Queen Elizabeth II lived a life of duty and diligence, and today we pay respect to and honour that life. She is, of course, the only reigning monarch to have ever visited Australia, and since Her Majesty’s death so many Australians have shared their memories of moments from her visits here. The Queen actually visited Jagajaga twice, first during her 1954 tour when she and the Duke of Edinburgh visited the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital. Along the way to get to the hospital, she drove through local streets, where residents and businesses had spent time and money on beautification, and thousands of schoolchildren were organised to line the route. There was, apparently, some last-minute consternation when it was proposed that, instead of driving this route, the Queen catch the train for this section of this journey. In fact, the Victorian Premier, John Cain, had to intervene to make sure that the journey took place as originally planned.
The second visit to Jagajaga was when the Queen was in Australia in 1970. The Queen, Prince Philip and Princess Anne were at the opening of the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research in Brown Street in Heidelberg. The local newspaper at the time reported more than 2,000 people attended the ceremony. The Victoria Police band entertained the crowd. The Scouts and Guides were represented. Many children were there and, apparently, some 70 corgi dogs, brought by the Welsh Corgi Club of Victoria, who were given pride of place on both sides of the entrance to greet the official visitors.
I have to thank the Heidelberg Historical Society for putting all of that information together. Over the past week, I have really enjoyed following the public comments on the historical society’s Facebook page about this visit, because there are so many locals who remember that day and who have shared their memories. Many of them were schoolchildren at the time, and there’s a repeated theme in the comments of shoes being shined and socks being pulled up before their parents allowed them to come and stand by the roadside to wave at the royal cars passing by. Many of the comments also claimed to have been the recipient of a wave back. Whether or not that actually happened, I think it’s about the memory that was created. There’s a warmth and respect in these comments from those who were there that demonstrates how all those people felt that sense of occasion that the Queen brought, of being part of a moment in history, just as today there is a sense of history in us marking this solemn occasion, the death of the only monarch most of us have known.
Of course, history isn’t just one story and it isn’t just one emotion. I do want to acknowledge that these are not universal sentiments and we must find a place in our national conversation for other sentiments as well. Today we are truly marking the end of an era, the close of the second Elizabethan age. We do so with deep respect and warm regard for Her Majesty’s life of service. May she rest in eternal peace.