothic entered Sydney Harbour at 10.34am on February 3rd, 1954, Australia was in the grip of royal fever.
Around one million people lined the foreshore to welcome Elizabeth, the first reigning monarch, to visit the country, and Prince Philip. They were escorted by six warships, hundreds of smaller boats and an RAAF fly-past.
As New Idea reported at the time: “We knew by the ringing of church bells, the booming of the ships’ sirens and the whistle of 18 jet planes going overhead that our Queen had set foot on Australian soil at last. We couldn’t believe she was really here.”
The Queen and Prince Phillip stayed for 58 days, visiting more than 70 country towns, and making 141 speeches.
Those hoping to witness the 27-year-old monarch in all her royal splendour were not disappointed.
At the state opening of Parliament House in Hobart, she appeared wrapped in fur and wearing a diamond tiara. For a state dinner held in the ballroom at David Jones in Sydney, the Queen dazzled in a gown embellished with sprays of wattle, specially designed for the tour.
“There she was, a fragile, fairy-like picture, breathtakingly lovely,” wrote Marien Dreyer in New Idea. “She was in a gown of palest gold and brilliant embroidery and in sharp contrast, the beautiful blue sash of the Order of the Garter.
“The diamond tiara on the Queen’s beautifully poised head flashed fire, but around her throat she had a positive waterfall of liquid flames, or so it seemed …
"The friendly crowd was almost all women, oohing and aahing with rapture at the sight of a fairy Queen.”
By the time Elizabeth and Philip departed from Fremantle, Western Australia, on April 1st, it’s estimated three-quarters of the population had turned out to see them. Australia was under the Queen’s spell – and she was under our spell, too.
“I am convinced that Australia has a glorious future,” she said in her farewell speech, revealing that she was saddened to be leaving.
“This visit has been most interesting and enjoyable to me, but I also hope it has served to remind you of the wonderful heritage we share.”