Page 2586 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 20 September 2022
As the world and the commonwealth changed, the monarchy necessarily changed with it. What remained a constant, though, throughout that time, was Her Majesty’s unwavering dedication to public service. As former Prime Minister Paul Keating eloquently stated, Her Majesty:
… instinctively attached herself to the public good against what she recognised as a tidal wave of private interest and private reward. And she did this for a lifetime, never deviating.
For most of us, Queen Elizabeth II was the only British monarch we have ever known. She was a constant throughout our lives, woven through seven decades of global history. Regardless of her age, Her Majesty’s death at the age of 96 was still somewhat of a shock, and I know many Canberrans were deeply saddened by this news. Just a couple of days prior we saw photographs of her shaking hands with the United Kingdom’s outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson and new Prime Minister Liz Truss, the 15th UK Prime Minister during her reign. For many, these images symbolised Her Majesty’s strong sense of duty.
The imperial state crown, worn during her coronation, reportedly weighs more than a kilogram. The burden of responsibility and duty that comes with the crown, weighs a great deal more. It is a role Her Majesty practised with stoicism, dignity and political restraint. It is a role that evolved as Great Britain’s place in the world changed. Regardless of one’s personal views of the constitutional monarchy, most Canberrans and most Australians respected Her Majesty’s leadership and how she fulfilled her responsibilities through this era of great change—the fastest ever expansion, growth, advancement and risk ever experienced in human history. She undoubtedly shaped what it means to be a constitutional monarch, over an exceptionally long reign that is unlikely to be repeated.
If there is one element of Her Majesty’s life beyond her duty as Queen that the world recognises, it was her adoration for animals. Many of the happiest images that I can remember of Queen Elizabeth II have included either her beloved corgis or her horses. When it came time to consider an ACT government donation to a charity in lieu of a floral tribute, we thought it was fitting to acknowledge Her Majesty’s lifelong fondness of animals with a $20,000 donation to the RSPCA in her memory.
Over the 70 years, Her Majesty made 16 official visits to Australia, and Canberra was amongst her most visited destinations whilst in our country. Her Majesty first visited the nation’s capital in 1954, when the ACT had a population of less than 30,000 people, a far cry from today’s modern city of nearly half a million. On that first visit, Her Majesty opened a session of parliament at what is now the Old Parliament House. She visited the Australian War Memorial, the Australian-American Memorial and the Royal Military College, Duntroon.
It was this visit that also sparked an apocryphal story. During a visit, to what we refer to as Manuka Oval, Her Majesty pronounced the name of the oval as “Mahnuhkuh”, rather than “Muh'noohkuh”. It is said that those in attendance did not question this, setting the precedent of how we now pronounce Manuka to this day. Of course, no one has been able to determine the truth or otherwise of this.