King Charles: Connections with Queensland
King Charles III has a long-standing affection for Queensland and Australia as a whole.
His Majesty visited Australia 16 times, and on about half of those visits he came to Queensland. His first visit to the State was in 1966, when he travelled unofficially to Cairns. The then Prince Charles was attending school at Timbertop in Victoria at the time.
There was an attempt to keep some of his program in far North Queensland under the radar, with mixed success. His fishing trip off Cairns, with two bodyguards in tow, did manage to escape public notice. The crew of the charter boat he used later revealed that they had been sworn to secrecy about their Royal passenger.
The King was at Timbertop for two terms – six months – when he was 17, joining the other boys in the full range of the academic and outdoors program.
He later spoke glowingly of this time there commenting on the qualities he most admired in his Australian classmates and teachers – ‘direct, friendly, straightforward and often blunt’ with an ‘incredibly good sense of humour’.
That first visit to Queensland was 57 years ago. The King’s most recent visit to the State was less than five years ago in 2018 when he opened the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
During the visit, His Majesty also travelled to Bundaberg, Cairns, and Brisbane, staying at Government House. The then Duchess of Cornwall accompanied the King for part of the visit.
In Bundaberg the King made a point of visiting the Low Glow Project, designed to protect hatching turtles by reducing artificial light levels. The project is supported by the Prince’s Trust Australia.
His Majesty also attended a community festival at the Bundaberg Rum distillery, taking time to tour the Queensland icon and mix his own ‘Royal’ blend of rum.
The King visited Cairns where his program focused on two institutions of which he has been a long-time supporter. He visited the Royal Australian Navy HMAS Cairns. And the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) Cairns base.
The King is currently Patron of the RFDS - Friends in the UK, which raises funds to buy aeromedical equipment for the ‘Flying Doctor’.
The King’s patronages related to Australia - now being reviewed along with all his patronages as Prince of Wales –include the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Longreach and the Prince Charles Hospital Foundation in Brisbane.
Including the 1966 and 2018 visits to Queensland, the King has visited our State at least seven times – possibly eight if his brief stop in Brisbane in early January 1974 as a serving officer on the Royal Navy Frigate HMS Jupiter is counted.
The most high-profile of these visits was in 1983, when he was accompanied by Diana, Princess of Wales, and Prince William. The Royal couple drew huge crowds wherever they went, whether a visit to the Big Pineapple, a formal function at Brisbane City Hall, or a walk down Queen Street Mall.
During his visits, the King has had the opportunity to meet Queenslanders from all walks of life in many parts of the State including its regional areas.
He has enjoyed some iconic Queensland experiences – a barbeque on a 40-degree-Celsius day in Longreach, enjoying a Bundy Rum, surfing with ironman Hayden Kenny on the Sunshine Coast, and enjoying the natural beauty of K’gari/Fraser Island and the Daintree Rainforest.
His Majesty has even picked up some local phrases. He joked publicly during his 2018 visit that, as he approached the age of 70, there was no longer any chance he would be able to squeeze into a pair of ‘budgie smugglers’.