As you know, The Royal Family have been visiting all The Queen’s Overseas Realms during this Diamond Jubilee year. The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall were asked by The Queen to visit the largest Realms.
Some of you accompanied us to Canada, where Their Royal Highnesses had a very successful visit to mark Victoria Day in May. This very important and highly symbolic year of The Queen’s Reign ends with Their Royal Highnesses visiting three other large Realms: Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand.
Given the Constitutional arrangements in these countries you’ll see that there is no representative from Her Majesty’s here. There is however someone I wanted to introduce: my successor, Simon Martin. Having joined the Household for three years nearly seven years ago, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has said it really is time I was beamed back up to the Mother Ship.
So I will be taking up a new post as British Ambassador to Morocco after the Tour and Simon will replace me here.
The Prince of Wales has of course visited all three Realms many times before; he is greatly looking forward to renewing old friendships and making new ones. It will be The Duchess of Cornwall first visit to these countries.
The Prince of Wales was present at Independence celebrations in Papua New Guinea in 1975 and later visited in 1984. He last visited Australia and New Zealand in 2005.
Papua New Guinea is home to some of the world’s most remote communities. 80% live in rural areas with few or no facilities of modern life. It is an incredibly beautiful country; The Prince of Wales looks forward to introducing The Duchess of Cornwall to some of its biodiversity, from Birds of Paradise to rare orchids.
Their Royal Highnesses’ programme will focus on the military (The Prince is Colonel in Chief of the Pacific Islands Regiment and will present new Colours to them); culture (a vibrant Welcome Ceremony is planned); youth development and environmental protection. The visit is centred on Port Moresby but includes a visit to a nearby fishing village, Boera.
After a traditional (and probably rather dramatic!) welcome, as UK President of WWF The Prince will see a mangrove restoration project and acknowledge the work of the Papua New Guinea Navy in protecting Papua New Guinea’s valuable fisheries. Domestic violence is a key social problem in Papua New Guinea. Given The Duchess’ work on this issue in the UK, the Papua New Guinea authorities have asked her to visit a women’s refuge to help draw attention to vital local work to tackle the problem.
From Papua New Guinea, TRH travel to Australia. The Prince knows the country well, having lived there as a young man nearly he can hardly believe! - 50 years ago and having visited many times since. TRH will set a pretty taxing pace, visiting five States and one Territory in only six days.
The theme of the Jubilee is “Service to Others” and TRH were determined to meet as many people as possible in the time available. There is also an important economic development theme which runs right through the Tour.
As usual, the Royal Family will be highlighting local commercial success and promoting the creation of jobs and wealth right across the social spectrum. A little unusually, the Tour begins not in one of the big cities but in the Outback in Longreach, Queensland.
TRH had to fly over Queensland en route from Papua New Guinea and were determined to stop and greet Queenslanders as part of the Jubilee celebrations. The Prince will inaugurate a new aircraft for the iconic Australian Royal Flying Doctors (he is their Patron in the UK) and, with The Duchess, attend a community BBQ with local residents.
We arrive in Melbourne that evening, ready for engagements the next day culminating in the Melbourne Cup, which The Duchess has been invited to present; The Prince will present the prize for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. The following days will take us to Adelaide, Sydney, Hobart and Canberra.
During this time TRH will, jointly or separately, support cricket stars working with disadvantaged young people at the Melbourne Cricket Ground; highlight a campaign to promote healthy eating in Adelaide schools with Australian celebrity chef Stephanie Alexander; walk through the historic town of Richmond, Tasmania; give a boost to small farmers particularly wool farmers who have been hit with economic difficulty; and attend a Diamond Jubilee reception in the Sydney Opera House. Let me just hover over that wool point for a moment. The Prince launched his Campaign for Wool three years ago; it has succeeded in bringing together all the major wool growing nations for the first time. The Prince of Wales is pleased that, since the Campaign’s launch, global demand for wool has risen as, crucially, have wool prices a direct benefit to farmers.
The final engagement in Australia will be to lay a wreath at the Australian War Memorial on 10th November, the day before Remembrance Day, in silent recognition of the vital contribution which Australian Armed Forces make to the protection of international peace and stability. TRH will be thinking in particular of the five Australian soldiers who were tragically killed in Afghanistan this Summer. His Royal Highness immediately sent a message of condolence and wrote to the Next of Kin.
The New Zealand programme begins on Sunday 11th November with a traditional Maori welcome before TRH take their places at the Cenotaph for Remembrance Day observance.
The following day will be spent in Auckland, focusing on New Zealand sporting excellence and meeting Olympians and Paralympians. As Patron of the Coastguard, The Prince will travel on one of the Coastguard’s new amphibious craft itself “Made in New Zealand” and already a commercial success for New Zealand, supporting the economic development theme I mentioned earlier.
The Duchess is a great fan of the Hairy Maclary childrens books and will take her husband to meet the author, Dame Lynley Dodd, and see a stage performance based on the series. This far into the Tour, TRH will spend the following day privately dealing with the last effects of jet lag and walking in some of the breathtaking scenery, which has been recommended by their New Zealand friends and which has made the country such a successful destination for international visitors. The following day focuses on a rural community, Feilding, before arriving in the capital, Wellington, where The Prince will celebrate his 64th birthday on 14th November.
During the day he will meet the Director of the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” films, Sir Peter Jackson, at the workshops where the special effects are created. The Prince will come face to face with various extraordinarily lifelike prosthetics, including the feet and hands of the Baggins clan, and see a sneak preview of “The Hobbit”.
By coincidence, the Governor General and Prime Minister’s wife both share The Prince of Wales’s birthday. The Governor General sought applications from 64 New Zealanders born on the same day as His Royal Highness to come and celebrate his 64th birthday with him. Within only a few days more than 1500 applications had been received, leaving Government House with quite a headache and The Prince beginning to wonder if there would be any birthday cake left for him!
The final day will be spent in Christchurch, seeing the effects of the terrible earthquake last year. The Prince immediately sent a message of support and another, sent to mark the anniversary last February, was read aloud by the Governor General’s at the Memorial Service.
TRH will sign a copy of the message to be sealed in a time capsule at the Clock Tower constructed to mark the last Diamond Jubilee, in 1897. The clock was badly damaged in the earthquake and, eerily, the hands stopped at the moment of the major tremor and have never restarted.